The startling truth about America's biggest poverty centers and the politics that produces them.
On Sunday's ABC This Week telecast, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich squared off with former Clinton Labor secretary Robert Reich, who tried to blame the increase in poverty over the last five years on the GOP. “Here’s the baloney," Gingrich fired back. "Every major city which is a center of poverty is run by Democrats. Every major city. Their policies have failed, they’re not willing to admit and the fact is it’s the poor who suffer from bad government.” Unfortunately for the millions of Americans, Gingrich is right on the money. Here is a breakdown of the ten cities with populations above 250,000 that have borne the brunt of Democratic ideology.
St. Louis's poverty rate is 26 percent overall, and four-in-ten children live in poverty. Like Detroit, the city has experienced a major population decline, from 850,000 in the mid-20th century to 318,000 in 2013. Last year's Annual Performance Report gave the city's public schools a rating of 24.6 percent on a scale of zero to 100 percent. The city, which is also reeling from $640 million in unfunded pension liabilities, is currently rated the third most dangerous large city in the nation. St. Louis's current mayor is Francis G. Slay, who has served since 2001. There hasn't been a Republican mayor in St. Louis since 1949.
Newark, New Jersey's poverty rate is 26.1 percent. Its former mayor, Cory Booker, who was recently elected to the United States Senate, was the latest in a long, unbroken line of Democratic mayors dating back 106 years to 1907. Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James was convicted of five counts of fraud in 2008. Yet he is hardly an anomaly: with the exception of Booker, every Mayor of Newark since 1962 has been indicted for crimes committed during their tenure in office. Between 2005 and 2012, the city's population declined from 281,063 to 278,906, while violent crime totals increased from 2,821 to 3,219.
The residents of Cincinnati, OH are afflicted by a poverty rate of 27.4 percent overall, with a staggering 53.1 percent child poverty rate as of 2012. Former Democratic Mayor Mark Mallory left recently-elected Democrat Mayor John Cranley a $60 million deficit throughout 2012, and an annual budget shortfall of 20 percent, leading many to believe that bankruptcy is imminent. Cincinnati's last non-Democrat mayor, Charter Party member Arnold L. Bortz, served until 1984.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 28 percent of city residents overall live in poverty, a number that balloons to 40 percent in terms of child poverty. Democratic voter registration outnumbers Republican registration by a six-to-one margin in a city where the last Republican mayor to hold office, Bernard Samuel, was voted out in 1952. Current mayor Michael Nutter is presiding over a city with the lowest credit rating of the country's five most populous cities ($8.75 billion in outstanding debt) and a pension system that is only funded at a level of 47.6 percent. Last March, city officials voted to close 9 percent of the city's public schools due to a five-year $1.35 billion spending gap.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin sports a poverty rate of 29.9 percent overall, including 42.6 percent of children under 18. Like Camden, Milwaukee boasts a track record of non-Republican mayors going back 105 years to 1908. But they weren't all Democrats. In 2011, the city marked the 101st anniversary of the election of Emil Seidel, the first of three Socialist Party mayors of Milwaukee. Current Mayor Tom Barrett claims the poverty experienced in his city is a "regional problem," but 71 percent of those who live in poverty in a four-county area were concentrated in Milwaukee.
In Buffalo, New York, 29.9 percent of residents overall are living below the poverty level, with children enduring a poverty rate of 46.8 percent, third highest in the nation behind Detroit and Camden. Mayor Byron Brown presides over a city that has lost 11 percent of its population over the last dozen years, due in large part to a stagnating economy. Buffalo's last Republican mayor served until 1965.
In El Paso, Texas, one-in-four live in poverty, rising to 35 percent for children. Oscar Leeser is the 53rd mayor of that city, whose history dates back to 1873. In all that time, the city has never elected a Republican mayor. The proposed 2014 budget asked a 4 percent tax increase, due to what City Manager Joyce Wilson characterizes as "a budget gap too extensive to overcome without significant impact to existing service levels." El Paso's current debt level stands at $893 million.
In Cleveland, Ohio, 36 percent of its residents live in poverty. In 1978, when current U.S. House of Representatives Democrat Dennis Kucinich was mayor, the city became the first one since the Great Depression to default on its debt. It remained in default until 1987. In 2011, the city's credit rating was downgraded by Fitch, due to concerns about the city’s struggling economy and shrinking population. Cleveland, whose current mayor is Frank G. Jackson, hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1989. During Jackson's tenure, the police, fire and sanitation departments have been cited for excessive use of force, payroll abuse, and chronic billing problems, respectively.
And then, there is Detroit, Michigan, in a class by itself, with 36.2 percent of residents living in poverty, along with an astounding 60 percent of the city's children in the same boat. The city itself is utterly dysfunctional with $20 billion of debt, 78,000 abandoned homes, collapsing or nonexistent municipal services, and 47 percent illiteracy rate. It is also the most dangerous city in the nation. Yesterday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes allowed his rulings declaring the city eligible for bankruptcy, and leaving public employee pensions systems vulnerable to cuts for retirees, to proceed to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Detroit is on track to becoming the largest city in the nation to go bankrupt. Democrat Dave Bing is the current mayor, representing an unbroken string of Democrats going back to 1962.
Camden, New Jersey rounds out the top ten, with a poverty rate of 42.5 percent, and child poverty rate of 56.7 percent. In one poll, Camden was rated the second most dangerous city in the nation, with gang violence cited as a chief contributing factor. Democrat Dana Redd is the current mayor of the city. Frederick Von Nieda was Camden's last Republican Mayor -- he served until 1936.
That's the line up regarding poverty. Yet there are also eight large American cities facing bankruptcy, a reality that would undoubtedly exacerbate each city’s poverty rate. Cincinnati and Camden hold the distinction of being on both lists. The other six cities are Baltimore, Washington, D.C., San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Note that the last four are in California, the nation's foremost Democratic stronghold. As for Baltimore, it has been run by Democratic mayors and city councils since 1967. Since Washington, D.C's home rule began in 1975, every mayor has been a Democrat.
Democrats like to make the case that the poorest states are run by Republicans. Yet they conveniently ignore the history of those states, where two facts loom large. First, most of them were part of the Old South, where the vestiges of slavery, combined with national policies that favored highly industrialized northern states (one of the factors leading to the Civil War, produced economic stagnation by comparison. Furthermore, most of those states were staunchly Democratic for over a century following the Civil War.
Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson, adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College, illuminates the glaring difference between the comparisons. "The most fundamental difference between the data that conservatives prefer--that the 10 poorest cities are longtime Democratic strongholds--and the data that liberals will be more inclined to cite--that the 10 poorest states are predominantly Republican, is that conservatives can point to actual policies that Democrats implemented that contributed to the impoverishment of the cities, while the liberals cannot point to specific GOP policies that have caused the poorer states to lag behind," he explains.
It's a shame Gingrich didn't have more time to educate Robert Reich. It's even sadder that millions of poor Americans are forced to endure their own “education” regarding poverty on a daily basis, even as Reich and his fellow Democrats refuse to recognize, much less admit, that their odious policies are responsible for it.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.