John Perazzo: Baltimore as a Democrat City

Whenever there’s a crisis in America, Barack Obama is quick to demonstrate what a monstrously destructive individual he is. The riots in Baltimore are no exception, as we already hear President “Johnny One-Note” chanting the only song he’s ever known. It goes like this:

“A racist, uncaring, greed-driven America has turned its back on the poor, suffering black children of Baltimore and many other cities for decades, depriving them of the help, the funding, and the attention that they so desperately need and deserve—and thus do we now reap the whirlwind of their long-festering, wholly justified rage.”

That, in a nutshell, is exactlywhat Barack Obama believes.

But because he’s a calculating and deceitful Radical-in-Chief, Obama takes pains to phrase things in ways that won’t offend the sensibilities of wealthy white liberal donors who dutifully view him as some type of soaring intellect, rather than as the rabble-rousing, myopic ideologue that he is. So instead, he feeds us endless portions of tripe like this:

1) “Now, I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities.” Translation: “White Republicans are a pack of greedy racists who reject my wealth-redistribution plans for our inner cities. And that’s why Baltimoreans are angry.”

2) “[I]f our society really wanted to solve the problem, … it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant—and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns.” Translation: “Open your wallets and pay up. You greedy bastards have shirked your responsibility for too long now.”

3) “The communities in Baltimore that are having these problems now are no different from the communities in Chicago when I first started working. I’ve seen this movie too many times before.” Translation: See #2, above.

4) “[W]e’re going to have to think about what can we do—the rest of us — to make sure that we’re providing early education to these kids.” Translation: “Let’s pour more money into Head Start. Even though it’s been repeatedly exposed as a useless boondoggle, it sure does create lots of jobs for the teachers’ unions that line my pockets and support my party. So open up your wallets … for the children, of course.”

Yes, President One-Note says we’re just not spending enough to buy civil peace in places like Baltimore … and Ferguson … and New York. So let’s consider his assertion that if we want to raise happy, well-adjusted young people, we need to spend more generously on their education. In Baltimore, taxpayers are currently spending $16,578 per year for each pupil in the city’s public schools. Not only is this 48% more than the national average of$10,608, but it’s more than any other country on the face of the earth spends on public education.

One wonders exactly how much would be enough to satisfy President One-Note. Sixty percent more than the national average? Eighty percent more? Fifty thousand percent more?

And how much does President One-Note believe we loyal servants should be contributing to the long list of Democrat-run cities that have spent and mismanaged themselves into financial ruin during the past half-century? We’re already paying more than $600 billion annually for federal grants to state and local governments. How much would be enough? A trillion dollars? Twenty trillion? A billion trillion? More money than has ever existed in our galaxy?

And what about the local taxes that Baltimore’s government extracts from its workers and homeowners? In this regard, Baltimore is exactly like every other Democrat-run big city in America, where confiscatory property taxes, school taxes, sales taxes, and business taxes have driven millions of people out to the suburbs and beyond. Indeed, Baltimore’s property taxes are twiceas high as those of any other jurisdiction in Maryland or the District of Columbia. But of course that’s not nearly enough to satisfy President One-Note.

And what, pray tell, does Baltimore have to show for its gargantuan expenditures? Not much at all. Today, the city’s residents have a median household income that is about 45% below Maryland’s state average, and a poverty rate nearly 70% higher than the national average. Among America’s 100 most populous cities, Baltimore ranks 87th in median household income. And thanks to an endless succession of city leaders spending taxpayer money like drunken Democrats, by December 2012 the unfunded pension liabilities that Baltimore owed to its retired police and firefighters had reached a staggering $765 million. Meanwhile, the city’s violent crime rate is almost 4 times higher than the national average. As a Cato Institutereport puts it: “Baltimore deserves the Third-World profile it has developed because it has expanses of crumbling, crime-riddled neighborhoods populated by low-income renters, an absent middle class, and just a few enclaves of high-income gentry near the Inner Harbor or in suburbs.”

It wasn’t always like this. In the 1950s and early ’60s, Baltimore was the home of many thriving industries—particularly manufacturing and shipping—that created some three-fourths of all the jobs held by people in its metropolitan region. The city at that time had nearly a million residents, 23% of whom were black, and the median family income was 7% higher than the national average.

