Chicago Mayor Johnson Moves Toward City-Run Grocery Stores

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.”

164 thoughts on “Chicago Mayor Johnson Moves Toward City-Run Grocery Stores”

  1. A foolish idea and not even novel.
    In many, if not all of the “markets shrink, economies that are completely market driven wither and die” the death was either due to government intervention or a shift in natural resources that would have been unavoidable whether the controlling hand was government or private. Please provide several examples independent of such factors to support your claim.

    Perhaps you are forgetting the ‘rows of government company run housing’ that filled massive spaces in U.S. cities in the 60s and later. Those tenements became recognized sources of crime and sustained generational poverty. That crime and poverty resulted in those environments becoming the basis for the “food deserts” you see today. Your omission of this condition speaks volumes.

    And your examples of the military and Post Office? That must be a joke, right? If the Constitution did not mandate the Post Office, does anyone really think that such an overpriced and under-performing service would even exist in ANY kind of market? And does ANYONE in their right mind consider the military to be a “market driven” entity?

  2. Maybe if government actually did their job and stopped the crime your asinine remedy wouldn’t be needed. I love words like “seeded” when it comes to taking my money in order to give fat cat jobs to government officials friends and backers.

    First the liberals DEMANDED that Walmart not be allowed into their cities due to some perceived complaint about pay, unions or some other fake argument. Then Walmart comes into the cities, against the “activists” wishes, they provide jobs, services and food and all is going fine. Then the “activists” DEMAND that the police be defunded, that cash bail be eliminated and that repeat offenders keep getting put back on the street. Then Walmart is forced to close do to pilferage, theft and other crime. Then the “activists” decry the lack of a Walmart. Then the “activists” create a state run dump of a store be built.

    Liberals, never right, never in doubt and never ever apologizing for the results of their insanity.

    1. Hullbobby,
      It is not just places like Chicago.
      Look at all the stores closing in places like Seattle, Portland and San Fran.
      What happened?
      Bad policies, defund the police, soft on crime laws, DAs who will not prosecute, no cash bail all leading to increase in crime.
      In fear of their safety, people stop going to those areas. Foot traffic falls, sales fall, increase in theft and fear of the safety of employees, stores close.
      Shockingly the WaPo wrote an article about people in DC who will no longer walk a few blocks but drive in fear of crime.
      If Democrats would make policy to make their streets safe again, people would feel safe, stores would return and things would get better all around. And that is what people want, safe streets, safe communities, safe schools.

  3. Wait and see how this one turns out.
    Will the move the goalposts to declare victory when it is an obvious failure.
    Let us revisit the situation a year from now.

  4. You don’t need to go to the old Soviet Union to see the results of this model, you need go no further than items from the history of the United States of America!!

    For example, read up on one of George Washington’s recommended projects: Government owned ‘fur factories’ (trading posts) and the Office of Indian Affairs led by Thomas McKenney (appointed by POTUS James Monroe).
    The short story: the government owned trading enterprise was a total bust but existed for many years and was funded by Congress over and over and over and over…. Apparently, Congress was convinced that the reason the trading posts were failing was because they needed more money. Does this sound familiar?
    The good news: The government incompetence and losses likely directly resulted in the fortune of John Jacob Astor (name sound familiar?).

    If you would like to read up on a significant series of Government owned clown shows that are costly and inefficient (and you really don’t want to bother with reading the daily news of the Biden Administration and accomplices Schumer and McConnell), consider trying to locate a copy of ‘Uncle Sam Can’t Count’ by Burton W. Folsom Jr and Anita Folsom. Be prepared to experience repeated head shaking and uttering ‘OMG’.

    Of course, you can always just visit a ‘State Liquor Sore’ in PA, VA or the like and compare the prices to states that don’t have state stores….typically about 50% mark up at ‘state sores’ versus private stores (those state stores are clean and well maintained but with remarkably light shopping, especially in the state’s border areas). But they tell us in those states that by the state owning the store, employing the staff and controlling the merchandise it ‘keeps families’ together and cuts down on on alcoholism and its associated vices. Maybe that is what is wrong with Chicago, eh Brandon Johnson?

  5. All engineered by a long running, well established communist party in this country who plans on the generational scale for infiltrating all aspects of American life and taking over, which they have done. Crime, high taxes, creating an unfriendly business environment is not a government failure to them, but a success because now government can solve the problem with more government – and government can deny access to their state run economy by those that do not adhere to their approved thought.

