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Buffalo, You Are Not Alone

It hurts. When a bigtime Harvard economist writes off your city as a loss, and says America should turn its back on you, it hurts. But Ed Glaeser’s dart tossing is but the smallest taste of what it’s like to live in place like Buffalo. To choose to live in the Rust Belt is to commit to enduring a continuous stream of bad press and mockery.

I write mostly about the Midwest, but whether we think Midwest or Rust Belt or something else altogether, the story is the same. From Detroit to Cleveland, Buffalo to Birmingham, there are cities across this country that are struggling for a host of historic and contemporary reasons. We’ve moved from the industrial to the global age, and many cities truly have lost their original economic raison d’etre. Reviving them requires the hard work of rebuilding and repositioning them for a new era, a daunting task to be sure.

DSC_0024d.JPGBut beyond their legitimate challenges, these cities also face the double burden that they are unloved by much of America, and all too often by their own residents. They are forlorn and largely forgotten, except as cautionary tales or as the butt of jokes.

These cities aren’t sexy. They aren’t hip. They don’t have the cachet of a Portland or Seattle. The creative class isn’t flocking. They are behind in the new economy, in the green economy. Look at any survey of the “best” cities and find the usual suspects of New York, Austin, San Francisco. Look at yet another Forbes “ten worst” list and see Cleveland and Toledo kicked again when they are down. They are portrayed as hopeless basket cases with no hope and no future.

But I reject that notion. I do not believe in the idea that these cities are beyond repair and unworthy of attention–or affection.

Someone asked me once why I bother. Why does it matter that these cities come back? Why not just let nature take its course? Why not let Buffalo die, and its people scatter to the wind?

It’s because it doesn’t just matter to a few proud people in Buffalo, it matters to America. The idea of disposable cities is one that is incompatible with a prosperous and sustainable future for our country. Fleeing Rust Belt cities for neo-Southern boomtowns is nothing more than sprawl writ large. Rather than just abandoning our cores, we’ll now abandon entire regions in the quest for new greenfields to despoil. We can’t have a truly prosperous and sustainable America with only a dozen or so superstar cities that renew themselves from age to age while others bloom like a flower for a season, then wither away. An America littered with an ever increasing number of carcasses of once great cities is not one most of us want to contemplate.

DSC_0153d.JPGBut beyond that, it’s because I believe we can make it happen. Look closely and the change is already in the air. Globalization taketh away–but it also giveth. Cities like Buffalo or St. Louis now have access to things that even people in Chicago didn’t not that long ago. Amazon, iTunes, and a host of specialty online retailers put the best of the world within reach. Where once you couldn’t get a good cup of coffee, there are now micro-roasters aplenty. Where once your choices were Bud, Miller, or Coors, an array of specialty brews are on tap, often brewed locally. Restaurants are better, with food grown locally and responsibly. Slowly but surely the ship is turning on sustainability, with nascent bike cultures in almost every city, LEED certified buildings, recycling programs, and more. House by house, rehab by rehab, neighborhoods in these cities are starting to come to life.

Where once moving to one of these cities would have been likened to getting exiled to Siberia, it’s now shocking how little you actually give up. And for every high-end boutique or black tie gala you miss, you get something back in low-cost and easy living. The talent pool may be shallower, but it’s a lot more connected.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a long and hard journey ahead. And not every place is going to make it, particularly among cities without the minimum scale. We have to face that reality. But more of them will revive than people think.

DSC_0388e.JPGThat’s because a new generation of urbanists believes in these cities again. These people aren’t bitter, burdened by the memories of yesteryear and all the goodness that was lost. The city to them isn’t the place with the downtown department store their mother used to take them to in white gloves for tea. It isn’t the place full of good manufacturing jobs with lifetime middle class employment for those without college degrees. The city isn’t a faded nostalgia or a longing for an imagined past. Most of them are young and never knew that world.

No, this new generation of urbanists sees these cities with fresh eyes. They see the decay, yes, but also the opportunity–and the possibilities for the present and future. To them this is Rust Belt Chic. It’s the place artists can dream of owning a house. Where they can live in a place with a bit of an authentic edge and real character. Where people can indulge their passion for renovating old architecture without a seven-figure budget. Where they have a chance to make a difference–to be a producer, not just a consumer of urban life, and a new urban future. Above all, these people, natives or newcomers, have a deep and abiding passion and love for the place they’ve chosen–yes, chosen–to live.

DSC_0104e.JPGStill, it can get lonely, and often depressing. It so often seems like one step forward, two steps back. Making change happen can seem like pushing a rock uphill, like you are up there on some far frontier of the country alone, fighting a quixotic battle. Every historic building demolished, every quality infill project sabotaged by NIMBY’s, every massively subsidized business-as-usual boondoggle, every DOT-scarred transport project is a discouragement.

But Buffalo, you are not alone. It’s not just you, it’s cities and people across this country, from St. Louis to Pittsburgh to Milwaukee to Cincinnati to New Orleans to Birmingham, fighting to build a better future. There’s a new movement in all these cities, made up of passionate urbanists committed to a different and better path. Sometimes they are few in number, but they are mighty in spirit– and they are making a difference. Together, they and you can win the battle and make the change happen.

It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some, like the great cathedral builders of Europe, may never see completely the fruit of their labors. But the long-ago pioneers who founded these great cities never got to see them in their first glory either. We’ve come full circle. We are present again at the re-founding of our cities. This is the task, the duty, the calling that a new generation has chosen as their own, to write the history of their city anew.

Go make history again, Buffalo.

Aaron M. Renn is a urban policy analyst and consultant based in Chicago. His writings appear at his blog, The Urbanophile, and in other publications.

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  • EricOak

    The message underneath this post is welcome, but this would have been a much better article had it left out the first six paragraphs with their cliches and overstatement about the “bad press” that cities like Buffalo get. That’s a myth, and a condescending one.
    The media attention to Buffalo, with few exceptions such as Ed Glaeser’s sour and poorly researched article, has been pretty much a series of odes to our gardens, architecture, arts, tenacity and flavor for the past 6 or 7 years. The serious coverage of Buffalo, not the imbecilic Forbes or MSN best/worst lists, has been warm and positive if not entirely in tune or accurate.
    So, thanks for the encouragement, but next time leave off the sympathy–it’s not needed. Nor are comparisons to homogenized Northwest cities or our lack of “sexiness.” Maturity takes a city beyond “sexy,” and believe it or not, neither Buffalo nor any cousin city you mention is “forlorn and forgotten.”

  • JohnQBuffalo

    Who has met the shallowness of the so called creative elites? You know them by many names but they are of the thoroughly disposable, bohemian society.
    Their the euthanasia-ists, why prolong life when your not a productive member of society…
    The abortionists, having sex is NOT a choice but having a baby IS a choice, having consensual sex involves equal gender rights and agreement but abortion doesnt.
    Their the housewives that divorce their blue collar husband for the wealthier husband with a pool in the suburbs, marriage is only a convenient temporary commitment until you find something better. Hey if your not happy then your not happy.
    Everything like Einstein is relative….thats the liberal…
    This mentality has so much to do with Buffalo. Why? Look at your neighbors. Buffalo is not on the map of the transients who move in and move out, the shallow and superficials who only want to know you if you drive “x” car, live in “y” neighborhood, make “abc” money etc.
    There are large segments of Buffalo that have DEEP roots and DEEP emotional attachment to our city over generations. Holidays are still multi-generation affairs. Many still have friends they grew up with from high school and college. Many children know their grandparents, aunts and uncles.
    Its why I hard on rebuilding, reconstructing and preserving. Why should we be ashamed? Why not be proud of being provincial, stable and honoring things that are timeless.
    Buffalo has its culturals, its intellectuals, its creatives, its poor etc. Could use alittle less poor and a little more opportunity but we have room for everyone. Well atleast thats how I see it.
    All I can say, count your blessings Buffalo. There is alot wrong with Buffalo but there is alot right too!
    Detroit can be written off but Buffalo has the potential to follow Pittsburgh in re-inventing itself.

  • JohnQBuffalo

    One last thought,
    Buffalo’s came to exist because of transportation and reason to exist is still here. Buffalo remains one of the nations:
    1) greatest trucking conduits
    2) greatet rail conduits
    3) voice and data conduits (between the US and Canada)
    4) great power generation and distribution centers thanks to Niagara Falls
    Those three things brough Buffalo all its other industries of its golden age.
    Their still here but our city leaders didnt nurture them and so we have very few companies that add value relative to the billions of dollars that pass through our city, companies that add value relative to the communication conduits or companies that add value relative to the power we generate.
    We have unions and government and schools that still operate as if there were 1950 factory jobs…and taxpayers paying for it knowing its wrong.
    Oh our reason to exist is still here…its our leadership that needs to change. We need big picture leaders with long term vision.

  • Sally

    Excellent Poist Mr Q

  • flyguy

    Its all the result of an economy without a soul or morals based on greed. Economic systems I have always considered to exist to allow for the exchange of goods for the good of all and support of all. Unfortunately profit motivation to the point of absolute greed has resulted in the abandonment of people and neighborhoods, has undercut the working class and hit the low and middle income populations hard as economic greed has outsourced and off-shored. We have exported work for pieces important to our national infrastructure to overseas interests. They build the things that are vital to our future including vital parts of our electrical grid, electronics, aviation, etc. All to save a buck but at what expense. We have sacrificed our own national security with beer goggles on somehow thinking this decision is sexy and will bring greater profits. Entire cities, cultures, people are left to wallow in these decisions resulting from a soul-less economy no longer serving the masses. The little man keeps getting screwed- see the Gulf oil disaster. See Buffalo and the Rust Belt and Appalachia.
    Somehow the top 10% in this Country have a sense of entitlement to reap more and more from those with nothing. How is anyone worth 1000, 2000 times more than someone else? Our priorities are screwed up. How the hell can a CEO feel comfortable living in a gated community in a home of 20,000 square feet somewhere while his pawns at the bottom of the pay structure struggle week to week in a 600 sq foot apartment in a crime infested neighborhood? Its a disastrous scenario. At the end of the day I think Tears for Fears said it best “Everybody wants to rule the world”. Unfortunately we have put ourselves in a position where our entire American way of life has been compromised. We have become indebted to other nations like Communist China. Its funny that many Americans freak out about Socialism and Communism and had witch hunts for Communists in the past and yet we are in bed with them economically? Overseas nations, including the middle eastern oil nations are in a very powerful position right now against us. I wonder how much power of negotiation and strength we will have in the coming decades since we are the debtors, they hold the industrial might and build our stuff. Whats to say they dont one day say enough is enough and put a boot in our butts? I hate the idea of war and think frankly that every tom, dick, and harry with a bone to pick with one another should simply sit down and strategize over a game of war or chess rather than use human beings as pawns in an actual war, but historically wars have been fought and won buy the nation with the industrial might to build their war machines. See American Civil War, World War II, etc. Where’s our industry? Since we’ve lost a generation or more of industrial craftsmen can we simply turn on an industrial boom and have the employees to fulfill the duties necessary? Nope, all those “unskilled” yet tremendously skilled positions no longer exist and I fear the knowledge has been lost. If, god forbid, World War III started tomorrow how would we mobilize in this effort? Do we have the financial means in this Country, the industrial infrastructure? No we don’t.
    Its a real shame that it seems there is a greater interest in whats going on overseas than what needs to be addressed here at home. At present the domestic policy stinks. Maybe its because we have no choice but to get invlved in everyone else’s business because we owe people and need favors in the future.

  • Joseph DiDomizio

    Excellent article, from Aaron once again. I look forward to his posts more and more each week.
    With this entry, I believe he did a good job tapping into a lot of the contemporary issues faced by the generation that is inheriting cities like Buffalo. A good reminder of why BR exists in the first place.

