The Decline of the Great American City

By David Rogers

The airwaves are blazing again with reaction to a Trump tweet. In his usual boisterous style, President Trump is taking on Representative Elijah Cummings, who has been seated in Maryland’s Seventh District since 1996. Cummings has attacked the President and his family and Trump, ever the equal opportunity combatant has responded by pointing out that Cumming’s district is in decline. Trump’s actual hyperbole may border on inappropriate, but he is making a very significant point.

I have lived in sixteen cities in twelve states over my lifetime. This includes Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta, New York, Rochester, Denver and Salt Lake. I have visited frequently with family and friends in other places such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Newark, Dayton, Springfield, Massachusetts, Jacksonville and Las Vegas. I remember these cities well from my youthful years. I have returned to most of them in my adult years. With few exceptions they are almost all in serious decline. And there is one commonality in all of these deteriorating cities. Decades of Progressive Democrat governance.

Trump’s tweet is not about race, which the press continues to push as a default pseudo-dialog. It is about leadership, policy and the results they bring. Salt Lake stands out as an exception on this list of cities via the fact that despite progressive leaders such as Mayor Biskupski, there are strong conservative voices that keep a balance and promote bi-partisan dialog and solutions. No such balance has existed in Chicago, Baltimore, Oakland or many other major metropolises for ages. They are all dominated exclusively by liberal establishments, to the point that conservative political candidates often do not even bother to field a campaign. And they are all at some point of economic and/or social failure.

The landscapes of these failing cities have commonalities. They usually have brutally high taxation that drive businesses elsewhere. There is entrenched corruption among the local leadership. Despite billions in federal aid these cities seem to continue to deteriorate. Indeed, where has all the federal money gone? Poverty is endemic in certain areas and seems incurable. There are bloated and unsustainable welfare states that strain budgets. All of these cities, and often the states in which they reside, sustain crippling deficits and are near bankruptcy.

Infrastructure is decrepit and failing. Employers have fled and economic investment has a low probability of returning. Quality affordable housing is almost non-existent (rent on a parking space in Manhattan is more expensive than a nice apartment in Salt Lake). Crime is often uncontrollable. As citizens are denied rights of self-defense, criminal activity, and murder rates soar in many of these zip codes (Baltimore has a higher per-capita homicide rate than Honduras or El Salvador). Law enforcement is often hamstrung, inconsistent or even absent.

Some of the blame for these conditions can be attributed to more macro-economic conditions, such as the globalization of manufacturing. In many of these cities in the forties through the eighties, blue-collar production jobs (often unionized) comprised a fair amount of the employment available to local residents. As Ross Perot prophesied in 1996, the “giant sucking sound” from NAFTA and other agreements that exported manufacturing jobs overseas has destroyed many of these cities and weakened the unions that once represented their workers. Nevertheless, liberal policy and corrupt administrations share a significant portion of the blame.

Trump, with his usual bluster, points out the fact that Cummings’ district is actually worse off now than when he took office in 1996. The President’s argument is worth consideration. If we just look around the country, we can see similar issues in numerous big cities. For example, Los Angeles and San Francisco have so many homeless (some of them actually working but unable to afford any type of housing) that local health departments are issuing warnings about outbreaks of bubonic plague due to the increasing number of rats circulating in these outdoor communities.

The question remains, how does this situation get turned around? It is obvious after decades of liberal experimentation that such approaches are more of the problem than an answer. What next? Is there any hope for our dying cities when leftist politicians pull the race card out on any and every inquiry that challenges their failing orthodoxy? Trump understands one part of the solution…bring back jobs from overseas. Manufacture in America. But is that idea too little too late? As long as power and loyalty to progressive platforms and their intrinsic corruption continue to prevail, it is unlikely that our once-great cities will reverse their course of decline any time soon, leaving the future livelihoods of millions at stake.

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