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Toni Preckwinkle, a champion of expanding America’s guaranteed income schemes, has revealed that her $500 payouts to Chicagoans were inspired by the Black Panther Party and efforts to help ‘our people’.

Preckwinkle, the Board President of Chicago‘s Cook County, on Wednesday said the monthly no-strings checks to some 3,000 residents were floated by the 1960s gun-toting Marxist-Leninist black power activists.

Preckwinkle is piloting America’s biggest experiment with basic income payments for poor Chicagoans, and this week launched the Counties for a Guaranteed Income group to connect similar efforts across California, Oregon and beyond.

‘This isn’t a new idea,’ Preckwinkle, who is black, said in a C-SPAN call-in show.

‘Martin Luther King in the 1960s talked about the importance of providing an economic floor for our people, a guaranteed basic income. And, actually, the Black Panthers talked about either guaranteed employment or guaranteed income for residents in the United States.’

Toni Preckwinkle, the Board President of Chicago’s Cook County, says anti-poverty payouts were inspired by the Black Panther Party and the civil rights campaigner Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unidentified members of the Black Panthers hold guns at a protest in California in May 1967. The Marxist revolutionary group called for the arming and economic empowerment of black Americans

Preckwinkle’s references to ‘our people’ — understood to mean African Americans — and the Black Panther Party, have heightened fears among those who already questioned the economic value of the ‘no-strings’ payouts.

Supporters of the policy say it lifts poor Americans out of poverty and allows them to be entrepreneurial, but critics say they are a wrongheaded socialist idea that fuels inflation, raises taxes, hurts the poor and deters people from working.

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The reference to ‘our people’ suggests fixed income schemes are akin to ‘reparations’ payouts — designed to compensate blacks for decades-old racist policies that left millions impoverished.

Preckwinkle’ called universal income schemes ‘an old idea that has gotten currency recently’ thanks to ‘lots of pilots at the city level, municipal level’ and in her scheme in Cook County, America’s most populous county.

The idea of no-strings government payouts to citizens dates back centuries, and schemes have been trialed in several European countries with mixed results. Alaska has since the 1970s shared a portion of state oil revenues with residents. 

Preckwinkle said 3,250 hard-up Chicagoans would receive the payments for two years, funded with $42 million from President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus package, in the ‘largest government sponsored program in the country.’

Research from another scheme in Stockton, California, showed recipients were ‘more likely to be employed … and more likely to pursue education and support for their children — all the kinds of positive outcomes that you would hope and expect from a program like this.’

The Cook County scheme follows a similar effort last year in LA County, that selected 1,000 people to get $1,000 monthly payments for three years starting in June 2022, led by LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

Preckwinkle and Mitchell this week launched the 20-member Counties for a Guaranteed Income coalition, of which they are co-chairs.

It runs alongside the Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a network of more than 100 mayors founded in June 2020 by Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, which in 2019 started giving $500-a-month payments to 125 randomly selected residents for two years.

The program in Cook County got underway in December, when 3,250 residents began receiving $500 monthly checks and would continue doing so for two years

Dozens of residents lined up in South Los Angeles to sign up for $1,000 universal income payments. Some 1,000 recipients were then randomly selected in the three-year scheme

In June 2020 the network Mayors for Guaranteed Income was founded and has more than 100  members. This map shows cities where mayors are members of the network

Chicago has launched an unprecedented guaranteed income scheme that will see 3,200 residents receive $500 a month with no strings attached. Pictured: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., wanted to level the playing field for African Americans

San Francisco Mayor London Breed in November unveiled her own city’s version of guaranteed incomes — $1,200 monthly payouts to 55 poor transgender people, as well as mental health and funding for sex-change drugs and therapy.

The launch of the nationwide initiative moves guaranteed income schemes further into the political mainstream. Early pilot schemes used philanthropic donations, but more recent versions are funded with taxpayers money.

Counties are typically in charge of administering social services and federal relief aid programs, meaning they may be better equipped than cities to distribute payouts to the poor and ensure the money is actually helping people, county officials say.

‘We have the most direct connection to the folks who would benefit from these sorts of programs,’ Susheela Jayapal, a county commissioner for Multnomah County, Oregon, where 100 black mothers receive monthly payouts, told Bloomberg.

The schemes have intensified conflicts between Republicans and Democrats — the former call them a waste of money and the latter say they will emancipate the weakest members of society.

Robert Rector, a conservative public assistance expert at the Heritage Foundation who helped shape the welfare changes of the 1990s, dismisses the schemes as ‘more aid to people who choose not to work.’

Lori Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago, which is running its own city-wide fixed income scheme, has seen the issue as an opportunity to attack Republican politics.

‘These are the same people that didn’t want to expand health care, and look at the number of people in their communities, these ruby red communities, that are suffering,’ Lightfoot said.

‘These are the same people, frankly, that are attacking the very core of our democracy, demonizing being different, being the other, based upon your religion, your creed, who you love, your gender identity.’

This content was originally published here.