  6. If the city operates the grocery stores, does that mean there will be no meat, to satisfy the controllers of the BBB mission? Does this mean the forced consumption of broccoli, since that may be the only vegetable for sale the day you decide to shop? Will there be rationing of basic foodstuffs, because the city wants to make certain no one gets more than their “fair share” of groceries for any given week? Will this result in the forced implementation of Michelle Obama’s healthy foods initiative from a decade ago, that resulted in very restrictive food choices for public school students?

  7. Dear Prof Turley,

    The reason(s) my Cheerios are $6/box and gasoline heading back towards $5/gal is because, in a word, ‘Bidenomics’. That is; a crazy proxy-provoked war in Ukraine combined with Holy-writ economic sanctions that will continue to further divide the world and drive up prices .. . I don’t care what Paul Krugman says.

    I see no reason why a few ‘gov-run grocery’ stores cannot ‘compete’ in a free-market environment. The Gov. already subsidizes food ‘production’ in this country to the tune of $billion$. I’m more concerned about the Gov. ensuring there are no barriers to the grocery market-place (ie. ease of entry), it’s efficiency, innovation .. . and that it really is a ‘free-market’.

    Hell, give me a few hundred acres and the back 40 close to downtown Chicago, a few Mexican immigrants/seasonal, and I’ll feed the whole city. Lock, stock and barrel, Fresh, right off the stalk. You can’t beat that @ Winn-Dixie.

    *fyi the U.S.S.R. collapsed about 35 yr.s ago. Have you seen Russian food markets lately .. . and check out the Moscow subway system!

    p.s. our export market will tie-in with China’s new ‘Silk Road 2’ and build a golden bridge from the east bound to the west .. . Biden’s BBB ‘railroad all the way across the Pacific’ will need a bridge.

  8. If the city of Chicago addressed its crime problem, businesses would have an incentive to open in those poor neighborhoods the mayor is supposedly so concerned about. But that’s too rational and doesn’t fit the socialist agenda. One can’t help but suspect a long-term plan here: first destroy all local law and order, forcing large corporations to exit the state, then have the state step in to fill the economic gap it created. Clever those socialists, but too bad we already know the outcome of this foolish game.

  9. In the late 1920s until even after Hitler was named chancellor, those German citizens who were not National Socialist supporters believed that he was such a clown, no one would take him seriously. As long as it didn’t adverse impact their lives, they were fine with him running the country and returning Germany to her pre-Great War glory. That attitude continued until it was too late. We see the same here amongst conservatives who keep believing that we can hold on until the next election and then we’ll be done with the Left running the WH. The problem with that mentality is the socialists–and make no mistake, they ARE socialists if not worse–don’t even try to conceal the fact that they want another USSR on Potomac. Soon it will be so. This is all just a charade now as conservatives in DC continue to fiddle. With our complicit media, they have achieved their sinister goal.

  10. ‘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.”

    Uh-huh, sure. And ‘with the support of Biden’. I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you. 🙄 Do not even *try* to tell us the modern dem party are not a whole-hog Marxist movement. Obamacare was just the beginning, followed by common core and a plethora of other reductionist idiocy, and they really do think we are stupid and should just fall in line (I felt the same way about climate nonsense when Gore released his film/temper tantrum; the underlying implication was that ‘his’ world was being ruined by the ignorant, animal, plebes, who needed to be brought in line. He didn’t care about the earth, just the mingling with the riff-raff he had to do in a world of true freedom and equality).

    Heaven forbid these people look at their policies. It would seem they are going to double down to the bitter end. This is unreal and it lends credence to the formerly spurious notion that covid lockdowns were a social experiment.

  11. These stores will eventually be reduced to a skeleton inventory, just like in the USSR. One of the reasons for its downfall was its botched economy, especially on the consumer side. People just wanted more consumer good than the party could provide. The problem with radical Democrats — aka socialists — is that they’re ideologues first and pragmatists never. And they never learn from the past.

  12. “whole-of-government approaches” — so that’s what they’re calling socialism these days? Too dishonest to use the correct term, so they have to sneak it in. And what makes them think that crime won’t be a problem for government stores? Thieves aren’t rocket scientists, nor do they have socialist scruples. The tax payer will be robbed twice. But that’s what Chicago voted for.

  13. I am reminded of a local TV broadcast in Pittsburgh PA – probably sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s – of a delegation from Russia visiting the Pittsburgh area. The TV station covered its visit to a large and locally-owned chain of grocery stores/ Although the store it visited was one of Giant Eagle’s smallest stores, members of the delegation were in awe at the store and what it offered for sale. I had something to compare when we visited Russia for several weeks; in a government controlled economy Russians had nothing that even resembled a USA grocery store!

