A co-founder of Facebook draws from personal experience to propose a guaranteed income for working people.
From a family on the fringes of the middle-class in North Carolina, Hughes earned scholarships at an exclusive prep school and Harvard, where one of his roommates was Mark Zuckerberg. At a time when others were beginning their careers, the author had already cashed out his share of the social media phenomenon, earning nearly $500 million. He raised his personal stock with a key role as the director of online organizing for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. Then he suffered the first major professional setback in his young career. He bought the New Republic and was initially hailed as a savior of the financially beleaguered magazine, but he left four years later with a staff in tatters and the publication in deeper debt. In addition to chronicling his personal story, Hughes offers a manifesto for a guaranteed income of $500 per month for any working adult making less than $50,000, subsidized by those, like himself, who have a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth. He admits that when he mentioned the proposal, “most people would walk away curious at best, suspicious at worst.” But the author maintains that such a small amount of financial security would allow workers to ponder leaving jobs they hate or work in fields where there often are not commensurate financial rewards. Mostly, he writes, it’s the right thing to do, and the country can afford it. “We live in the richest country on Earth at its richest moment in history, even though it might not feel that way to most people,” he writes. And why not? Because “the top one percent of Americans controls nearly 40 percent of the wealth in our country—one and a half times more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent own.”
Hughes makes a strong case for redistribution of wealth, though the memoir elements of the book are more compelling than the economic analysis.