Government as the Great Equalizer -- and Other Absurdities

Bill Murchison
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Posted: Oct 28, 2014 12:01 AM
Government as the Great Equalizer -- and Other Absurdities

The really troubling point that Joel Kotkin makes in the New York Daily News is that New York can't figure out how to do the economic equality thing we hear so much about in this and every political season. "Gotham," writes Kotkin, "has become the American capital of a national and even international trend toward greater income inequality and declining social mobility."

The most unequal county in America -- that's Manhattan. Second lowest among the country's 100 largest cities in terms of middle-income neighborhoods -- that's the city as a whole. The Bronx one-ups, so to speak, that dismal distinction, being the nation's poorest urban county. Meanwhile, says Kotkin, a respected (outside "New Yorker" circles) writer on urban dysfunction, "Roughly one in four Brooklynites -- most of them black or Hispanic -- lives in poverty."

Well, he goes on for a while, but you may not want to beat your head against a wall. Thus, jumping back to the underlying point: If New York can't -- and, seemingly, doesn't know how to -- do equality for all, who is going to? Does not every good thing come from New York and environs? If not, the media have been pulling the wool over our eyes. As, yes, maybe they have been by continuing to exhibit, and frequently campaign assiduously for, government redistribution of wealth as the answer to almost everything. More education spending, financed by higher taxes on the wealthy, is part of the equation; so also are minimum wage increases and subsidies for "green" energy projects. Et very much cetera.

However the upcoming elections turn out, we may expect to hear more in the same vein in 2016 from Democratic presidential candidates and their respective claques because, frankly, this is what we have come to expect of Democratic presidential candidates. And of some Republican candidates, catching the carnival spirit from so many around them.

Some of us senior citizens who figured this was all a-coming once that fella Bryan went on a tear about crosses of gold -- now we're not a bit surprised. The fixity of a certain gap between better-offs and lesser-offs makes wealth a fixity of political discourse, usually of the wrong kind. The main idea is that the rich are to blame. The secondary idea is that government will fix things. Just elect XXXX and you'll see!

Once elected, XXXX, if he has the votes, does what he says, while simultaneously blocking the projects that would actually do some good. Consider -- well, what? Charter schools and free, or freer, choice in schooling. That's the kind of thing we can't have, politically speaking. The teacher unions and their wolf packs won't hear of measures that might help the poor escape appallingly poor schools, because to support such measures would be to help "predatory" educational entrepreneurs. A federal court case in Louisiana revolves around the ridiculous argument that letting black pupils opt out of bad schools unconstitutionally decreases black contact with whites who don't know better than to attend bad schools.

Good old pro-teacher union New York City, whose new mayor, Bill de Blasio, wants to start closing down the town's charter schools, sure has that problem figured out! Kotkin writes: "New York City now has the nation's single most segregated public school system, according to a devastating report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA," wherein it is demonstrated that Gotham exhibits "'the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools.'"

Even more damagingly, perhaps, New York has one of the highest urban tax rates in America, which helps make the city one of the most expensive places in America to live. No wonder the middle class disperses where it can.

The myth of inequality as the result of governmental indifference may be our biggest political myth, but hard on its heels, in America, is the myth of government intervention, New York-style, as the cure. We'll see in a few days how much of the latter myth American voters still buy -- with what money remains to purchase it.