  • PaulBuffalo

    Thus spake ChristieLou.

  • katsura

    Neither Seattle nor Portland considered themselves “cool” let alone “sexy” in the 80’s. It took more than a decade of hard work and a few good turns for the spotlight to even come on. Then, soon into each city’s respective boom, many long time residents began to moan about all the quality of life that was lost. Being appreciative of what you have, when you have it, is a worthy art and a cause worth writing about.

  • K-Town

    If Portland is sexy because it is filled with white kids with dreadlocks and they recycle a little bit, I hope we stay fugly.

  • sho’nuff

    Asia is home to more than half of the world’s population, yet they have had access to only a small fraction of the world’s economy and industry until very recently. It is important to look at this from a global perspective and respect the global economic shift from west to east.
    To use your CEO analogy, why should a country have the net worth 2000 or 10,000 times the net worth of another? Why should one country control the economic, intellectual, and natural resources to bring wealth and prosperity, while people in other nations starve?
    The poorest in America live a king’s life when compared to the poor in Asia, Africa, and South America. Your comment shows just how spoiled and entitled Americans truly are. You talk about greed, as though it is something that is a characteristic of only the top 10% of Americans. To many in the rest of the world, all Americans are extremely greedy and morally depraved. Why should an American worker be so greedy as to earn $80,000 a year and work only 35 hours per week, while others toil in sweatshops for pennies a day. If we distribute those jobs and that wealth around the world, then we all win. Why should an American worker earn 5000 times that of a worker in Asia who does the same job? Isn’t that greedy on the part of the American worker who is primarily interested in protecting his or her wealth and fails to understand how keeping that job at a high salary may deprive that opportunity for several people in another country?
    We should not be so short-sighted to only consider what is happening in our backyard, and not acknowledge the bigger picture. This is how most wars and conflicts start, through the rigid pursuit of self-interest over the needs of the greater whole.

  • sho’nuff

    The resurgence of cities like Portland and Seattle didn’t happen by accident. It wasn’t a matter of musicians and artists turning around the city, it was a conscious and deliberate effort on behalf of both city governments to improve the economy, to attract business, to rebrand and market the city. These are areas that our government is failing us in providing leadership and direction for our future.


    Very well said.

  • DTK2OD

    I think you really nailed it in the last few paragraphs when you talk about today’s generation of new urbanists. Cities are the new (urban) frontier and speaking from personal experience I believe a lot people from my generation have that pioneering spirit. When I walk past the former AM&A’s building on Main St. I’m not haunted by the smell of a freshly twisted pretzel as I step onto an ornate gold plated escalator… there’s a lack of resonance when it comes to the sights and sounds of a bygone era. What I see is a hulking giant of a building that has sat dormant for much too long. I see the potential for market-rate apartments, a boutique hotel, ground floor retail, etc. I see 24 hour life brought back to the downtown core. Most of all, I see the inaction of those in power to affect any sort of real change towards these ends.
    It truly is becoming a question of quality of life and the almost paradoxical about face that cities have begun to make in this regard. I notice it in the little things throughout an average day. Just yesterday I went to the Allentown Art Festival and was able to take the Metro down from LaSalle Station because I live in the University Heights. Sure, the neighborhood is rough around the edges, and I passed a few vacant houses on my way to the station, but when people begin to realize the real value in things like walkability, accessibility, and community then neighborhoods like these will see a dramatic increase in overall investment and development (I hope).

  • DOC

    Nice article…but I do not recall New York as a city that is the best place to live in any survey. I can’t ever recall that and the thought is ghastly, actually. Cities like NY & LA are not normal cities. America looks like Buffalo, St. Louis, Kansas City, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, Denver, Cincinnati, etc. NY, LA & Chicago are not the norm. They are the exception in American living and the exception is not always good. We seem to have forgotten that.

  • ReginaldQMerriweatherIV

    “One last thought,”
    If only it were that simple.


