The state of cities around the country is rapidly declining, leading to the greatest rates of emigration since the days of disorder and distress in the 1970s. Eight cities stand out as the worst run in the country, when ranked with markers like costs of living, education, poverty, and crime. These are New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, Portland, Oakland and Chicago. Despite billions of dollars doled out annually, every one of these cities has dire mismanagement issues.
Cities that use the most dollars per capita are some of the worst run cities. Washington spends some $15,600 per citizen annually, over 12 times that of cities such as Miami. New York has a budget hole of over $540 million. Debt in many cities is driven mostly by pensions and public payrolls, with New York ranked first with its glaring $64,100 in debt per citizen, Chicago second with $36,000, Philadelphia third with $27,900, San Francisco fifth with $22,600, and Oakland in seventh with $21,100.
As social programs continue to balloon, burdensome taxes on residents and business to fund government initiatives result in exorbitant costs of living. Before the coronavirus, the metro areas of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Portland, and Oakland had growing costs of living. Manhattan residents shell out 150 percent more than the national average on food, taxes, housing, and transportation.
Even with billions of dollars meant to fund public education, many cities have failing school systems. The deficiencies are reflected in graduation rates across New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Portland, each below 80 percent. New York spends more than double the national average per pupil at $28,800 annually. Its school system often lets down gifted students, running without an accelerated program in an eighth of its districts. A committee created by Mayor Bill de Blasio recommended ending such programs in efforts to push for diversity.
Many of the worst run cities have ceded more control of academic policy to teachers unions. The results often place administrators above students. Los Angeles schools ground to a halt in 2019 with a strike led by teachers unions, followed by coronavirus blackmail that schools would not reopen until a list of demands from teachers unions were met.
Several of the worst run cities had surging crime before 2020. But such curbing of police has resulted in violent crime spikes that have become out of control. Shootings in New York nearly doubled, murder spiked by 20 percent, and burglary rose by over 40 percent last year. Los Angeles enacted a $150 million cut to its police, as the murder rate increased by 20 percent. The murder rate in Washington rose by almost the same, as Philadelphia boasts the second highest murder rate in the country, and Portland has had the most homicides in three decades.
Local mismanagement has also led to poverty. There are 20,000 homeless people in New York, the highest in history, despite more than $360 million sent for efforts to solve the problem annually. In Los Angeles, the toxic mix of restrictive housing policy which drives up costs and outreach programs that employ 800 people yet still cannot keep a clear count of those it aids, there was a 12 percent rise in homeless people in 2019.
Attention needs to be paid to the exodus out of these failing cities. Former residents of New York or Los Angeles must ask themselves whether or not they will keep voting for the same public policy that caused them to leave. If nothing is learned, the decay will recreate itself in rapidly growing metro areas like Phoenix, Houston, and Nashville. It may be past time to save the worst run cities of 2020 but, with some reflection, former residents could save their new homes from the same disastrous results.
Kristin Tate is a libertarian author and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is a Robert Novak journalism fellow at the Fund for American Studies. Her newest book is “The Liberal Invasion of Red State America.”