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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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