Polls say that one of the top issues in this year’s midterm elections is lowering the price of prescription drugs. The Democratic Party’s solution is to denounce Big Pharma greed and set up a European-style socialized health system, where government makes the call on how much companies can charge for pills. John Tierney’s “What the Prescription Drug Debate Gets Wrong” explains how such a big-government plan would stifle innovation in the American pharmaceutical industry, just as it has in Europe’s—potentially costing millions of lives as the supply of new drugs is throttled. A better approach to reducing drug costs—and it’s already starting to work—is being spearheaded by the Trump administration’s red-tape cutters at Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration, says Tierney. His essay is a perfect primer on the prescription-drug debate.
In “Seattle Under Siege,” Christopher F. Rufo describes a worsening homelessness crisis in the Pacific Northwest’s hipster enclave. Homeless encampments, overrun with vermin, have sprouted across the city. Cleanup squads must sweep tens of thousands of filthy needles, used and discarded by the drug-addicted homeless, from parks and streets every year. Crime and disorder radiate from the tent cities, blighting neighboring areas. Seattle’s city government shells out massive sums annually trying to deal with the crisis, but the money isn’t making things better, argues Rufo. Poorly designed programs are one problem; an intolerant left-wing political culture that refuses to recognize the prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse among the homeless—and prefers blaming capitalism instead—is another. Rufo shows a saner path.
Many mentally ill homeless people, untreated, commit serious crimes while on the streets, and wind up behind bars, where they’re unlikely to receive the proper medical attention and often get bullied by other inmates. Stephen Eide’s “Keeping the Mentally Ill Out of Jail” reports on an innovative Miami-area program, created and led by Judge Steve Leifman, which redirects mentally ill low-level offenders out of the criminal-justice system and into much-needed treatment, so that they’re less of a risk to themselves and to the public. Leifman’s efforts, Eide argues, should be adopted by New York and other cities, whose jails too often have become de facto asylums.
City Journal has written a lot over the last year about America’s long-term joblessness problem. The latest essay in our ongoing coverage, Edward L. Glaeser’s “Mission: Revive the Rust Belt,” considers the eastern heartland—the area of the nation beginning in the Mississippi Delta, continuing through Appalachia, and ending in the Rust Belt—as ground zero for the permanently out-of-work. It’s a swath of the country filled with struggling places like Martin County, Kentucky, where just a quarter of adult males hold jobs and where opioid addiction and long-term welfare dependency are rampant. Turning such places around won’t be easy, Glaeser acknowledges, but the first step will be getting rid of social and economic policies that encourage dependency, and replacing them with employment subsidies that make work pay more, for employees and employers alike.
The New York Times once boasted legendary sportswriters like Pulitzer Prize winner Red Smith, whose columns evoked the drama on the playing field. These days, says Steven Malanga in “Blood Sports of the Times,” the paper’s sports pages seem more interested in identity politics and athletes’ political activism than in wins and losses. It’s a trend that’s been evident for a while, Malanga says. But Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory in 2016 has “unhinged” the Times’s sportswriters “as much as it has reporters at CNN, MSNBC, or The Nation,” he adds—and his essay documents the ample evidence.
California has been at the forefront of jazz music on three occasions, Ted Gioia observes in “The West Coast Jazz Revival:” during the earlier part of the twentieth century, when legends like Jelly Roll Morton traveled Pacific cities, honing their skills; during the 1950s, when Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, and others developed their trademark cool jazz sound; and today, as a burst of new talents and innovative institutions are opening a third golden age for the art form in California.
—Brian C. Anderson