    I do feel sorry for those who have never experienced places like Buffalo when they still had real downtowns with masses of people and big crowded department stores and corner news stands. These poor soles have never seen the amazing Christmas windows of AM&A’s department store. What a loss.

  • buffloonitick

    when the followers lead, the leaders will follow…

  • LesterCzepnakski

    There’s no mention of the Bills or chicken wings from places like the Anchor Bar or Duffs. So how can you slam Buffalo and not mention these things!Really an unfair article.

  • GOP

    Excellent article Aaron. I do think the stereotype that cities like Buffalo have is a real problem and inhibitor to their rebirth. Our city needs to do a better job of promoting itself outside not to just WNY, but the nation.

  • suburban_hillbilly

    I see the Walden Galleria every Christmas. What’s the difference?

  • Lester1990

    I currently live in San Francisco but Buffalo will always be home. The cost of living in SF is soooo expensive (Studio Apartments for only $1800!)
    I really want to move back to Buffalo and raise my family in a city that I can afford!
    I look forward to moving back to Buffalo. (sooner the better)

  • grad94

    some of us are still mighty annoyed about glaeser and buffalo’s response to him. he says in print that our city no longer deserves to exist and what do we do? roll out the red carpet and wine & dine him.
    meanwhile, buffalo ekes out whatever good press it can get (thank you, cvb!) and do people who say nice things about us ever get a fraction of the warm, gushy glaeser reception?

  • LesterCzepnakski

    I think people ***** about any city they happen to be living in. Rust belt cities, esp Buffalo & Cleveland, do get their share of knocks, yet whenever someone in Seattle, Portland, Boston, etc. reads about some lame thing happening here they may say “Glad I don’t live in Buffalo.” then turn around and complain about their city’s traffic, cost of living, crime, whatever. It’s human nature to have an affinity for your home town though. The thing that drives me insane is people from big cities criticizing Buffalo, like Dean Blundell from cfny, I mean what do people from Toronto need to prove? It’s obviously a great place and Buffalo is not Toronto so why waste the time?

  • LesterCzepnakski

    rough around the edges? that’s too kind to that area. When I was a kid 30-35 yrs ago Univer Heights was a vibrant thriving area, same is true of Bailey. Now it’s a wasteland, I’d feel more comfortable walking around Compton than Lasalle & Main

  • EricOak

    Agreed. Glaeser’s article was facile and misinformed, and yet he got a princely welcome here.
    But I don’t agree with the premise of Renn’s post (and your assertion) that we settle for drops of praise in an ocean of hostile criticism. Where is the evidence for this massive wave of negative media attention to Buffalo? Other than occasional weather panics, I see scant proof that Buffalo receives undue negative media attention. The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times (several articles), and national arts and horticulture magazines have been showcasing Buffalo for years. This sense that we are “hurting” and starved for attention is a self-defeating myth that seems to float largely in the heads of some Buffalonians and a few self-appointed experts on “urbanism” (whatever that is).
    We don’t feel “unloved.” And what self-respecting city wants to be “loved” by a popular culture as middlebrow as the one we see reflected in MSN and Forbes lists, by a culture that takes frivolous words like “hip” and “cool” seriously? I’m glad Mr. Renn feels our pain, but he should save it for the struggling working people and unemployed in ALL cities who are trying to find some financial respite. The rest of us lucky enough to be earning well and living in Buffalo have cause for celebration, not self-pity.

  • whatever

    Glaeser didn’t write that Buffalo would or should disappear or that it’s a sh*thole here. His major point was it would be dumb to send a lot of federal or state cash for crazy silver-bullet projects in Buffalo and similar cities in hopes that would cause a big rebound in our population. I agree with him about that. He said the money could be better spent on human needs instead. His article’s headline offended some, but who knows if he even wrote the headline. Often it’s an editor who does that.
    Eric, “misinformed” implies misstatement of fact. As I recall, he might have written something wrong about our weather (as Obama might have said something wrong about it too), but other than that – what did Glaeser write that’s factually wrong?

