Chicago Eyeing Handing Residents $1000 Per Month With 'No Strings Attached'


Universal basic income is bound to be one of the hot topics of the 2020 campaign, given the Democrat Party’s tilt to the left over the past few years.

While most of the presidential frontrunners haven’t exactly embraced the idea, entrepreneur and long-shot candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination Andrew Yang has made some very minor waves by making it one of his chief issues.

However, further down the food chain, the idea retains some popularity. You don’t even have to look much further.

Take Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, arguably one of the country’s three or four most famous Democrats despite the fact she’s spent a grand total of one month in office. When she released the legislation for her Green New Deal, she also released a (quite frankly, disastrous) FAQ detailing its benefits; one was “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work,” which is universal basic income by any definition of the world.

The FAQ was so bad that Democrats ended up scrubbing it to get a version  that would be more palatable to sane Americans.

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And then there are smaller-scale experiments, like one that might be about to commence in the Windy City, governed by former Obama White House chief of staff Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

“Some Chicago families could start collecting a $1,000 check every month with no strings attached. That’s the new proposal from a task force created by Mayor Emanuel,” WLS-TV reported Friday.

“The idea is to break the cycle of poverty. The pilot program would give 1,000 struggling Chicagoans $1,000 a month.”

So, what will the money, which will come from a combination of city funds and charity money, be used for? The answers seem to be all over the place. WLS reported that recipients could use it “to cover unexpected emergencies, increase their savings and improve their health.”

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However, one columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times said the program could be nothing less than a way to break the cycle of violence in the city.

“Last week, when Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) came in to talk to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board about a pilot plan aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty, I understood how important it is for us to help the poor from becoming the hopeless,” Mary Mitchell wrote.

“Pawar, whom the Sun-Times endorsed in the city treasurer’s race, has a heart for the impoverished.

“Several months ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel chose him to chair a task force to consider how to bring economic security to struggling Chicagoans,” she continued. “The Chicago Resilient Families Task Force’s pilot plan (to be paid for by a mix of public and private funds), would give $1,000 cash monthly to 1,000 low-income individuals for 1-1/2 years with no strings attached.”

So, how would this stop the cycle of violence? Well, Mitchell pointed to a universal basic income study recently published in Finland that showed giving recipients money with no strings attached did not result in improving employment levels — what the money was intended to do. However, recipients “reported better well-being in every way (than) the comparison group,” according to Reuters.

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And that well-being, according to Mitchell, will stop violence. And she used a tragic shooting case in Chicago to make the point.

“Well-being may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t,” she said. “Well-being could have stopped a gunman from firing into a car filled with children Thursday evening, striking a 1-year-old boy in the head.

“On Friday afternoon, Dejohn ‘Chase’ Irving was on life support. Police believe the boy’s mother, who was shot in the past, may have been the target.”

Having tugged at our heartstrings, Mitchell launched straignt into speculation: “Could $1,000 a month flowing into the household have made a difference in the lives of a family entangled in such a web of violence? And could a basic guaranteed income have made it less likely that the gunman would have fired into a car filled with people?”

Mitchell goes on to talk about people who have lost hope and how people with jobs can’t make ends meet, none of which proves her point but certainly lays on the guilt pretty thick.

“Given the city and state’s dire finances, it is easy to dismiss the UBI pilot program as another form of welfare,” she says. “But if $1,000 a month could keep an impoverished mother from turning a blind eye to illegal activity that puts food on her table, but leads to gun violence, it would be worth it.”

Palm, meet face.

First, let’s talk about the problem with the qualitative analysis in the Finland study. Of course people who receive free money are going to say that they’re better off. Wouldn’t you? This is why qualitative analysis in UBI studies borders on the farcical. (It also doesn’t explain why taking money from your pocket to empower others’ “well-being” is a good idea, but this never matters to those with grand plans.)

When it came to the quantitative analysis — i.e., stuff we can concretely measure — we can see the Finland study was an utter failure. It didn’t produce better employment opportunities for the participants.

Poor job prospects, incidentally, is part of the hopelessness that Mitchell laments in her piece, yet she never reconciles the fact that the study she bases her argument upon seems to prove UBI doesn’t improve that in the least.

Second, yes, let’s talk about those dire finances in Chicago and Illinois. Take a 2017 appraisal from The Fiscal Times: “Chicago and New York rank at the bottom of a new analysis of fiscal strength based primarily on data from 2015 financial reports issued by the cities themselves. The analysis includes 116 U.S. cities with populations greater than 200,000.

“Chicago’s position at the bottom of the ranking is no surprise to anyone who follows municipal finance. The Windy City has become a poster child for financial mismanagement, having suffered a series of ratings downgrades in recent years. Aside from having thin reserves and large volumes of outstanding debt, Chicago is notorious for its underfunded pension plans.”

Third, there’s absolutely no evidence UBI makes people less likely to shoot each other. This is preposterous speculation based on the idea that cyclical violence is caused by a lack of “well-being” and that UBI solves that problem without anything to back it up but sob stories.

To quote Christopher Hitchens: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

But what could go wrong? After all, UBI is just another liberal idea from a city that’s full of them. And that’s working out swimmingly so far, right?.

Sure, they’re burdened with debt, violence and population decline.  But the way to solve that is more of the same leadership we’ve seen.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture