The unintended consequences were disastrous. Poorer and poorer populations began moving to the Bronx, driving out the aspiring lower middle class. Landlords who had already been operating at profit minimums began losing money. It became simpler for them to burn down their buildings than to fix them up. Similarly, tenants began torching buildings in the hope that the government would build new public housing at the sites. The result became a national catch phrase when Howard Cosell, during the 1977 World Series, commented on an aerial shot of the city: "There it is, ladies and gentlemen: the Bronx is burning."
Today, the Bronx is barren. All the talk of urban renewal is papier-mache pomposity. Even as the elite crowd celebrates the "diversity" and "artistic regrowth" of the Bronx, the Bronx remains a crime and poverty center. In the South Bronx, nearly 50 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Rap and art nouveau will not heal an area destroyed by government interventionism and the substitution of top-down economics for bottom-up entrepreneurialism. The culture of dependency has poisoned the groundwater. The Bronx River is infected with it.
Today, when Americans look at places like Detroit and South Central Los Angeles and the Bronx, they see outliers, locations thrown by fortune or luck to the bottom of the heap. They do not see the policies that led to these areas' fall from grace. And so we continue to elect the same politicians who made the Bronx of literature and jazz into the Bronx of graffiti and hip-hop and prostitution and drugs. Politics and culture had consequences for the Bronx, and they have consequences for America more broadly.