  • BusinessIsBad

    Eric, I have to agree with many things you say, and even though your writing comes across as condescending, yet oddly obtuse, you still make valid points utilizing sound, non-xanax-based reasoning. To the curb…


    Sadly you reinforce my point all too well.

  • DTK2OD

    The funny thing about the Heights is that streets right next to each other can be worlds apart. I lived on Lisbon and I always found it curious that while the demographic of that street was overwhelmingly low-income renters and transient students with a housing stock to match, one street over on Highgate the majority of homes were owner-occupied with manicured lawns that would have fit right in on any affluent N. Buffalo street.

  • EricOak

    You’re right– “misinformed” is not the right word; it was worse than that. Glaeser was willfully misleading in his portrait of Buffalo’s decline. Writers, especially professors at Harvard, should be more careful in their discussions of extremely complex places like older cities.
    Many of his observations are correct, but that’s easy when they’ve been common currency for years. The idea of shrinking the city? of rejecting federal largesse as a long term solution? Both worthy ideas and both tossed back and forth around town for 20 years before Glaeser got around to them.
    But aside from being stale in its ideas, the article had the potential to do real damage to the city’s profile. His ignorance of the city’s actual ambiance and his misleading use of statistics–comparing all of Buffalo’s indicators (income, home ownership, education, etc.) against national medians or those of New York City instead of against similar cities– helps him score cheap points. But this distorts the actual experience of living in Buffalo, and certainly erases any consideration of the spectrum of lifestyles and living standards in the city.
    Glaeser also pours cliches liberally: he refers to Buffalo’s “blighted inner city.” What the hell could that mean? It suggests that the central part of the city , which would mean all of downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods, from South Buffalo to Allentown to the Niagara district to Delaware Avenue to Hamlin Park–are all blighted, one of the fuzziest cliches in urban planning. Or he solemnly pronounces that “blizzards regularly shut the city down completely.” For that statement alone, spoken against a city that has been exploited and damaged by the media for over 30 years because of weather myths, he should turn red faced. Add to this Glaeser’s caricature of and condescension toward Buffalo’s populace as “brawn based,” his ignorance of the city’s technological originality and cultural pedigree, and you have an article that serves up stale ideas tossed in a sauce of cliches and repelling stereotypes.
    The irony is that I agree with his main ideas, but like most people in this region had seen them long ago. So what does his article do for Buffalo? Nothing….except probably convince people, business leaders, and others who don’t know Buffalo not to dare set foot here. That’s worse than being “factually wrong.” In this country, perception and reputation rule, and Mr. Glaeser pounded a fat nail into ours.

  • nick

    From your posts it’s clear that you’re active in your community and doing what you can to promote the city but I feel like you and people in general get caught up in these feel good endeavor and guarding of “how great” things are. I mean the entire title of this piece “Buffalo, You are Not Alone” is sort of embarrassing. Yeah, there’s lots of places throughout the US with the same land use and jobs issues, but what does that solve? There’s less need to be defensive I think, so what that there are articles that aren’t always positive, who cares? You know why you like the city and your neighborhood, the rest of this doesn’t matter.

  • JohnMarko

    “Their the euthanasia-ists, why prolong life when your not a productive member of society…
    The abortionists, having sex is NOT a choice but having a baby IS a choice, having consensual sex involves equal gender rights and agreement but abortion doesnt.
    Their the housewives that divorce their blue collar husband for the wealthier husband with a pool in the suburbs, marriage is only a convenient temporary commitment until you find something better. Hey if your not happy then your not happy.
    Everything like Einstein is relative….thats the liberal…”
    JohnQ: Leave the bull—- tired right wing c–p on Fux Snooze where it belongs – we don’t need proven LIES repeated here.
    Then maybe we could discuss the rest of your spew that has some merit.

  • Buffalogni

    Everyone that wants to send their job overseas, please line up behind sho’nuff. cricket, cricket… That’s what I thought.

