Why one city is giving its residents $500 a month — no strings attached.

Just six years ago, the city of Stockton, California, filed for bankruptcy. Now, it's giving money away to its residents.

In October 2017, Stockton's elected officials announced plans to give "a few dozen families" $500 a month, no strings attached, for 12-18 months.

But why give away sweet, free money?


It's called universal basic income (UBI) and as history shows, it's not a new idea.

The philosophy behind UBI programs like Stockton's actually dates back to the 16th century.

The idea originated with Thomas More's 1516 novel "Utopia," which took place in a world where the government passed its profits back to its citizens. Thomas Paine, the British-American activist best known for his 1776 pamphlet, "Common Sense," advocated for a similar idea, calling it "citizen's dividend." British thinker and activist Bertrand Russell made an argument for "a certain small income, sufficient for necessaries, should be secured to all, whether they work or not." In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. called for a guaranteed income "pegged to the median of society."

Hello, ladies. It's me, Thomas Paine. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The only time the U.S. truly considered implementing a UBI was under President Richard Nixon. He took a liking to the idea of giving individuals a guaranteed income, with early outlines of a proposal offering to give families the equivalent of about $10,000 in today's money per year. Unfortunately for UBI enthusiasts, Nixon was talked out of the idea just before its launch.

In 1976, Alaska created the Alaska Permanent Fund, which paid the state's residents a dividend for profits brought in through oil drilling. It's shifted a bit since then, surviving a number of court challenges throughout the years, but it still exists to this day.

Economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, favorites among conservatives, had also endorsed the idea as a way of addressing poverty outside the framework of the more complex social safety net system.

In the 1970s, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (father of current PM Justin Trudeau) launched a "mincome" (minimum income) program aimed at alleviating poverty in Dauphin, Manitoba. The program was extremely popular, but after Trudeau's political opponents took power, it was gutted. Canada continues to dabble in UBI, though it's yet to be implemented on any sort of national scale.

Stockton's UBI program won't cost taxpayers anything — at least for now.

Thanks to interest from business leaders in nearby Silicon Valley (Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has made multiple arguments in favor of UBI programs, citing the Alaska Permanent Fund as an example of how they can work), Stockton's $1.2 million 12-18 month program is being paid for entirely through outside donations.

The reason tech CEOs tend to be so interested in the idea is based on the fact that the world is gradually moving more and more towards automation.

Priscilla and I spent the weekend around Homer, Alaska as part of the Year of Travel challenge. It's beautiful...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

In an interview with NPR, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs explained why the city's doing this: "People deserve a basic economic floor so the bottom doesn't fall out under them."

"People working 14-hour days, working incredibly hard, and being rewarded with wages that haven't kept up with the cost of inflation over the past two generations," he said, articulating some reasons why a UBI might help address some of the issues brought on by wealth inequality.

Michael Tubbs attends the 'True Son' documentary premiere in 2014. He's now the mayor of Stockton. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

Beyond that, Tubbs believes people are more than their jobs.

"We're not just designed just to work all day and run a rat race," he said. "We're designed to be in community, to volunteer, to vote, to raise our kids. And I think the more inputs and investments we can give in people to do those things, the better off we are as a community."

It'll be interesting to watch what happens in Stockton over the next few years. If history's any indication, it could be good.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less
via KrustyKhajiit / YouTube

Thomas F. Wilson played one of the most recognizable villains in film history, Biff Tannen, in the "Back to the Future" series. So, understandably, he gets recognized wherever he goes for the iconic role.

The attention must be nice, but it has to get exhausting answering the same questions day in and day out about the films. So Wilson created a card that he carries with him to hand out to people that answers all the questions he gets asked on a daily basis.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Sometimes a politician says or does something so brazenly gross that you have to do a double take to make sure it really happened. Take, for instance, this tweet from Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. Witzke defeated the party's endorsed candidate to win the primary, has been photographed in a QAnon t-shirt, supports the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a U.S. government inside operation, and has called herself a flat earther.

So that's neat.

Witzke has also proposed a 10-year total halt on immigration to the U.S., which is absurd on its face, but makes sense when you see what she believes about immigrants. In a tweet this week, Witzke wrote, "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong."

First, let's talk about how "civil societies" and developing nations are not different things, and to imply that they are is racist, xenophobic, and wrong. Not to mention, it has never been a thing to refer people using terms like "third-world." That's a somewhat outdated term for developing nations, and it was never an adjective to describe people from those nations even when it was in use.

Next, let's see how Twitter thwapped Lauren Witzke straight into the 21st century by proving her wrong in the most delicious way. Not only did people share how they or their relatives and friends have successfully "assimilated," but many showed that they went way, way beyond that.

Keep Reading Show less
via WatchMojo / YouTube

There are two conflicting viewpoints when it comes to addressing culture from that past that contains offensive elements that would never be acceptable today.

Some believe that old films, TV shows, music or books with out-of-date, offensive elements should be hidden from public view. While others think they should be used as valuable tools that help us learn from the past.

Keep Reading Show less