excerpted from the article
Republicans, Cities and Cruise
by Paul Street
Z magazine, February 2004
... The Republican War on Cities
The truth is, the federal government,
under the lead of what urban-ecologic writer Mike Davis calls
"the Republican war on the cities," has ~ been disinvesting
in cities for more than two decades. J This anti-urban civil "war"
has created massive shortfalls in the municipal monies available
for subsidized housing, job training, public education, welfare,
and much else of pressing need in the nation's abandoned urban
core. Between 1977 and 1985, under the influence of "Reagan
revolution in urban finance," the federal government's contribution
to the budget of New York City fell from 19 percent to 9 percent.
For Los Angeles, the comparative decline was from 18 to 2 percent.
"For cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants," Davis
notes, "the average federal share of the municipal income
stream...plummeted from 22 percent in 1980 to a mere 6 percent
in 1989." The consequences were especially harsh for impoverished
inner-city neighborhoods, particularly reliant on federal assistance
and already reeling from the savage, policy-enabled deindustrialization
of central metropolitan districts.
They were exacerbated by the federal government's
determination to "shift the costs of many national problems
onto Democrat-dominated localities," including immigration
regulation and the noxious, racist Republican-led War on Drugs.
The latter has led to an expensive militarization of the cities,
provided a steady stream of black and brown bodies to the prison
industrial complex, deepened many minorities' already extreme
labor market disadvantages with mass, racially disparate felony
marking (one in three black adult males now possesses a felony
record), and done nothing to stem the ravages of substance abuse.
The "Reagan-Bush era's various anti-urban
policies," Davis found, "combined with huge tax subsidies
to suburban retail and office development" to create a spectacular
"new Spatial Apartheid" between fiscally starved and
disproportionately black and Latino urban centers and very disproportionately
white, affluent, and over-funded suburban rings. Reaganite policy
"subsidized white flight and metropolitan re-segregation"
by "exiling core cities into the wilderness " and "
smothering commercial suburban developers and renegade industrialists
with tax breaks and subsidies"-a process that reapportioned
away cities' "once-decisive political clout in national elections"
and entrenched "suburban voters and their representatives
as the political majority in the United States" (Mike Davis,
Dead Cities, New York, NY: the New Press, 2003).
No More European Vacations
Three days after Bush II landed on the
Abraham Lincoln to declare victory in Iraq, Michael Powell, chief
of the Washington Post's New York Bureau provided an interesting
perspective on the current White House's response to the fiscal
and social crises of urban America. "The traditional conversation
heard during national recessions-in which the federal government,
Republican or Democratic, talks of rescuing state and local governments,
had," Powell noted, "been turned on its head" by
the Bush team. "While cities and states slash budgets for
public hospitals, firehouses, and schools even as they raise [regressive
sales] taxes to make ends meet, the Bush administration talks
of cutting more taxes. Federal tax cuts enacted under Bush have
led to a $10 billion drop in total revenue for the states, many
of which link their taxes to those of the federal government."
"The Bush J administration," a leading urban policy
expert (Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution) told Powell,
"is fundamentally indifferent to the fiscal crisis of the
Actually, however, Republican "conservatives"
within and outside the White House openly and honestly endorse
that crisis. "They say," Powell observed, that "squeezing
states and cities will introduce better services for less-or force
them to turn to the private sector." Powell cited a recent
study produced for the radically regressive Republican think-tank
the Heritage Foundation-a White House favorite second in influence
only to the American Enterprise Institute-by Ohio University professor
Richard Veeder. Veeder compares hard-pressed states and cities
slashing human services programs needed by children and families
to an affluent family that needs to "tighten its belt."
"Instead of eating out three days a week, the family eats
out once. Instead of taking European vacations, the family goes
to Florida." It's fine advice for the millions of U.S. citizens
who lack the time and money for any kind of vacation or for dining
out and who depend on government simply to keep their heads above
water. The insult and injury are compounded by the Bush administration's
unfunded urban mandates around education, immigration, and homeland
Bush "is wearing a wartime halo,"
notes Richard Schrader, a New York City labor and political consultant,
"but someone needs to ask him why we can rebuild Baghdad
but we can't rebuild...our cities and states" (Michael Powell,
"Rescue's Just Not Part of the Plan, Washington Post, May
Class War watch