  • flyguy

    All of the sudden you suggest that American’s should sacrifice their way of life in order to prop other countries up? I’m sorry but until the upper class watches their lifestyles erode and budgets shrink I ask why should the lower class and middle class bear that burden? Why are we the protectors of the world? Why are we responsible for everyone else? Isnt this Country Trillions in debt? Why is China coming to our aid to loan us money in NYS to build our high speed rail infrastructure? Seems to me that others are profiting mightily from us, holding the cards. They say jump and we say how high? At the end of the day I think national sovereignty still exists and that when push comes to shove people elsewhere care about themselves above all else, above Americans and our “mission” to fix the whole world.
    Yes, its disgusting that certain places throughout this world suffers with sweatshops, etc. This has been partially driven by greed, no profit is ever enough. To address this perhaps everyone should be under the same monetary system or perhaps money should stop being weighed against US currency anymore.
    Who made the decision that it was ok to demoralize whole swaths of this Country? What elected official supposedly looking out for American interests and the American people decided that it was ok to export away American jobs, leave neighborhoods behind helpless and hopeless? All in an effort to level the playing field around the world?

  • sho’nuff

    Let me get this straight, you have an issue with Americans making a sacrifice to make up for the inbalance in wealth and opportunity that exists in the Global economy, but you have no issue with the wealthy in America making up for the imbalance that takes place in America.
    So the wealthiest 10% in America should sacrifice their way of life in order to prop up the 30% of Americans who are low to low-middle class. You feel that there should be limits on the amount of wealth that the richest Americans should be able to earn when compared to the lowest earners. You said that the wealthiest should not be allowed to earn the 1000 to 2,000 times the wages of other earners, and that they are wrong for feeling entitled to these earnings. It would make sense to apply this same logic to the World Economy.
    The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, even with a declining GDP and rising debt, we still control the largest share of the world’s economy. We control three times more of the world’s economy than the next biggest economy (Japan). We are twice as large as China’s economy in terms of GDP when derived by price purchase parity. We are by far the richest country in the world, controlling $14.2 Trillion in GDP. Over 70% of our GDP is driven by consumer spending. The US has just over 4% of the World’s population. So in brief, less than 4% of the world’s population (United States) controls more than 20% of the world’s wealth ($14.3T / $69.6T).
    If anyone in the world is saying JUMP, it is the United States. This is especially true, given that the United States spends almost as much on military as all other countries in the world combined. We spent $375B on our military while the rest of the world spends about $378B on all of their militaries combined.
    Our largely commerical economy is fueled by the cheap labor in other countries. Without that cheap labor and the relatively cheap products we import from them, we would not be able to maintain the quality of life that even the poorest among us enjoys.
    If our current decline in GDP continues at the same rate, and the increase in GDP of other countries continues at the same rate, it would take over 80 years for us to lose our position as richest nation in the world.
    I understand that you would like America to build walls, with the hopes that our economy would be self-sufficient, but unfortunately it does not work that way. Your simplistic way of seeing the world and our economy if fraught with fear and emotion but short on facts. You may want to back off from the rhetoric and fear that is so prevalent in American media today.

  • whatever

    Eric>”His ignorance of the city’s actual ambiance”
    Huh? I don’t see where Glaeser mentions ambiance. It’s irrelevant to what he wrote about.
    The topic wasn’t ambiance. He also didn’t praise our restaurants – what an outrage!
    Eric>”and his misleading use of statistics–comparing all of Buffalo’s indicators (income, home ownership, education, etc.) against national medians or those of New York City instead of against similar cities”
    It isn’t misleading to mention Buffalo’s economic measures relative to U.S. national medians. Should economists pretend we’re in Guatemala? He does mention other Rust Belt cities are facing the same changes (“every city on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, its water-based advantages eroded, lost industries to areas with cheaper labor costs.”).
    Eric>”this distorts the actual experience of living in Buffalo, and certainly erases any consideration of the spectrum of lifestyles and living standards in the city.”
    He wasn’t writing about the “experience of living in Buffalo” or lifestyle spectrums. He’s an economist. The article’s topics are economics, history, and his views on government policy. In a wonky publication such as City Journal, ambiance and lifestyles are very seldom if ever mentioned.
    Eric>” So what does his article do for Buffalo? Nothing….except probably convince people, business leaders, and others who don’t know Buffalo not to dare set foot here.”
    There’s nothing in it suggesting anyone shouldn’t set foot here. What it does for Buffalo is suggest why to not keep trying expensive silver bullet projects. Better to use reseorces in more basic, more people-focused ways.

