There has been much political blather about the plight of the City of Baltimore.
Liberal Democrats, who have managed the city for most of the post-World War II era, have refused to acknowledge that Baltimore is in horrible shape.
They are incapable of admitting that the 1960s Great Society social bromides they have been employing have proven to be intellectually and morally bankrupt.
Instead of facing reality, they call critics racist.
Because many people under 50 have little historical knowledge, they don’t understand that cities collapsing under the weight of leftist ideologies is not new.
The greatest example of the cost of flawed liberal intentions was the City of New York in the 1960s and the 1970s.
In the second half of the 20th century, the two mayors primarily responsible for the unmaking of Gotham were Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (1954-1965) and John V. Lindsay (1966-1973). Both were committed to the left’s insatiable appetite for expansive government regardless of the cost or effectiveness.
That guiding philosophy led to policies that wrecked the city socially and economically, and drove it to financial collapse in 1975.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Wagner and Lindsay administrations went on a spending spree.
In 1961, the city’s operating budget was $2,734.4 billion; in 1965, it was approximately $3,844.2 billion; $6,329.9 billion in 1969; and when the city went bust in 1975, the operating budget stood at $12,261.3 billion.
Between 1961 and 1975, the average increase in the city’s operating budget was 11 percent. In contrast, the average inflation rate between 1960 and 1969 was approximately 2.3 percent, between 1969 and 1975 approximately 6 percent.
What drove the spiraling costs? Welfare and public employee wages and benefits.
The number of welfare recipients increased from 324,000 in 1961 to 1.2 million in 1973. The share of the city’s budget to meet the costs of welfare rose during that period from 12 percent to 22 percent of operating expenditures.
As for labor costs, between 1965 and 1975, city operating expenditures increased by $8.3 billion and “43% was attributable to an increase in labor costs.”
To fund an exploding operating budget, Wagner and Lindsay imposed 19 taxes, including property and city income taxes. And they employed fiscal abuses and financial and accounting gimmicks to give the appearance of balanced budgets.
Meanwhile, city regulations and taxes were driving out working-class jobs. In 1946, about 40 percent of the city’s labor force were craftsmen, operators and blue-collar workers. By 1970, that number was down to 29 percent.
Manufacturing jobs, which totaled 950,000 in 1960, were down to 536,000 by 1975.
Welfare became a way of life because leftists believed it was a right without the corresponding obligation to even seek a job.
The late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan condemned the city’s welfare policies. In his judgment, it was not only encouraging the breakdown of families, it was causing widespread problems including an increase in crime.
In 1965, the number of reported crimes was 187,795 and in 1973 it hit 475,855. Murders during that period jumped from 734 annually to 1,740.
Infected by liberal guilt and the belief that “society,” not individuals, was responsible for all our ills and that minorities were the victims of social injustice, Lindsay denounced cries for “law and order” as racist.
In the late 1960s, New Yorkers were witnessing a city in decline. Staggering welfare rolls, decaying infrastructure, skyrocketing taxes and spending, rampant crime, graffiti-laden subways and filthy streets were taking a toll on the psyche and pocketbooks of the city’s 8 million residents.
And, after years of mismanagement, budgetary gimmicks and phantom revenues, the city fell into the fiscal abyss.
It took fearless leaders like Gov. Hugh Carey and Mayor Ed Koch to restore fiscal sanity. And it took tough police commissioners like Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly to take back the city’s streets from criminal elements.
But sadly, memories are short and liberals continue to impose social policies in Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, and scores of other metropolitan areas that have caused economic and social decline.
Will the left ever admit their policies have failed? I doubt it.
One can only hope the victims of their policies will rise up sometime soon and evict them from office.