Saturday, April 19, 2014

City Journal: Chicago's Vanishing Middle Class

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This article by Aaron Renn who writes The Urbanophile blog further discusses Chicago's vanishing middle class. Earlier this month I showed an animated image that illustrated middle class areas go from either very wealthy to very poor since 1970s. That image you will see to the right.

If you believe that Mayor Rahm Emanuel may not be entirely responsive to the plight of middle class people in the city perhaps there are some political aspects involved:
The plight of the middle class in cities like Chicago can’t be blamed entirely on liberal policies. The global economy has clearly benefited the talented, the educated, and the already wealthy, often at the expense of those in formerly middle-class occupations, like manufacturing. And it’s unlikely that the forces unleashed by globalization will diminish. One might expect, then, that big-city Democratic leaders like Emanuel or de Blasio would make a strong appeal to middle-class constituents.

They haven’t, because for liberal mayors, middle-class decline is convenient and politically advantageous. Much of America’s moneyed elite has already shifted its allegiance to the Left, especially in cities. Wealthy, educated urbanites hold generally liberal social values and can afford the higher taxes “blue” cities like Chicago impose—especially when those taxes help pay for the upscale amenities they desire. Even when the mayoral administration is less friendly, the urban elite tends to get its needs met. At the same time, the urban poor have remained loyal to the Democrats, no matter how little tangible improvement liberal policies make in their lives. And the various unions, community organizers, and activist groups that advocate for the poor profit handsomely from the moneys directed toward liberal antipoverty programs.

This is the Democratic Party’s new top-bottom coalition, one in which the traditional middle class—white ethnics, blue-collar manufacturing and trade workers, small business owners, and others—has no part. These “left-outs” are the urban equivalents of Reagan Democrats. Their instinct to vote Democratic may remain, but the economic interests that once bound them to the party have largely disappeared, leaving them politically unaffiliated. They are open to voting for a compelling Republican, such as Rudolph Giuliani—particularly if the city in which they live appears to be spiraling downward.

In other words, these independent-minded, urban middle classes are quintessential swing voters. They can create political trouble for an unsympathetic mayor—and that’s why leaders in Chicago, New York, and elsewhere aren’t going to lift a finger to try to halt their flight. Indeed, in Chicago, even the black middle class is bailing. The city’s leadership appears unconcerned.
Read the whole thing!

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