Movements and organizations aside, “black lives matter” is an unassailable principle. The often-repeated retort that all lives matter is also unassailable, but also, of course, both irrelevant and patronizing. We all know that to many people all lives matter, but black lives seem to matter somewhat less.
Last weekend Chicago police exchanged fire and wounded a black man. The circumstances of the shooting are under investigation, but riots and looting quickly broke out on Chicago’s fashionable Michigan Avenue. Approximately 100 looters were arrested, and several police officers were injured. Spokespersons for the Chicago Chapter of Black Lives Matter quickly dismissed the massive looting that took place as mere “reparations,” the cost of which they say will all be covered by insurance. Just who do these people think will ultimately pay for the damages the looters caused in the Windy City last Sunday? The BLM spokespersons say the corporations (presumably the retailers) will pay the cost. No big deal.
Well, not by a long shot. The BLM folks are wrong taking comfort in their assumption that Chicago’s (now former) Magnificent Mile only hosts high-end shoppers and visitors (which happens not to be the case at all). Far fewer Chicagoland people will be venturing into the area anytime soon to shop or visit. The sales tax revenue, along with the lost revenue tourism and conventions and meetings brought to the city’s coffers, will also take a huge hit, probably for years to come. Who does BLM think that lost tax revenue will hurt the most? Gucci? Gucci has 519 other stores besides the one the rioters trashed last Sunday.
Chicago tax revenues, property values, and overall economic activity will sag mightily thanks to the wanton lawlessness at the hands of the looters. Retail and hospitality jobs and all the ancillary support jobs that provide services to the citizens of, and visitors to, Chicago are all going to take a massive hit. We do not yet know exactly what precipitated the exchange of fire between the gunman and the police, and neither does anyone else at this time. We know only that the gunman has been charged with attempted murder.
Chicago is (was) the second most visited city in America. That may well change in the months and years ahead, and to whatever extent that hurts the people of Chicago, it will hurt the neediest the most.
The collateral damage to the community will far exceed the value of what the looters pocketed, helping themselves to the merchandise of Chicago retailers. Some Chicagoland citizens may simply say goodbye to Chicago. Ironically, the one group that has the least mobility and the least latitude to make such a decision are the people who lack the resources to move on.
Household incomes and property values are apt to diminish in the city, given the assault of the looters. The city’s tax base will, of course, shrink accordingly. The citizens of Chicago are sure to find themselves in greater need for government services, but with fewer resources to provide those services. The economic harm this riot and looting has caused is not apt to go away quickly. Following the riots and looting that took place in the ’60s and ’70s, The National Bureau of Economic Research found a decline in median black family income of approximately ten percent in cities that experienced riots compared to those that did not. The Bureau also determined an adverse effect on adult male employment rates, following the disorders in the 1970s. This decline in employment primarily affected men under the age of 30.
Last Monday, the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter issued a statement on the looting and unrest in the city. It also held a solidarity rally in support of the looters who the police managed to arrest. The BLM statement read, “In a predictable and unfortunate move, Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not take this time to criticize her officers for shooting yet another Black man. Lightfoot instead spent her time attacking looters.” Then, ominously, “the mayor clearly has not learned anything since May, and she would be wise to understand that the people will keep rising up until the Chicago Police Department is abolished and our Black communities are fully invested in.”
The rally organizer said looters should take anything they want to take as reparations. “I don’t care if somebody decides to loot a Gucci, or a Macy’s, or a Nike, because that makes sure that that person eats, that makes sure that that person has clothes, that makes sure that that person can make some kind of money because this city obviously doesn’t care about them,” he said.
There are no winners emerging from the rioting last Sunday night, certainly not the looters or those from whom they looted. The Trump re-election campaign could not have asked for a greater gift. It fits right in with the campaign’s rhetoric, which is already warning suburban voters that their suburbs will be gone if the Biden ticket is elected.
As the 1930 Gershwin hit asked, Who Could Ask for Anything More?