    1. Will government owned grocery stores be safer from shoplifting and theft than privately owned grocery stores? I do not believe so. If the government owned stores experience losses due to theft, who is on the hook for the losses? The citizens of Chicago, it seems. (Or at least those who pay taxes).
      A better solution is to open police substations in the hardest hit private stores. That may be effective at reducing crime. Of course, you have to cite, prosecute, and incarcerate those who commit the crimes. Until that happens, it’s a free for all out there that a private company cannot afford.

  14. The professor offers yet another brilliant example of the evil that the Leftist Agenda is in this once great Nation.

    The replies posted confirm what I have said in my posts at other articles.

    If you scan the responses to this article you see two things stand out.

    The first is anyone that has seen firsthand the evils of Communism/Socialism and the damage ithat occurs under such regimes ALL agree that is not what this Nation should seek, embrace, or. experience.

    The other is those who reject those posts do so by attacking the poster and their views without ANY offer of evidence that communism/socialism anywhere has succeeded in advancing the social welfare of any non-Party Member and the rewards only go to select Party Members.

    We are seeing mounting evidence of that as the Biden Crime Family is being unraveled by the Congressional Investigation.

    Ya’ll did note that a key figure in the conspiracy found himself appointed to a Federal Government position that afforded him a title, an income, and the ability to travel internationally on the Tax Payer’s Dime.

    That one very small part of the criminal conspiracy alone should make it clear how corrupt our political process has become.

    We also have to look at the absolute lack of criminal prosecutions of Democrats for “political” crimes yet we see what is going on re January 6th…..and not 2016 or the Summer of Love in Portland, Oregon at the Federal Building.

    Then we can look at the “Get Out of Jail Free” movement, the resulting street crime problem aided by the lack of Police resources and the lack of prosecution for street crimes.

    Yet, the Lefties…the genuinely radical Lefties…..and the trolls and bots that post here and at other social media sites reject the facts of that reality.


    Unless and until we accept the core root problem of our. ills and excise that terminal cancer from our society…..we are doomed to see a well known and proven disaster occur.

    It is not Biden that we need to focus upon….it is the political agenda behind such public figures that must be dealt with if we are really going to protect our very fragile American Democracy and Individual freedoms.

    Socialism/Communism offer nothing good for Americans….nothing.

    Our capitalist based economic system is not perfect and most of its ills is directly due to the growth of government and aw we all know (well at least those with an IQ above that of a head of cabbage) that involvement beyond that of what the Founders saw as right and proper of the Federal Government has caused much those problems.

    Did the Founders foresee career politicians with government retirements, government healthcare, lobbyists with pots of money determining the language of Congressional Bills and the like?

    Our battle to save democracy has to go right down to the root causes of the. problems and not simply address the symptoms.

    1. Excellent articulation of the current situation which should frighten all of us Ralph Chappell. This trajectory is a dangerous one.

      Chicago will never have a Wegmans grocery store. Biden will never be on a coin.

  15. It’s nothing but cheap talk and inept tap-dancing, again, from the failed Left. The FTC, under Biden, will step in and make parties to a food product merger run losing store operations in dangerous areas in exchange for expanding across a larger, profitable, area. shoplifting will be massive and violence guaranteed. After the financial crisis of 2008, Obama’s DOJ did something similar. Banks, not the banksters themselves, were held liable in our courts. Part of the punishment was to give monies to Leftist groups and so-called “grass -roots” NGO’s as a vital part of the “slap on the hand” plea.

  16. It’s going to be interesting to see what will happen when the same group who forced closure of good stores, walk in fill garbage bags with goods and walk out.
    What will they do??

    1. The same thing that happens in any Communist government….you do not steal from the government, you do not speak out against the government, because if you do……the government shall punish you for those acts and any thought that does not agree with the expressed policy of the government.

      You want the most graphic example…..look at the mass murders committed by the NVA/VC during Test ’68 in the area of Hue, South Vietnam.

      They rounded up about 5,000 people and killed them with over 3,000 bodies being found in mass graves….school teachers, government workers of the South Vietnamese government, politicians, professors, and other intellectuals suspected of being a possible opponent to their anticipated takeover of South Vietnam following the expected mass uprising of the South Vietnamese people….that did not happen resulting in a massive defeat for their plans.

      Consider how many millions of people were intentionally starved to death by Stalin when he dealt with Farmers who refused to give up their farms…..which you might look to the Netherlands TODAY where government has decreed the ending of a great many small farms due to Global Warming mandates.

      Just a few examples that if one does not read history and consider the lessons it teaches…..remain blind to what can happen if it is allowed to be repeated.

      No one in their right mind can possibly want government to decide every aspect of one’s life. Those that do….are the conduit by which such human tragedies occur.

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