“Fair Shot” author Chris Hughes is trying to convince America’s richest citizens to give money to working people — not education policy, not inspirational messages, not invocations to try harder. Cash.
“Cash is the best thing you can do to improve health outcomes, education outcomes and lift people out of poverty,” Hughes said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.
“Of course we need more and better education,” he added. “Of course we need more small businesses to create good jobs. We’ve spent decades thinking about those things, investing in those things and we should think more. However, we overlook the most powerful weapon in the arsenal — and in many ways the simplest. Cash can be that.”
In his new book, he argues that a guaranteed income for people in the U.S. could be financed by the one percent — a group that includes Hughes himself. He met Mark Zuckerberg his freshman year at Harvard, co-founded Facebook and later became a digital adviser to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
“My story — which the only thing we can call it is a lucky break — is unfortunately not that uncommon in the economy today,” Hughes said. “I might be extreme, but I don’t think my case is actually that unusual. A small group of people are getting very, very wealthy while everyone else is struggling to make ends meet.”
On the new podcast, Hughes explained how his proposal for guaranteed income — $500 a month for everyone making $50,000 or less per year — differs from the more commonly discussed concept of universal basic income.
“It’s inspired by the exact same values of cash, no strings attached, to achieve financial stability, recognizing the dignity and freedom of each individual,” he said. “But it’s a more modest place to begin. I make the case that we can and should do this through a modernization of the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
The EITC already gives money to low-income people, but whether you’re eligible and how much you get can vary wildly depending on your age, location, marital status and many other factors, Hughes said. And the policy, first enacted in 1975, has not been updated to address modern forms of economic insecurity.
“Jobs in America have already come apart,” Hughes said. “That is one of the effects of automation, and globalization in particular: All of the jobs in the past 10 years that we’ve created, 94 percent of them are part-time, contract, temporary, seasonal. Yeah, unemployment is near a record low, but the jobs that are out there are not providing the kind of 40 hours a week benefits [like] sick leave or retirement benefits.”
Even a couple hundred dollars could make a huge difference for people with no savings living paycheck to paycheck, who might not know how many hours they’ll be able to work next week, he explained.
“If you have a little bit more financial stability in your life, you’re able to live one step or two steps back from the brink,” Hughes said. “We’re not talking about so much money that everybody wins the lottery and we’re all just hanging out, putting up our feet, whatever the worst images that critics conjure up.”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.