The COVID-19 pandemic has left pain and tragedy in its wake. But it has also created a unique opportunity to address the country’s persistent class divides, thanks to a persistent lack of labor resulting from the pandemic. In a world economy that has seen labor’s share of income drop for generations, this labor shortage could provide some restored leverage for both white and blue collar workers.
Host: Jamil Jivani
On: Jamil Jivani Show on Omny
Joel Kotkin talks with Jamil about the middle class rebellion against progressives that’s gaining steam.
Click to play the audio:
For most of the last century, Los Angeles loomed as the next great American city, a burgeoning paradise riding the shift of world power west. It seemed posed to leave New York and London in the dust, the engines of growth inexorable. There was the city’s dominance of the entertainment and aerospace industries, which incited migration from both the rest of the country and abroad, and all this promise was symbolized by a spread of suburban single-family houses that seemed to embody the ideal American dreamscape.
Host: Amanda Vanstone
What happened to social democracy? Joel Kotkin reminds us that it was born of the radical Left in Marx’s own time, social democrats worked, sometimes with remarkable success, to improve the living standards of working people by accommodating the virtues of capitalism. Now, he says that in its place, we find a kind of progressivism that focuses on gender, sexual preference, race, and climate change. He takes us through the history of social democracy to today’s progressives and says that arguably the single greatest distinction between social democracy and the new progressivism lies in the word ‘agency’. The original social democrats sought to enhance their economic power by mobilizing grassroots support. In contrast, today’s Left tends to favour rule by experts. They have a preference for censorship and the political repression of uncooperative political tendencies. How did this happen and why?
Click to play the audio:
Host: Virtual Salon
On: Fieldstead and Company
Fieldstead opened its 2021 salon series with Joel Kotkin, described by the New York Times as “America’s uber-geographer.” Joel is an internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political, and social trends. His work over the past decade has focused on inequality and class mobility as well as how regions can address these pressing issues. Joel discusses his research findings from his recent book, The Coming Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class.
When my grandparents migrated to New York from Russia over a century ago, they found a city that was hardly paradise, but one that provided a pathway towards a better life. Life was tough, crowded and always a paycheck from poverty. My relatives were poor, but so was everyone; eventually, they all bought houses or apartments, and entered the middle class. As for crime in their native Brownsville, the home of Murder, Incorporated and other villainous enterprises, it rarely impacted “civilians”; my mother would tell me how a young girl could still walk across Prospect Park without fear of assault.
Today’s urban promise is, however, vastly different — not only in New York, but San Francisco and Los Angeles, London and Paris. No longer cities of aspiration, they are increasingly defined by an almost feudal hierarchy: the rich live well, protected by private security and served by local coffee shops and trendy clubs.
Meanwhile, the working class struggles to pay rent, possesses no demonstrable path to a better life and, as a result, often migrates elsewhere. Crime rates are spiking and homelessness, once an exception, is increasingly widespread. Those very streets once said to be “paved with gold” are now are filled with discarded needles, excrement and graffiti.
Indeed, what we are now witnessing is the decline of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s description of the city as “a luxury product”. Today, that sense of “luxury” has all but vanished, with modern urban economies promoting class divisions rather than upward mobility. Amid all the hoopla about urban revival, the truth is that entrenched urban poverty in the US — places where 30% or more of the population live below the poverty line — actually grew in the first decade of the new millennium, from 1,100 to 3,100 neighbourhoods.
Even the New York Times admits that, in the past decade, cities have gone from “engines of growth and opportunity” to places where class relations are increasing fixed, with only the upper end of the income spectrum doing well. Gotham’s one percent earns a third of the entire city’s personal income. That’s almost twice the proportion for the rest of the country. But such class disparity is becoming the norm; in the tech haven of San Francisco, which has the worst levels of inequality in California, the top 5% of households earn an average of $808,105 annually, compared with $16,184 for the lowest 20%.
Predictably, those at the bottom of this new feudal structure suffer the most; today, the old saying that “the city air makes one free” all too often means freedom to be poor, to experience endemic homelessness, collapsing public infrastructure and rising crime.
And that was before Covid hit. Already many poor urban residents subsisted on transfer payments or worked in service industries. They were paid, usually poorly, to clean now-empty offices or work in restaurants and hotels. The lockdowns, whether justified or overwrought, have since pummelled these low-income workers; roughly 40% of Americans earning under $40,000 a year lost their jobs last March.
Unlike workers who occupy “the commanding heights” of finance, tech, marketing, and media , these people did not have the option of working from their kitchen tables or moving to suburban locations or smaller cities. Nor could they count on education systems to work their magic; most schools in American inner-city districts, in contrast to many suburbs and smaller cities, remained closed.
All of which meant America’s urban districts were ripe for civil unrest when George Floyd died last May, and these festering conditions exploded into the worst national rioting in decades. Parts of many cities went up in flames, the damage of which was obscured by mainstream media’s mantra of “mostly peaceful protests”. The constant rioting and demonstrations in Portland, once seen as a paragon of new urbanist-led revival, has all but destroyed its downtown, which is now largely bereft of pedestrians.
Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.
By: Vicki McKenna
On: The Vicki McKenna Show at iHeart radio
Joel Kotkin talks with Vicki about his recent piece entitled Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow — how the “blue” left needs to reset toward addressing pragmatic issues. Joel and Vicki discuss how “blue” policies are failing the very minorities and working class people they purport to serve.
By: Dan Proft
On: The Dan Proft Show on Omny Studio
Joel Kotkin talks with Dan Proft about his recent piece entitled Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow — how the pandemic is highlighting the failures of big urban — and typically “blue” metros to develop policies that actually benefit workers and minorities. Joel and Dan discuss how white progressives and the political class fail to address the pragmatic challenges with policies that minorities and workers need to pursue the “American dream”, and how minorites and workers are voting with their feet towards smaller metropolitan areas in order to realize homeownership and upward mobility.
By: Lars Larson
Joel Kotkin talks with Lars Larson about how progressive policies haven’t been helping blue-collar workers and minorities. The progressive movement has shifted from upholding the value of work, towards what Marx called the “proletarian alms-bag.”
Progressive politics is no longer about getting a job, moving up, buying a house, raising a family…
— Joel Kotkin