It’s the year of the Democratic Socialist and that means that some relatively crazy ideas are all the rage. One of the biggest is the dream-like vision of a society where you get paid whether you work or not. It’s known as universal basic income (UBI) and it fits in nicely with the idea of each according to his needs. Can it work in the United States, particularly in some of our cash-strapped major cities? We may find out soon enough because Chicago is looking at giving it a go. (Free Beacon)
Officials in Chicago want to test the waters of offering a universal basic income.
A majority of city council members are telling Mayor Rahm Emanuel to form a task force to look into Universal Basic Income programs, which is essentially a periodic check from the government with no strings attached.
The City Council wants to explore a program that would send at least $500 a month to 1,000 Chicago families. The same families also would get Earned Income Tax Credit money on a monthly basis rather than once a year.
47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar’s resolution said the money would “help working people and families become more resilient to day-to-day financial emergencies, are able to make rent, cover childcare, and put food on the table.”
If this was actually a program which qualified as true UBI (more on that in a moment), it would be a miracle if it got off the ground. As John recently reported, Ontario tried a three-year program and after just one year they gave up. If it was because the program was going broke or people were abusing it remains up for debate, but they abandoned the idea. Heck, it even failed in Finland, a place where they have actual socialism. But the dream lives on, I guess.
Chicago’s plan might last a bit longer, however, assuming they’ve lined up some combination of public and private funding for the initial run. The reason is that they’re only talking about 1,000 families in the pilot program and they would be receiving $500 per month. So that’s half a million per month or six million per year. That’s a lot of money to the average individual but even the wreckage of Chicago’s budget should be able to cough that up.
But is it really Universal Basic Income? In what corner of the progressive universe does $500 per month qualify as “income?” Most of them scream bloody murder if you’re not paying the kid asking you if you “want fries with that” fifteen bucks an hour. Five hundred dollars won’t even pay your rent in most cities, even if you live in less than modest conditions. And that doesn’t begin to touch needing to do things like keeping the lights turned on and having food in the fridge.
The other question which leaps to mind is how everyone else who is below the poverty level will react when they find out that an exclusive handful of people are getting these checks but they’re still stuck out in the cold. You can see some social complications arising.
The fact is that if you are giving out free money, some percentage of the people will put it to good use while they continue to strive to get ahead. But it’s equally true that another percentage of the population, having been relieved of some of the worries of earning a living, will rest in the safety net as comfortably as they can manage while doing as little as possible. Sorry to point this out, but it’s just human nature.
But hey, Chicago… you go for it. Let us all know how it works out.