  • whatever

    fly>”Why are we responsible for everyone else? Isnt this Country Trillions in debt? Why is China coming to our aid to loan us money in NYS to build our high speed rail infrastructure?”
    Who is said we’re responsible for everyone else? The world is very interconnected. When a Buffalo company is selling goods elsewhere and bringing jobs here as a result (New Era, Rich Products, etc), everyone here is all for it and happy to see that create jobs in Buffalo. Why is it great for jobs to be created in Buffalo due to foreign customers of companies here, but the other way around is so infuriating?
    How is trillions in U.S. debt the fault of people in other parts of the world?
    I haven’t heard China is loaning NYS money to build rail as you say, but if that’s happening it’s because NYS is choosing to borrow from them.

  • Buffalogni

    “The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world” Not at all. We are the poorest nation on earth. The federal, state and local governments have made promises that amount to tens of trillions of dollars that can’t be paid.
    At this point, we should be asking for help from other countries because the US economy is collapsing.

  • BusinessIsBad

    Sho’nuff: you get it, and can articulate it.

  • sho’nuff

    You may want to compare the US with the Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Niger, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Timor, Laos, and Haiti, to name a few. In fact, the US still doubles the GDP of the bottom 20 countries in the world combined.

  • BusinessIsBad

    Gni: “We are the poorest nation on earth.” I take it Playstation hasn’t come up with reality-based geopolitical gaming concept yet. Oh to be young and dumb again…

  • Buffalogni

    GDP? GDP doesn’t include our debts. Our debts are way beyond our ability to pay, therefore we are broke. Yeah, so Haiti is broke too, it doesn’t mean we should give them our jobs. Besides, the idea that the world’s economy is a zero-sum game doesn’t have merit. Haiti can be rich, and we can be rich at the same time. Us becoming rich doesn’t automatically make Haiti poor. You are right though that in the short term jobs can be shipped around the world. And this is where we differ; I think Buffalo should try to keep the few jobs it has. Buffalo has been beaten down for so long; it owes the world nothing.

  • sho’nuff

    GDP is $14.3 trillion, our total debt is $13 trillion. If we look at this in terms of debt to income, we are still the fourth or fifth richest nation in the world, depending on the source (World Bank, IMF, CIA).

  • EricOak

    I think you missed my point. I completely agree with Glaeser’s conclusions about the direction of local, state and federal approaohes to addressing the city’s economic ills. He simply failed to realize that those ideas have been circulating in Buffalo for over 20 years; they are almost fond memories, except that he devalued their usefulness by writing things that are false and overgeneralized about doing business in Buffalo, from its weather to its workforce.
    Second, cities are not the sum of statistics about them; even when addressing economic issues, the most informed economists and urban planners take into account more than the economic indicators and trends in a region to measure its total health and potential. Anyone who knows Buffalo even moderately knows that the city is rich in many things that economists and public policy analysts deem vital to the living standard of a city. So when an economist sketches a city using cliches and inaccurate stereotypes, and fails to graph its indicators against the similar woes that afflict almost every older northern city, he is doing more than offering up a sensible economic approach; he is doing a disservice to the city he is purportedly trying to help. If you want to say, “look–here’s what Buffalo should do.” Fine–say that, but don’t try to evoke the city as if you really know it and understand it. That’s what Glaeser tried to do, and he failed. It’s bad writing, and its bad economics.

  • WisdomFirst

    souls with soles (for walking)