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Facebook Co-Founder: Government Should Pay $500 a Month to Workers Making Under $50K

WASHINGTON – Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes favors a government-provided monthly “guaranteed income” of $500 for individuals making less than $50,000, which would be paid for by a 50 percent tax on income above $250,000 with “no strings attached.”

Hughes supports expanding the “definition of work” that would be required to qualify for the monthly benefit to include a parent who takes care of their own child at home and other similar kinds of unpaid work. He said the monthly income should be treated like a tax credit.

“If you make less than $50,000 and you’re working, the big expanded definition of work, which hopefully we can talk about, then you should get $500 per month, no strings attached, full-stop, administered in the same way it’s administered today. Importantly, because it’s a tax credit, just as it does today, it doesn’t throw you off of other important safety-net benefits,” Hughes said during a New America discussion, “Fair Shot Big Ideas for an Equitable Economy,” on Tuesday.

“A really key point that I emphasize in what I’m putting out there is this is complementary to the existing safety net of benefits so the pay-for, which is what everyone always asks about, is bringing taxes back into their historical line, taxes on the 1 percent, in particular, back into their historical line at 50 percent on income above $250,000 and closing the big loopholes: the Buffett Rule,” he added.

Hughes said the U.S. government might need to establish “universal basic income” in the future – perhaps in 2030 or 2040 – but a guaranteed monthly income would work well for the “here and now” as a way to combat income inequality.

Hughes, author of Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn, said work requirements are currently being used to throw people off of government benefits such as welfare, so his guaranteed-income proposal would treat work differently.

“Parents taking care of their own children at home, right now, we say no, no, if you are working at home with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, that’s not real. You’ve got to go get a minimum-wage job at Burger King to count,” said Hughes, whose estimated net worth is $935 million.

“We need to expand the definition of work. I’m not at all interested in work requirements; I mean, I have a whole chapter in the book that goes into how I believe work requirements have historically been, and right now, are being very cynically used to throw people off of government benefits by playing into these narratives,” he added.

Hughes argued that it’s a “myth” that there are many people on government benefits who do not want to work during the day.

“People want to be a purpose. People want to work in some way,” he said. “They want the purpose that a good job used to bring and right now jobs, unfortunately, are not providing that too much of the time.”