LaRouche on the Crisis
Of America's Cities
The following article, written by Lyndon LaRouche on Aug. 12, 1995, under the headline "A Collapsing Urban Tax-Revenue Base," appeared in the Nov. 1 edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press daily newspaper of St. Paul, Minnesota. In it, Mr. LaRouche calls for the junking of the failed "post-industrial" policies of the past 30 years, which have collapsed the urban tax base, bankrupting many of our cities. The economic collapse has spurred a rise in popular pessimism which reminds the historian "of the spread of fascism and kindred movements in Europe following World War I," the candidate warns. "The 1996 election-campaigns may be the last good chance to mobilize the majority of this nation behind a leadership dedicated to addressing both the physical problem and the equally deadly deterioration of popular morale. The alternative would probably be unthinkable."
The common fault of most proposals on our national urban crisis, is their failure to attack the principal cause for the problem: the ongoing collapse of the per-capita U.S. tax-revenue base. Unless, and until, that error is corrected, the conditions of the U.S. cities will become worse: Unemployment, problems of housing, crime, decay of education, cruel cutbacks in health care for the most vulnerable classes of persons, will go on.
The relevant statistical studies show nothing different than could be recalled by many who were income-earning adults during the 1960s. As measured in physical terms, the market-basket of income and productive output, per capita of the labor-force, has collapsed to about half of what it was a quarter-century ago. Put misleading financial data to one side; construct, instead, a market-basket based upon physical products plus physical quantities of such essential services as education, health-care, and science and technology. Compare that with the shrinking percentile of the total labor-force employed as operatives in production: in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and in maintenance and improvement of basic economic infrastructure.
The causes for this downward spiral of the past quarter-century are not mysterious. From the first modern nation-state, King Louis XI's France, until the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the hyperbolic rates of advance in condition of humanity within European civilization, like the exceptional successes of the U.S. economy, were based upon a continuing commitment to expansion of universal education designed for a world of investment in productive scientific and technological progress. During the interval 1964-72, a radical change was introduced into national economic policy; since approximately 1970, the U.S. economy, as measured in real, physical terms, has been sliding downhill. Dustbowls or kindred disasters loom in the rural areas. Led by the New York City of 1975, an increasing percentile of our urban centers has become nearly or actually bankrupt enterprises: islands of tawdry facades of luxury, within surrounding seas of urban physical and social decay.
In summary, this nation, like most of the world, is suffering the increasingly catastrophic effects of a quarter-century's failed experiment: called sometimes "post-industrial society." That failed experiment is continuing, as if on auto-pilot. Our urban centers are in crisis simply because the economic means to address those problems are no longer being produced; so, we, as a nation, can no longer afford what we could rather readily afford a quarter-century ago. The collapse of the tax-revenue base is the leading edge of the urban problem; that echoes the more general problem, the downward spiralling of real physical income and output, per capita.
The founders of the economic policy of our Federal Constitutional republic, such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton, were right; were we wise, we would return to the policies once named, by U.S. Treasury Secretary Hamilton, "The American System of Political-Economy," which made our nation great; we would abandon the miserably failed ideological experiment of the recent three decades.
The Collapse of MoraleThese macroeconomic factors are aggravated by a broad and deepening, existentialist quality of pessimism. Call the victims of this type of demoralization "the no-future people." This is notorious among the African-American poor, who represent the largest constituency for the nation's prison system. The historian is reminded of the spread of fascism and kindred movements in Europe following World War I. Around the world today, the quality of widespread demoralization, and decay in morals, is worse than during the 1920s and 1930s.
Simply stated, perhaps a majority, perhaps even more, of the population of virtually all nations today, no longer believes that those who have the power are either capable of reversing the downward trend, or would be willing to reverse that trend, if they knew how to accomplish that. The so-called "leading elites" of virtually all nations appear to have become hopelessly decadent; this perception fosters a deep, and deepening, cultural pessimism, and inclination for brutality, in growing portions of the populations. This is the stuff of which mass-based fascism was built, during the 1920s and 1930s.
Against this economic and mass-psychological backdrop, the solutions to the urban crisis are well known; one need but think back to the leading political voices and practices of the 1950s and early 1960s. What would succeed today, is no different in principle than the kinds of measures we employed to rebuild the nation after the Great Depression of the 1930s. What is lacking is not proposals; the problem is a want of the quality of political leadership to mobilize reversal of those policies which have proven so disastrous a failed experiment.
The 1996 election-campaigns may be the last good chance to mobilize the majority of this nation behind a leadership dedicated to addressing both the physical problem and the equally deadly deterioration of popular morale. The alternative would probably be unthinkable. Think about it.