When Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson (D) ran for office, he was propelled to victory by a growing socialist movement allied with the Democratic Party. The Socialist movement has elected a record number of socialists in Congress. However, Johnson now has one of the largest American cities to implement such policies with the support of the far left teacher’s union. Years ago, I wrote how a delegation of the union went to Venezuela and heaped praise on the murderous regime’s “progress.” Now Johnson appears to be moving toward a pilot program with great significance for socialist supporters: state-run grocery stores.
I am admittedly no fan of Johnson. I love Chicago where I was born and raised. However, rising taxes and crime had led many to leave, particularly businesses. This includes grocery chains. Walmart, Walgreens, Aldi are just some of the companies closing stores.
Johnson’s solution is telling. Rather than address the underlying conditions, he is suggesting a solution that has failed historically — government-run stores. Indeed, the failure in dealing with crime and hostile business environments has allowed socialist activists to realize a major new socialist agenda item.
The Chicago Tribune reported the start of the feasibility study to open government-run stores as part of Johnson’s pledge to advance “innovative, whole-of-government approaches to address … inequities.”
The mayor said in a statement:
All Chicagoans deserve to live near convenient, affordable, healthy grocery options. We know access to grocery stores is already a challenge for many residents, especially on the South and West sides. A better, stronger, safer future is one where our youth and our communities have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive. My administration is committed to advancing innovative, whole-of-government approaches to address these inequities.
His Economic Security Project senior adviser Ameya Pawar said that government-run stores are no different from other government programs “the way a library or the postal service operates.” It is all part of “reimagining the role government can play in our lives by exploring a public option for grocery stores via a municipally owned grocery store and market.”
Yet, we have previously “imagined” this approach in various governments with uniformly awful results. The government is not going to run these stores at a profit when actual businesses could not do so. Instead, it is likely to supply food at a higher cost for taxpayers in the red.
What is striking is that Johnson’s office said the grocery stores would be funded with the help of the Biden Administration as well as state funds. The use of federal funds to take another stab at state-run stores was hardly embraced by Congress in prior appropriation debates. If true, it is yet another example of how Congress has allowed billions to be spent without meaningful limits, including the massive and largely unrestricted spending tied to pandemic measures. That funding has been used for everything from office upgrades to state lottery systems.
In the Soviet Union, state-run grocery stores were the subject of gallows humor. The “reimagining” of grocery stores left shelves bare with only imagined essential products. The most widely told joke spread just before the fall of the Soviet Union:
Two men are in line waiting to buy vodka. An hour goes by, then two, and the line barely moves. Everyone is in a terrible mood. Finally, one of the men can’t take it any longer. “This is it! I’m sick of this kind of life. Everywhere there are lines, you cannot buy anything, and the store shelves are empty. I’ve had enough. I’m going to the Kremlin right now to assassinate him”. The man returns after two hours, still angry, and says, “To hell with it! At the Kremlin the line to assassinate Gorbachev is longer than this one.”
As the Johnson and Biden Administration try to make state-run stores work where the Soviet Union failed, history and economics are hardly on their side. Of course, as University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman noted, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”