In 1967, however, this prosperity began to vanish when Baltimore’s city government was taken over by a string of Democratic mayors who have continuously held power ever since, and have turned much of the city into a grim wasteland.

William Donald Schaefer, who served as mayor from 1971-87, set the stage for Baltimore’s economic decline by championing an ever-expanding public sector, extensive government regulation of private business, and heavy reliance on federal grants and city bonds to finance a host of development projects throughout Baltimore. As the City Journal reports: “When those monies proved insufficient,” Schaefer “created his own city bank to seed development: the Loan and Guarantee Fund,” which “financed itself by selling city property and then leasing it back to itself, and by selling bonds that would stick future taxpayers with much of the bill.”

In 1987 Schaefer was succeeded by Baltimore’s first elected black mayor, Kurt Schmoke, who, during his 12 years in office, continued his white predecessor’s policy of extracting as much taxpayer money as possible from Annapolis and Washington. By 2001, such state and federal subsidies accounted for 40% of Baltimore’s operating budget.

Schmoke was a close friend of President Bill Clinton and had connections to a number of Clinton administration officials—most notably the disgraced Henry Cisneros and Andrew Cuomo, both heads of the Department of Housing & Urban Development—ensuring that Baltimore’s city programs would continue to receive high levels of federal support. One such initiative—bankrolled by a ten-year, $100 million federal grant—was theestablishment of an Empowerment Zone (EZ) whose goal was to transform“distressed” areas of the city into “neighborhoods of choice” by implementing a host of job-training, workforce-development, home-construction, and drug-treatment programs. All told, Baltimore’s EZ coverednearly 10% of the city’s total area. It was precisely the type of endeavor that President One-Note loves. The results, however, were pitiful. By 2002:

  • The poverty rate within the EZ was still about 50% higher than the corresponding rate citywide.
  • Median household income had risen in slightly more than half of the EZ area, but had declined in the rest and was below the citywide median in 92% of the EZ area.
  • Homeownership rates in the EZ were still 15 percentage points lower than the citywide rate.
  • Unemployment in the EZ had increased from 14.9% to 16.5%, and was about 50% higher than Baltimore’s overall rate.
  • And perhaps most tellingly, the EZ region had lost population at more than double the rate of the city as a whole.

Not much of a bang for 100 million bucks. Similar initiatives in the famous Model Cities programs of the 1960s likewise failed miserably.

But President One-Note doesn’t care about anything as pedestrian as facts such as these. For him, the disastrous left-wing policies of the past are things that must be tried over and over again—failure after miserable failure—because that’s what it means to be “progressive.”
And while he never ceases to remind us that we’re not spending nearly enough money on Baltimore’s poor black community, President One-Note carefully avoids making any mention of the fact that it is a community teeming with young men who have been raised without fathers. The data on this phenomenon are clear and overwhelming: Growing up without a father predisposes young men, whatever their color, to things like violence, criminality, incarceration, educational failure, drug abuse, and emotional disturbance far more reliably than does racism, discrimination, poverty, or any other identifiable variable. The nationwide black illegitimacy rate is 73%, but in some cities it is 90% or more. No demographic can withstand such a collapse of its family structure without falling into cataclysmic pathology. A president who was a real man of character and substance—rather than a petty, scheming political whore—would state this plainly and clearly in times like this, rather than blaming white racism, bad cops, and inadequate funding for the barbarism engulfing Baltimore. But President One-Note isn’t even remotely up to such a task.

All their lives, young black people in Baltimore and elsewhere have been told by racialist predators like Obama, Holder, Sharpton, Jackson, and many others, that their principal enemy in life is white racism—most notably as it is embodied by white police officers. Consequently, a single white-on-black transgression—be it real or fictional—can stir more vengeful rage in the hearts of many black Americans, than the fact that black killers send more than 100 fellow blacks to their graves each and every week in the United States.

It is quite remarkable how much a single human wrecking ball—one ignoramus with a vast measure of political power but not a shred of virtue—can do to destroy the souls and lives of his own countrymen. Take a bow, President One-Note. Take a bow.