Chicago Mulls Testing ‘Universal Basic Income’ Program

In this Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, photo, heavy traffic on Interstate 90, the Kennedy Expressway, is seen in Chicago. A study by an advocacy group found the nation's worst traffic bottleneck in terms of hours of delay is a 12-mile stretch of the Kennedy Expressway near Chicago's Loop business district. …
AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

Chicago could be the largest city in the U.S. to pilot a universal basic income program if the city council gets its way.

Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar introduced legislation that would set aside city government funds to give 1,000 families a guaranteed $500 monthly stipend with no restrictions or conditions for receiving the money, the Intercept reported Monday.

The bill would also modify the Earned Income Tax Credit program to allow the families in the test pilot to use their tax credits for their monthly mortgage payments.

“Nearly 70 percent of Americans don’t have $1,000 in the bank for an emergency,” Pawar told the Intercept. “UBI could be an incredible benefit for people who are working and are having a tough time making ends meet or putting food on the table at the end of the month.”

The bill already has the support of the majority-Democratic city council, and Pawar said he is hoping Mayor Rahm Emanuel can sign off on it so it can be implemented.

Other U.S. cities have also rallied behind the idea of a universal basic income welfare program. The city of Stockton, California, also proposed a universal basic income pilot program in 2017 that would pay a group of nearly 100 residents $500 a month with no questions asked.

The Economic Security Project, a group run by Obama campaign veteran Chris Hughes, would provide the money to Stockton residents under this program.

The idea of a universal basic income has also gained traction internationally among left-wing politicians and Silicon Valley elites.

Former President Barack Obama endorsed a universal basic income at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday.

“It’s not just money that a job provides,” Obama told the audience of more than 15,000 people on Tuesday. “It provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose. So we’re gonna have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income.”

Silicon Valley elites such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have also endorsed the idea of a universal basic income.

But despite the hope of left-wing politicians and Silicon Valley elites that a universal basic income will be a panacea for families struggling with poverty, other universal basic income experiments around the world have failed.

Finland terminated its universal basic income experiment before its trial run was supposed to end, allowing the trial run to expire at the end of 2018.

In 2017, the Finnish government selected 2,000 unemployed Finnish citizens to receive a €560 monthly payment regardless of their employment situation.

The exact reasons why Finland decided to end the experiment early is unclear, but the reasons for ending the experiment will be revealed in 2019 at the completion of the project.



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