Saturday, December 31, 2005

1962 Why New Orleans failed long before Katrina

New Orleans used to have a thriving African American community, according to this article by Joel Kotkin which compares the paths to growth between Houston and New Orleans. It probably answers my general question in my blog about the robust U.S. economy about why so many cities with entrenched poverty also elect Democrats year after year and keep slipping backward.

“But during the 1960s, the push for economic growth that created an upwardly mobile working class was replaced—in New Orleans as well as most other cities —by a new paradigm that emphasized politics. Political agitations promoted various forms of racial redress, and the rights of people to receive government welfare payments. By the late 1970s, African Americans in many American cities had gained more titular power than they’d ever dreamed of, including the mayoralty of New Orleans.

The new political gains of black Americans were widely regarded as a major step toward an improved social status. This coincided with the rise of a new form of urban boosterism—which showcased downtown renewal districts and insisted that the dramatic decline of city quality of life during the 1960s and 1970s had been reversed in the 1980s and 1990s. Urban elites, including in New Orleans, burbled about the vigor of their cities. Right through last year’s Gallup poll, leaders and residents of the Crescent City had (along with San Francisco) one of the highest levels of municipal self-esteem in the country. That now appears sadly delusional.

The truth is that, rather than improving conditions for average residents of their cities, many urban politicians and interest groups have promoted policies that actually exacerbated a metastasizing underclass. Urban liberals tend to blame a shrivelling of Great Society programs for problems in cities. Observers such as former Houston mayor Bob Lanier have suggested, however, that the Great Society impulse itself is what most damaged many cities—by stressing welfare payments and income redistribution, ethnic grievance, and lax policies on issues like crime and homelessness, instead of the creation of a stronger economy.”

Sadly, the needed tax and business and local government reforms will be ignored and instead:

". . .our urban leaders and their enablers—from rich developers to social agitators—will insist their old strategies are working. The media will likely echo their press releases. This will work only until our cities crumble under pressure, as in New Orleans, explode from within, like Paris, or simply become irrelevant anachronisms at the margins of modern society."

Read the whole article in either html or a pdf file complete with pictures.

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