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January 9, 2017

Next Big Conservative Challenge: Turning Big Cities Red

  Investor's Business Daily

Voters are increasingly concluding "it's better to be red than dead" — only this time "red" means embracing lower taxes, limited government and free markets, not socialist redistribution schemes.

Six years ago I wrote a piece entitled "The Red State in Your Future," in which I predicted that more voters would soon be living in a red state.  They would either (1) vote to replace their high-taxing, big-spending state elected officials with candidates who promised to cut taxes and limit the size of government, or (2) move to a red state that had.

And that's exactly what's happening. Voters have given liberal Democrats the boot in state legislatures and governors' mansions, as well as the White House and Congress, with Democrats losing more than 1,030 seats since Barack Obama was elected, according to the Associated Press.

Today, 69 of 99 statehouses and 33 governors' mansions are controlled by Republicans, the vast majority of whom ran on promises to restrain or reduce the size of government. States such as Maine, Michigan, perhaps Pennsylvania, and especially Wisconsin, all of which were once thought to be part of the so-called "blue wall," are feeling the red. Even deep blue Illinois elected a Republican governor two years ago.

But there is one area where Democratic control remains strong: big cities. And those cities, such as Des Moines in Iowa, are largely responsible when a predominantly red state ends up voting blue.

The next conservative challenge is to turn big cities red.

According to Ballotpedia, only three of the 25 largest cities have Republican mayors: San Diego, Jacksonville, Fla., and Fort Worth, Texas.  Of the 100 largest cities, 66 have Democratic mayors, six are either independent or unaffiliated.  Only 28 are Republican.

Like their Democratic counterparts in Washington, D.C., and blue state legislatures, most big cities are run by liberals who support bigger government, higher taxes and more regulations.

And, again, like those blue states and the outgoing Obama administration, many of those cities have experienced slow economic growth, rising levels of poverty and crime, and exploding debt.

City pension programs are a perfect example.

Pension systems must be based on actuarially sound principles, so that pension funds remain solvent through good economic times and bad. But liberals tend to use city pension systems as a way to placate unions and government workers and to buy votes. So they over-promise benefits and underfund the systems.

Eventually the financial shell game collapses, whereupon city officials claim that they need to raise taxes to meet the shortfall. Sound familiar?

Several cities are facing serious pension problems. Morningstar, Inc., the stock market analyzing firm, published a 2014 report looking at the "unfunded actuarial accrued liability" (UAAL) of the 25 largest cities' pension funds. The firm explains that UAAL, "represents the amount each person in the respective entity [i.e., city] would need to pay to fully fund the liability for all relevant pension plans."

As you might expect, Chicago is the worst — by far — followed by Puerto Rico, Boston, Philadelphia, Columbus, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and Denver. Only one has a Republican mayor.

Historically, many local elected officials have minimized political party affiliation, recognizing that residents just want their trash picked up, potholes fixed and streets safe.

But, increasingly, blue city politicians are trying to impose their liberal vision on their citizens. Hence Charlotte's recent attempt to mandate bathroom policy in public buildings and the Houston mayor's 2014 effort to force local pastors to turn over their sermons to the city in order to see if any of them made anti-gay comments. Both schemes have been abandoned.

While voters across the country have pushed back against liberals' big-government agenda at the state and federal levels, most big cities are still run by liberal ideologues — many of whom hope to use their big-city experience as a springboard to higher office (e.g., Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio).

Conservatives can't be content with their state and federal electoral successes. We must begin taking back our big cities, many of which are plagued with financial mismanagement, poverty, crime and hopelessness — the result of liberal economic and social policies.

If large cities are to return to financial stability and economic growth, they must be run by people who believe in free markets, limited government and a light regulatory burden.

In other words, big cities must turn red.


 

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