Chicago Mayor Wants City-Run Grocery Stores After Walmart Closes Stores

Now that Walmart and Whole Foods are shutting stores across Chicago because of shoplifting concerns, the city’s Democratic mayor, Brandon Johnson, wants municipally run grocery stores to promote “equitable” access to food in districts more than half a mile from a grocery store.

On September 13, Johnson announced a partnership with the Economic Security Project to open municipally owned grocery stores in areas of Chicago where privately owned grocery franchises refuse to do business.

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. I am proud to work alongside partners to take this step in envisioning what a municipally owned grocery store in Chicago could look like.
—Brandon Johnson

Soviet echoes: Many conservatives have compared Johnson’s plan to Soviet central planning. The reason Walmart and Whole Foods are shuttering stores in Chicago is that robberies have increased 11 percent in the past year and they can no longer make a profit. This problem will affect the new city-owned stores the same as it affected the privately run franchises.

Yet since municipally owned stores can be subsidized with taxpayer dollars, they have a better chance of staying open. But empty shelves will be a problem, and Chicago’s $538 million budget shortfall will continue to worsen.

Moral decline: Shortly before the recession of 1920–21, the statistician Roger Babson said America was about to enter “the worst business depression that our generation has ever experienced.” Babson knew this because he closely monitored Americans’ morality statistics.

“When 51 percent or more of the whole people are reasonably ‘righteous’ in their dealings with one another, we are heading into increasing prosperity,” Babson told the leading bankers and business executives of Chicago over a century ago. “When 51 percent of the people become ‘unrighteous’ in their business dealings with their fellows, then we are headed for bad times economically!”

The “food deserts” of Chicago exist because there is too much crime in these areas for the laws of supply and demand to create prosperity. City-owned grocery stores will not change that fact.

Learn more: Read “Our Economy’s Boiler Room.”