The founder and general counsel of the nonprofit organization Prosperity Now explains how providing a few thousand dollars to every American family without a current financial cushion could move the entire nation toward economic health.
Friedman, who comes from the Levi Strauss family, focuses on how the outlays to each family could improve housing equality, education opportunities, and small-business entrepreneurship while also constructing a safety net that could rescue the nonwealthy from ruination due to unexpected health care costs or loss of employment. He also distinguishes his proposals from the oft-mentioned universal basic income, which is receiving considerable attention across the political spectrum. Though Friedman presents his prescriptions clearly, the understandably numbers-laden narrative can become overwhelming. Thankfully, the author intersperses each chapter with case studies of nonwealthy individuals who thrived after receiving the “few thousand dollars” during small-scale economic experiments mounted by Prosperity Now and other nonprofits or government agencies—e.g., Minh Tranh, a Vietnamese immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at age 15 speaking no English and is now a successful electrical engineer. Throughout the narrative, the author demonstrates persistence as he addresses myths spread mostly by Republican Party leaders. For instance, Friedman cites evidence that low-income Americans will indeed save money if the money becomes available; they will also spend it on higher education, home ownership, and business opportunities. A small financial windfall provided to the impoverished can decrease psychological depression while increasing positive contributions to society. Friedman argues that prosperity, alternately thought of as “economic well-being,” can become a reality for a much larger proportion of Americans. The book rings with cognitive dissonance, as Friedman pits his optimism about the economic future against the current realities of electoral politics, which seem aimed at increasing income inequality. The author is clearly aware of the dissonance, but he will not give in to discouragement. Sen. Cory Booker, a longtime activist in the area of income inequality, provides the afterword.
A welcome plan from a wealthy man with empathy for the less fortunate.