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The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.

About Last Night



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Virginia. Katherine Miller of Buzzfeed explains why Ken Cuccinelli’s narrow defeat tells us very little about the viability of Tea Party candidates in swing states. The scandals plaguing Gov. Bob McDonnell, the Republican incumbent, and the government shutdown, which had an enormous impact on the economy of northern Virginia, tarnished the GOP brand, and that would probably have impacted the campaign of any Republican gubernatorial nominee, regardless of ideological coloration.

Virginia and New Jersey. National Journal contrasts the election outcomes in Bergen County, New Jersey and Fairfax County, Virginia, two affluent, diverse, and densely-populated suburban counties that have drifted left in recent decades.

New York city. Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, writing in The Daily News, argues that Bill de Blasio, New York city’s mayor-elect, misunderstands the sources of urban inequality:

New York’s inequality is extreme. Manhattan is the most unequal big county in the U.S., and the New York area is the country’s seventh most unequal metropolitan area. The Bronx and Brooklyn are more unequal than 90% of America’s more than 3,000 counties.

But this extreme inequality reflects other extraordinary aspects of New York: the massive global financial markets based here, America’s most accessible public transit system, hyper-dense immigrant communities and broad social services, like public housing. These forces attract both rich and poor to New York, and New York should not be ashamed of that economic diversity.

Rather than seeing the disparity between those at the highest and lowest income levels as a disease, we might consider it a defining feature of a remarkable city with unique assets that attract residents from a range of backgrounds.

If anyone should be cringing, it is our more “equal” suburbs — which often zone out the disadvantaged. New York should never aspire to that kind of uniformity of income.

One of the main reasons poor people choose to live in New York city is that doing so gives them access to relatively low-cost transportation options:

My research with UCLA economist Matthew Kahn illustrates why less prosperous people sensibly choose cities. We examined neighborhoods near the new transit stations built in various cities after 1973. Poverty rates rose near new train stations, not because the stations impoverished local residents, but because public transit was attracting the poor. We also found higher poverty rates a near bus stops in Los Angeles and subways stops in New York outside of Manhattan.

The poor make reasonable location decisions, and many of them choose New York, partially because of its abundant public transit.

This is one reason why affluent suburban communities often resist public transit — they are waring of attracting poor people, and in the process becoming more unequal (and more inclusive). Moreover, New York city’s willingness to provide low-income residents with a wide array of services also plays a role:

New York’s poverty — which, alongside its wealth, accounts for its economic inequality — also reflects the city’s generosity. The New York City Housing Authority provides homes for more than 400,000 people in public units and housing vouchers to another 225,000 residents. By contrast, Houston, which has one quarter of New York’s population, provides housing support for only one tenth as many residents.

If the next mayor wants to make New York City more generous to the poor — a worthy if difficult goal — he should at least recognize that this will attract more poor people to the city and may ultimately make the city more unequal.

Rather than lament the fact that New York city attracts the rich and the poor, Glaeser recommends policies that would help the city retain middle-income residents, including reducing the regulatory barriers to building housing and encouraging the continued expansion of high-quality charter schools. And he reminds De Blasio and his allies that expanding the local welfare state will tend to exacerbate poverty levels, for better or for worse.

My guess is that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will continue to generate headlines. Though he was able to defang much of the national media in the run-up to his reelection, that will change as his national ambitions take center stage. Thanks to an extremely well-funded effort from public sector unions and other left-of-center groups, Republicans in New Jersey failed to make gains in legislative races, and this will make it difficult for Christie to score significant legislative victories over the next two years. More on this to come.

 

 


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