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Feeling Low in Buffalo

by on June 3, 2011

Announcing that Buffalonians are depressed is a “dog bites man” story. But each common instance of a national press outlet pointing out how sad the beautiful city’s residents are hurts as much as getting chomped by a canine.

Who’s piling on now? Business Insider’s site featured a list which ranks Buffalo among those metropolises that should dissolve Prozac in the water supply (h/t Sooper Mexican).

The miserable ranking cites a Gallup poll which claims that only 76.5 percent of residents are satisfied, while a mere 42.4 percent are optimistic. Studies like this might not help residents feel better, but it’s a chicken and egg thing. While not mean-spirited or laden with cheap shots, their justification still hurts because of its statistical backing:

Although Buffalo held up well during the recession, the upstate city has been losing jobs and income in the past year. Gross metropolitan production is down 2.6% from peak.

For a longer picture, note the 48% decline in manufacturing jobs from 1980 to 2005.

Appearing alongside Flint and Toledo is never good news. On the other hand, it would have been sadly easy to predict Buffalo’s slotting. Dependency upon leaders who do nothing that approximates leading has doomed the city. Figuring out why production and manufacturing jobs have both vanished isn’t complicated.

Specifically, endless government planning hasn’t helped regardless of the level. Instead, it’s led to thruways bisecting once-nice neighborhoods and the city’s crown jewel park, universities and stadiums getting dropped into the suburbs, and Main Street resembling a ghost town thanks to an expensively intrusive trolley which goes from one end of nowhere to another. Substitute any idea that was supposed to save the city from gloom and vacancy that you’d like from the past couple decades.

We need far fewer alleged visionary geniuses. And expecting federal funding to improve the Queen City’s circumstances is like still hoping that the stimulus is going to bring unemployment below eight percent.

Corporatism hasn’t helped, either. Aligning with scummy outfits like Bass Pro invariably leads to failure, unless the objective was to leave downtown bare in exchange for spending a fortune. We’ve got bad news for anyone still misguided enough to think that Washington’s present habit of aligning itself with corporations will lead to economic bliss: our lab experiment did not go well.

And one-party rule ruins any festive atmosphere, especially considering the party in question. Buffalo cannot fundamentally improve for as long as, say, a mayor with a track record as lousy as Byron Brown’s can run for reelection unopposed.

The result is that people flee to feel better and/or find work. Former residents will inevitably remark that they didn’t want to leave: every expatriate will endlessly yap about Buffalo’s innumerable benefits to anyone who will listen, usually fellow ex-Buffalonians.

They rattle off an extensive list of nice things they recall about a city with a history of and potential for a return to magnificence. That in turn inspires even more homesickness.

But it’s hard to seriously consider returning if one hopes to maintain positivity. A stream of government planning, spending, and regulating means that there aren’t many good jobs divided even among those who remain behind.

Liberals got their way in Buffalo. At this rate, they’ll have a city all to themselves in which to sulk.

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