06 February 2010

Western NY as Third World Country

I have posted on this subject here several times before. But the bad "news" re-emerged once again this week when the middle-of-the-road Brookings Institution published this report on the suburbanizaton of poverty in the United States. Before we get to that phenomenon, let's have a look at the "Top 10" cities in the United States ranked in terms of the percentage of their populations living at or below the (niggardly annual income of $21,834 for a family of four that constitutes the) Federal poverty level. Here they are:
1 - Hartford, CT ......................................... 33.5%
2 - Youngstown, OH-PA ........................... 33.5%
3- Detroit-Warren, MI ............................. 30.7%
4 - Cleveland, OH ..................................... 30.5%
5 - Buffalo, NY .......................................... 30.3% (53.0%)
6 - Syracuse, NY ....................................... 29.7% (53.1%)
7 - Rochester, NY ..................................... 29.3% (53.5%)
8 - Dayton, OH ......................................... 29.2%
9 - McAllen, TX ........................................ 28.3%
10 - Provo, UT .......................................... 28.2%
Note the three cities in red (the parenthetical numbers are the proportion of the population living in princely style at less than twice the federal poverty level) . Moving eastward along the thruway we find Albany, the state capital, is relatively affluent - only 24.9% of its population falls into the poverty category! The worse news is that the poverty rate in the suburban areas surrounding these cities is growing rapidly. In 2008 the suburban areas that encircle each of the three Western New York cities had poverty rates of between 8.2% and 8.6%. The Brookings folks project continued robust growth on this score in the immediate future. This pattern is a political and economic scandal.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Dawei_in_Beijing said...

Yes, but at the same time, over the last decade, hundreds of millions of people in Asia have been pulled OUT of poverty.

Post WWII, America's middle class enjoyed an unprecedented standard of living not because of some brilliant policies, but because Europe and Asia were in total ruins. Today, there are many more capable nations on the scene that can produce goods and compete for consumers in the global markets. We are no longer the primary producer of everything.

I think things will get far worse for the average Joe in the coming decades, and there is no policy that can help it. Asia has the momentum of history.

07 February, 2010 00:46  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

D ~ I agree, in part, about the redistributive effects of the past decade. More income has gone to poor countries. But that hardly means it has gone to the poor. Two different things there.

I do disagree that there are no policy measures that might redress some of the massive inequities of wealth and income in the US; after all we do not see the same discrepancies in other countries. It is a mistake to assume that these inequities are somehow inevitable or 'natural.' MOreover, it is important not to fall into a quasi-Hegelian view of history advancing on its own accord, impervious to any human direction or intervention.

I hope all is well!

07 February, 2010 10:03  
Blogger Joe Zammit-Lucia said...

The trouble is that NY has fallen into a death spiral. It has an utterly corrupt political system and a huge taxation burden that drives businesses elsewhere leading to loss of employment and necessitating yet further increases in taxation to maintain the corrupt political system. And on it goes. Frankly, it's hard to see a practical way out of this except in some dream-like armchair fantasy that is removed from reality. Oh - and the weather doesn't help. I mean - why would any sane person wanting to build a business choose to invest in Rochester NY?

08 February, 2010 14:43  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Joe - Corrupt political system without a doubt. Worse than lots of other states? I'm not sure about that.

Another big hurdle is the ridiculous # of governmental units in the state - which drives the tax burden simply in terms of duplication of services.

As for starting a business in Rochester: A pretty impressive University (especially re: technical & medical subjects); an ample labor force (both skilled & unskilled); cheap housing stock and some excellent schools - both in the city and in the suburbs; an underused airport and quick access to the Interstate for shipping purposes. How is that for a start?

Buffalo & Syracuse could make similar claims.

08 February, 2010 23:15  
Blogger Wolynski said...

The working man has no representation in congress and nothing will improve for him until he does. Power does not give in voluntarily - you have to demand.

It's curious that American workers enable the rich to get richer. They believe that with hard work they will become rich themselves, therefore they're protecting their future (imaginary) wealth. In no other industrialized nation is health care in such shambles, but the American worker hasn't demanded it and therefore he's not getting it.

10 February, 2010 03:40  
Blogger Joe Zammit-Lucia said...

Jim - just got back to this.

So, if Upstate NY has all these attractions why is everyone fleeing elsewhere?

19 February, 2010 16:24  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Joe,

Actually, while the tax burden is high in NY relative to other states, I'd wager that the big employers in Western N Y - e.g., GE in Schenectady & Syracuse; Kodak in Rochester - did not leave to other states but escaped to developing counries and were drawn by much lower labor costs.

And the reason why people are leaving the area is just that - the big employers are gone and the small companies that were parasitic on the large employers have gone bust. The problem: no jobs. And the cause of that is less the corruption and high taxation than de-industrialization.

That obviously leaves the question of why thiss region is hit harder than others. In Rochester it has a lot to do with the disintegration of Kodak for which I blame inept corporate leadership.

21 February, 2010 23:02  

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