Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Bloat

To the editor: I’m looking forward to City Journal’s follow-up series chronicling all the benefits that the New York–New Jersey region has received from the formation and operation of the Port Authority, an agency removed from the influence of opaque political machines and operating solely on revenue from its own enterprises [“Bloated, Broke, and Bullied,” Spring 2016].

Jim McGovern New York, NY

Steven Malanga responds: While the Port Authority may have been designed to be politically independent, it has been mired in controversy throughout virtually its entire 95-year history. One need look no further back than the 2013 lane-closure scandal—aka “Bridgegate”—to see how the Port Authority allows itself to be used for nakedly political purposes. Only the Port Authority’s monopoly control over the region’s key infrastructure has allowed the bistate agency to fund itself—by imposing ever-increasing fees and tolls on local residents. As the $4 billion price tag for the new World Trade Center transit hub proves, the Port Authority is accountable to no one. And that’s far from ideal.

Shades of Gray

To the editor: Two variables are missing from Aaron Renn’s analysis [“Black Residents Matter,” Spring 2016]. First, crime: predominantly black inner-city neighborhoods suffer from sky-high violence and homicide rates. Second, demographics: America has changed in recent generations from a black and white population to a brown one, with dozens of substantial minority groups, many of whom are thriving. All Americans have three major concerns for their families: safety, health, and education. Housing is further down on that list.

Don Gotschalk Boston, MA

To the editor: The South has been voting solidly conservative Republican for the last 50 years—and it’s poorer, and more dependent on the federal government, than it’s ever been. All advanced democracies have inner-city poverty—only the U.S has a fourth of its continental landmass dominated by conservative poverty. Nine of the ten poorest states are in the South. Meanwhile, 14 of the 20 richest states are liberal blue states. How come?

Joe Hedge Burbank, CA

Aaron M. Renn responds: Crime is certainly a factor in driving people out of cities. But in places such as Chicago, the black population is declining region-wide, not just in the central city. Increasing diversity has played a role in undermining black political aspirations in some of these cities. However, not all immigrant communities are thriving. For example, a recent study from the San Francisco Fed found that people of Mexican origin in the Los Angeles area have a median liquid net worth of $0.

If you look at where people—not just blacks, but others, too—are actually moving, the major cities of the South dominate the top destinations. That belies Joe Hedge’s implication that these are terrible places to live. Unsurprisingly, when housing costs go through the roof in a city, only those with very high incomes can afford to live there, no matter how safe it is or how good the schools and pediatricians are. Regions like the San Francisco Bay Area are now de facto equivalents of exclusive gated community suburbs, and should be thought of as such.


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