United States: “Inherent Good” documentary starts fund-raising campaign

United States: “Inherent Good” documentary starts fund-raising campaign

“Do we trust each other”?


That is the ultimate question the new documentary named “Inherent Good” ends up asking. This film project, still ongoing, aims at exploring the Universal Basic Income (UBI) idea, particularly in small in-land communities in the United States of America, seriously hit by the latest financial crisis.


Los Angeles-based filmmakers are collecting funds for the Inherent Good project at the moment, with a release date aimed for Spring 2019. The documentary will accompany the launch of a basic income pilot experiment called The Magnolia Mother’s Trust. This experiment, organized by Springboard to Opportunities and in a partnership with the Economic Security Project, will dispense 1000$/month for one year to 15 families in Jackson, Mississipi, no strings attached. Accurately, the experiment does not equate to a basic income, since it is given to families, and not individuals, but the money is handed with no conditions on how it shall be spent. One particular aspect of the experiment is that these families are all “headed by an African American female living in affordable housing in the United States”.


The idea is, according to the film’s director Steve Borst, not only to “document the unveiling of this new pilot program, but [also] to help shift the poverty narrative by providing a platform that empowers these women to share their critical stories with the rest of the world.” The film will be starred by author and comedian Trae Crowder, and will go through his hometown Celina, a small rural town in northern Tennessee. Trae’s connection to this project is related to the “abject poverty” of his family when he was growing up in this region of the country.


The documentary will focus on personal stories of local people, local history and how the “extra cash could boost the local economy.” Moreover, the film also aims to address “common concerns about UBI, including the fear that people will stop working or misuse the money. Ultimately, the film is a meditation: on people, the future of America, and the inherent good within all of us that makes UBI an idea worthy of serious contemplation”.


The film’s project team include producers Rennie Soga and Chris Panizzon. A teaser can be watched in the following video.

US: Chris Hughes, co-chair of the Economic Security Project (ESP), favours means tested guaranteed income for working poor over UBI in new book

US: Chris Hughes, co-chair of the Economic Security Project (ESP), favours means tested guaranteed income for working poor over UBI in new book

In a July 2017 televised Town Hall with KCET, Economic Security Project co-chairs Chris Hughes and Natalie Foster were asked about the principles of a Universal Basic Income. Public questions from Facebook were delivered by the moderator, the first common concern of which was: should we “give everybody a Basic Income,” even the lazy and wealthy?

Foster took the question and responded with a “yes,” commenting that a universal policy “had more political resiliency” (programs with universal access would attract more support), and that shifting economic situations for the American middle class suggested that support for everyone was logical. She clarified that a Basic Income, whatever the size, is intended to be delivered to everyone with “no strings attached.”

Hughes followed up during a second question on the affordability of Basic Income. He commented that a program could be made more affordable by starting small and scaling up, by, for example, beginning with small monthly payments of $200 to American adults (not quite universal, but not means tested), between the ages of 18 and 64, placing the brunt of the tax burden for this measure on wealthy Americans or in a carbon tax. Hughes also compared Basic Income’s feasibility to existing social security programs.

More recently, Hughes’ new book, Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn (February 2018), will propose a guaranteed income of $500 per month for working adults whose households earn less than $50,000 annually, with the same provided for students and unpaid caregivers.

Hughes’ book is promoted by but independent of the Economic Security Project, “a network committed to advancing the debate on unconditional cash and basic income in the United States.” Their purview includes, but is not limited to, a Universal Basic Income (UBI), as defined by BIEN: “a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.”

Chris Hughes. Credit to: SpeakerHub

Chris Hughes. Credit to: SpeakerHub

The version of guaranteed income that Hughes promotes is very different from that espoused by others at ESP, such as senior fellow Andy Stern, whose 2016 book Raising The Floor makes a case for UBI, because a test based on household income and employment is not the same as giving every individual an unconditional Basic Income. Ongoing coverage of guaranteed income experiments has shown that many governments and organizations follow the same trend as Hughes, pursuing studies that offer cash payments that are means-tested, based on employment status, or revoked when income or employment status exceed minimum limits. Several Dutch experiments encountered obstacles to implementing a UBI pilot not just in public opinion but also in federal compliance issues. UBI proponents may face pressure to give money only to the worthy, and to define that worthiness socioeconomically.

The idea that a guaranteed income is best directed at the poor (and more specifically the working poor) is reiterated in Hughes’ press release email for Fair Shot:

As I write in the book, I’m the first to recognize how lucky I got early in life, but I’ve come to believe this luck doesn’t come from nowhere. We’ve created an economy that creates a small set of fortunate one percenters while making it harder and harder for poor and middle-class people to make ends meet. But we also have a proven tool to beat back against economic injustice—recurring cash payments, directly to the people who need them most. A guaranteed income for working people would provide financial security to all Americans and lift 20 million people out of poverty overnight. It would cost less than half of what we spend on defense a year.

The question raised by the KCET Facebook commentators about ESP’s proposal to give money to “everyone” reflects the same ongoing public concerns that some have about welfare and social programs. It asks for beneficiaries to prove that they are worthy in order to receive public money, and it raises the suspicion that recipients will be lazy or will not attempt to re-enter the workforce. Hughes’ new message in Fair Shot attempts to counteract this by arguing that the beneficiaries are worthy: they are employed, hard working, and “need it most.” He thus reassures the reader that the recipients are deserving.

