The continuing absurdities of Progressive politics are on full display in New York City and Chicago. Let’s start with New York.
Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway project will take riders between 96th and 63rd Street at a cost of $4.5 Billion, which is $700 million (15%) over budget. If and when it reaches the southern tip of Manhattan—that’s Phase 4—it is expected to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $17 billion, but no one really knows. Keep that in mind for a minute because the existing New York’s subway system is so decrepit that it is plagued by delays and a train actually derailed in Harlem the other day.
According to John Raksin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, a riders’ interest group, the MTA’s capital budget of $30 billion is enough to sustain the system, but not completely update and overhaul it. The MTA’s operating budget is about $15 billion, of which $11 billion is paid by New Yorkers. Now we’re talking real money.
Where is it going to come from? Not from fares, apparently. Read on.
Cyrus Vance, Manhattan prosecutor, has decided that his office will no longer pursue criminal cases of most people arrested for fare evasion. Law enforcement for petty crimes was at the heart of implementing the “Broken Windows” policing strategy that was undoubtedly an important cause of the drop in serious crime in New York from its record breaking highs in the late 1980s to the point where New York is now probably the safest big city in the United States.
But the Broken Windows strategy was problematic (in many progressive circles) because of two of its underlying assumptions. The first is that people are rational decision makers who act in what they believe to be their own best interest. The second is that people are responsible for their own behavior. Listen to Councilman Rory I. Lancman of Queens, the chairman of the Court and Legal Services Committee:
“For too long, prosecution of fare evasion as a crime has disproportionately impacted people of color, bogged down our courts, and even put immigrants at risk of deportation,” he said according to the New York Times.
The “Coalition to End Broken Windows” weighed in as well complaining that Vance’s actions were only a “half-hearted” effort to “combat decades of racist policing”. The policy, they said, perpetuates the idea that people should be punished “for being too poor to use public transportation.”
So once again, individual agency and responsibility go right out the window—over paying the $2.75 fare for riding the subway. Pretty much the same argument employed by Sandra Fluke, the oppressed Georgetown University Law student who was aghast that she might actually have to pay for her very own birth control pills. The horror.
Last year the police arrested about 24,600 for theft of services for fare beating and issued 67,400 civil summonses for the offense.
Not to be outdone in the absurdity sweepstakes, the City of Chicago has adopted a new education policy. In order to earn a high school diploma, a student will be required to submit a plan on what he intends to do after high school. If the plan doesn’t appeal to the school, it will not grant a diploma to the student, even though the student has passed all the academic requirements necessary for graduation.
What is more absurd is that they actually go through the mechanics of graduation at all in the Chicago Public School system. It is absurd because the public schools don’t teach the kids anything. According to the latest statistics I could find (2012) only a small fraction of the kids were proficient in math or reading. The U.S. Department of Education found that only 19% of 8th graders were proficient in reading, and only 17% in math.
So the Mayor and the Chicago Education establishment have decided to continue to hand out worthless diplomas to functional illiterates provided they have a good plan for the future. A better plan might be to fix the schools…
But that would offend the teachers unions, the main beneficiaries of the current system.