The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Suicide of the Cities

Protesters gather around after setting fire to the entrance of a police station as demonstrations continue after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., May 28, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

I noted on Twitter last night that rioting, coming right after the virus, is a catastrophe for the cities. Regardless of whether Trump or Biden is elected in November, it’s easy to envision the following happening: Americans will flee the cities as they did in the post-1968 era. Thirty years of great progress for cities will be undone by the events of one spring. People will move to suburbs and exurbs. A lot more families will buy guns. Gun owners vote heavily Republican. People in less densely populated areas vote Republican too.

Trust in the government to provide basic services was already shaky and will tumble further. People who don’t trust the government to provide for them vote Republican. There will be an increase in homeschoolers. Homeschoolers vote Republican.

The involuntary experiment for telecommuting, particularly among white-collar workers, has proven that workers can be relied upon to work from home. People don’t trust the New York City subway anymore but those who don’t need to come into the office can live anywhere. This is especially true of some of the most successful people — lawyers, people in finance. High-income people will be disproportionately among those leaving.

The balance of cities, already hit by a fiscal hurricane because of the duration of the lockdown, will tip toward heavy consumers of government services and away from high earners. Cities will be forced to raise taxes. The taxes on high earners and corporations will seem punitive. Even more of them will flee as taxes go up. The things successful people like about cities, such as high-end restaurants and culture, will follow them out to the suburbs. Corporate office parks in the suburbs will see a resurgence.

People who stop commuting into cities will lose interest in them and their institutions. They will lose interest in funding cities. This will worsen the fiscal problems for the cities.

Cities will lose congressional seats. Federal funding will be steered away accordingly.

Voters left behind in cities will be a combination of the indigent, immigrants working in low-end jobs, the young, and the woke. These people will vote for a hard-left agenda focusing on aid to the poor, forgiveness for criminals, hatred of the rich, and boutique woke issues such as global warming that will push the Democratic Party well to the left.

In other words, the demonstrators and rioters are going to remake the cities in their own image. And it’s going to be disastrous for those cities.

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