In contrast, the answer given by Foster in the July 2017 town hall promoted a “no strings attached” UBI. The Economic Security project and associated individuals encourage research and debate around Basic Income and guaranteed incomes; the parameters of upcoming affiliated projects like the Stockton Demonstration (yet to be fully released at this time) suggest an interest both in UBI and in guaranteed income systems.


More information at:

KCET Facebook feed, ‘Town Hall Los Angeles: Q&A with Chris Hughes and Natalie Foster’, KCET Broadcast and Media Production Company, 26th July 2017

Chris Hughes , ‘Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn’, FairShotBook.com (‘Amazon Review: Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn’, Amazon.com)

Kirkus Review’, KirkusReviews.com, 24th December 2017

Kate McFarland, ‘NEW BOOK: Raising the Floor by Andy Stern’, Basic Income News, 11th June 2016

Andy Stern, ‘Moving towards a universal basic income’, The World Bank.org Jobs and Development Blog, 4th December 2016

Kate McFarland, ‘Overview of Current Basic Income Related Experiments (October 2017)’, Basic Income News, 19th October 2017









United States: The Economic Security Project funds 35 grantees

United States: The Economic Security Project funds 35 grantees

The $10 million Economic Security Project (ESP) has awarded 35 organizations which will exercise with Universal Basic Income concepts in 2018.


The ESP, established in 2016 partly by Chris Hughes (co-founder of Facebook and roommate of Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard), supports the work of innovators who are committed to exploring how recurring cash stipends make economies work for everyone. In an article written by all three founders of ESP (Natalie Foster, Hughes and Dorian Warren), the grantees “are moving ideas and people to add more texture, dynamism, and information to the basic income debate in the United States.”

These include:

– The Boston Review, which is hosting a public event to elevate the debate on basic income first litigated in their Forum publication;
– The Center for Popular Democracy, which is exploring potential efforts to reimagine and expand the state earned income tax credit (EITC);
– The Golden State Opportunity Foundation, which runs CalEITC4me, is working to dramatically expand the state’s EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) program to cover all self-employed workers, full-time minimum wage workers, and one million more Californian families;

– The Institute for the Future, for producing research on Universal Basic Assets for the future;

– The Leap Forward Project, for collaboratively designing and promoting future cash-based policies in California and building the organizational capacity of constituencies historically left out of policy development;
– The Listen First Tour, that will refocus the voices and leadership of people who are poor as central to ensuring the success and relevance of the basic income movement;
– The Stanford University’s Basic Income Lab, which has recently convened a gathering of cities interested in basic income pilots;
– The Street Art Anarchy, that is producing a series of public art murals to raise awareness about the prospects of economic security and basic income;
– The Truth Be Told Productions, which is creating a short documentary film that focuses on the people of Dauphin, Manitoba, to capture stories of impact from the Mincome pilot back in the mid 1970’s;
– The Universal Income Project, for building grassroots support for a universal income that upholds progressive values;
– The University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions, that will host a workshop on basic income for junior scholars to engage with leaders in the field on the state of the art in basic income studies;
Upstream, for developing a new podcast that will produce a two-part series on the potential for universal basic income to bring about a new economic paradigm;
Y Combinator Research, which will implement the first randomized controlled trial of basic income in the United States.


More information at:

Natalie Foster, Chris Hughes and Dorian Warren, “Moving People and Ideas: Announcing Our New Grantees”, Medium, September 27th 2017

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, US: Economic Security Project announces first public conference

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, US: Economic Security Project announces first public conference

The Economic Security Project (ESP), a two-year initiative established in December 2016 to fund projects related to the study and implementation of basic income in the United States, is preparing to host its first public conference.

The conference, called the Cash Conference, will take place on October 19 at the San Francisco Mint in San Francisco, California. Established in 1874, the San Francisco Mint is said to have held nearly one third of nation’s wealth in its heyday, according to the venue’s website. The mint ceased its operations in 1937, and now functions as an event venue.

ESP describes the Cash Conference as meeting to “reimagine what an economy built on the well-being of all of our [America’s] citizens could look like.”

We want to redefine what ‘work’ means and explore how a basic income could provide economic stability to Americans and fundamentally change society. How do we bridge the gap between the ways the job market is failing Americans today, and what it could look like tomorrow? Can we find a new system that provides access to opportunity for everyone and gives all of us the freedom to chart the course of our lives?

The conference will feature contributions from politicians, academics, entrepreneurs, artists, storytellers, and comedians.

Tickets and further details concerning the place and time are available on Eventbrite. The event is free; however, space is limited.

Reviewed by Russell Ingram

Photo (San Francisco Old Mint in front): CC BY-NC 2.0 Shawn Clover

Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes and Labor Expert Natalie Foster on Basic Income

Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes and Labor Expert Natalie Foster on Basic Income

In a recent live interview, televised online and hosted by KCET’s Town Hall, Chris Hughes and Natalie Foster answered questions from viewers about Universal Basic Income. Chris Hughes is the co-founder of Facebook, and Natalie Foster is an expert on technology and work at the Aspen Institute.


When asked who would be eligible for UBI, Natalie Foster explained that everyone qualifies, and that a UBI should be truly universal. She described a program designed to help everyone, with no one left out.


Chris Hughes fielded questions concerning the funding of UBI, and stressed that starting with low monthly incomes would make the program more affordable and easier to implement.


Chris Hughes and Natalie Foster are both co-directors of The Economic Security Project, a two-year program that raised $10 million dollars in funding, which supports exploration and experimentation related to basic income.