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Chris Hughes and Natalie Foster: How Universal Basic Income can Work

Chris Hughes: Well here is what we know; we know that income inequality is at a more extreme place in the United States than it has been since 1929, the year before the Great Depression began. And it is also true that the poverty rate in the United States has not significantly decreased in the past 30 to 40 years; its stuck where it is. We have been trying very hard, we have a lot of government programs that arguably have kept it stable in theory, it could have also gone up, but haven't fundamentally brought it down. Sitting under our noses is the most basic idea to provide cash to bring people up to the poverty line, but not just for those folk, but people in the middle class who need cash as well to provide for financial stability. People think that the idea of like ending poverty in the United States is something that we can't do in our life time. The reality is we can, it’s certainly, it’s certainly, doable and surprisingly the cost is on the ore, the magnitude of only a few hundred billion dollars if you do it through cash, which is the most effective and efficient way to do it given all the evidence that we have. 

Val Zavala: So would the universal basic income replace welfare and just give needy families this kind of support; no questions asked, no matter what situation they're in; if they're working part time or not? No matter if they're alcoholic or not? Is it just across the board so you don’t have a lot of bureaucracy as well, correct to weed out, and to you know implement all the particular criteria, is that the idea?

Natalie Foster: Well there's again a lot of different versions of this, Charles Murray wrote a book ten years ago where he talks about what you're arguing. We cash out the safety net and take that money and give it directly to people. There are other ways to think about it that reinforce the safety net that say actually today's safety net probably is one of the most meager in the developed world and we keep it as it is and build a long side it income supports. You know the thing I’d say is, we have, this isn’t as a radical an idea as people think in some ways. We have a long history of proving people cash with the earned income tax credit which says, basically if you make below a very small, you know, below a certain amount then the government will give you money back. It's been the most effective policy of fighting poverty that has been put in place in decades. And so one way to think about it is just greatly expanding the earned income tax credit or taking something like social security which was a very small payroll tax when it started and has largely solved poverty among the elderly, and it enjoys a lot of bipartisan support, has totally changed lives. And so another way to think about it is social security for all. Taking this idea is now become very American, liked on both sides of the isle and saying let’s just extend that out.


Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder, and Natalie Foster, co-founder of, explain how universal basic income can help bring people out of poverty and how the idea can be carried out.

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