Chicago "Task Force" Looks At Implementing Universal Basic Income

Embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is forming a task force that will analyze whether the city should establish a so-called "universal basic income" program, as they Mayor seeks to salvage his legacy - currently associated with Chicago's horrendous murder rate and broken pension system. Emanuel announced he would not be seeking a third term in next February's elections.

The task force set up by Emanuel will consist of a panel that will decide whether the welfare initiative could work, as the city wrestles with a $71 billion debt load, nearly $40 billion of which is pension debt. 

A Universal Basic Income scheme was first floated in July by Chicago Alderman Ameye Pawar - who is running for Governor of Illinois this November. Pawar's called on Emanuel tro launch a pilot program which would pay 1,000 families $500 each month. 

Pawar recently introduced a pilot for a UBI program in Chicago. Under his program, $500 a month would be delivered to 1,000 Chicago families — no strings attached. Additionally, the proposal would modify the Earned Income Tax Credit program for the same 1,000 families, so they’d receive payments on a monthly basis instead at the end of the year — a process known as “smoothing” that enables families to integrate the tax credit into their monthly budgets.


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. … It’s time to start thinking about direct cash transfers to people so that they can start making plans about how they’re going to get by.” -The Intercept 

Pawar told the Chicago Tribune he doesn't think Emanuel is simply trying to take credit for the idea right before his successor has to deal with implementing it. 

"Chicago would be the largest city in the country to take this step,” Pawar told the Chicago Tribune. “I think the mayor sees this as a chance to lead the way as cities try to grapple with poverty and income inequality at a time the federal government is not addressing those things. This would be a legacy issue (for Emanuel)."

In July, former President Obama advocated for Universal Basic Income while speaking at the 2018 Nelson Mandela lecture

That said, to Pawar - the question isn't whether the United States can afford to implement UBI, rather, whether it can afford not to

My response to Amazon, and Tesla, and Ford, and Uber … we need to start having a conversation about automation and a regulatory framework so that if jobs simply go away, what are we going to do with the workforce? … If [those companies are] reticent to pay their fair share in taxes and still want tax incentives and at the same time automate jobs, what do you think is going to happen?” Pawar asked.

“These divisions are going to grow and, in many ways, we’re sitting on a powder keg.”

Of course, to give Chicago's entire population of 2.7 million a check for $500 per month would cost $1.35 Billion per month, or $16.2 billion per year. Considering the city's $71 billion debt load - of which around $40 billion is pension debt, UBI would add nearly 23% per year to that ticking time bomb.