Chicago has more than $9 billion in unpaid bills and pension liabilities that have put each city resident more than $10,000 in debt, and is facing an outstanding bond debt of well above $37 billion. Even so, the city aims to become the first major metropolitan area in the United States to offer all its residents free cash.
The home of former President Barack Obama currently intends to try out a Universal Basic Income scheme with 1,000 select families. If successful, the program will be expanded throughout the city. The bill proposing the UBI trial run was proposed by Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, and has already received backing from other city alderman as well as Chicago City Council members. If the bill passes, it would head to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s desk, and there is a very real chance that he would sign it.
Alderman Pawar, who at one time attempted to run for governor of Illinois, has made it clear that he feels providing Chicago residents with basic income would solve a number of problems. He points out that many poor and even middle-class people do not have the savings needed to tide them over in the event of an emergency. He notes that many people could lose work in the near future as automation takes over jobs that used to be done by humans.
Pawar is especially concerned about the development of autonomous vehicles that would render trucking jobs obsolete. He also brings race into the equation by pointing out that widespread joblessness would exacerbate both political and racial tensions. In recent comment, he has clearly stated that, in his mind, the question is not whether the city of Chicago can afford to give all its residents a universal basic income, but whether the city can afford not to. He has also eagerly stated his intentions of scaling the UBI program should the trial run be successful.
At the same time, there are those who caution that Chicago’s flirtation with providing all its residents with a universal basic income isn’t going to work out well. The founder of the People’s Policy Project is an advocate for universal basic income, but has expressed skepticism of Chicago’s proposed UBI experiment noting that the city only has a limited capacity to collect revenue.
Other critics are far less positive about the proposed program. As one astute journalist recently noted, providing each person in the city of Chicago with a $500 check every single month would add more than $16 billion to the city’s annual budget at a time when Chicago is faced with a serious pension crisis and other financial challenges. Furthermore, the fact that the city is dealing with a crime wave and serious problems with its public school system clearly indicate that the money that would be spent on a trial UBI scheme could be used for better purposes.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons why universal basic income is a bad idea is that it creates government dependency. If the government is paying every single citizen in a particular area, it could control what these people do and don’t do by simply threatening to withhold needed cash. While UBI advocates make it clear that the idea of providing UBI income is that it could be used for any purpose, there is no guarantee that a government would allow its citizens to have that freedom forever. Furthermore, it is hard to see how any city, state or national government would obtain the money needed for such a scheme without drastically raising taxes in some way — which would undermine the entire point of the project.
By forcing innovative companies and hard-working individuals to pay large portions of their income to those who cannot or will not work for one reason or another, a government would in essence be destroying the foundation for the program as UBI beneficiaries quickly learn that there is nothing to be gained from working and overtaxed individuals and companies leave the area in search of a more favorable tax rate.
~ Conservative Zone