The fiasco surrounding Amazon’s recent escape from New York reflects a broader, potentially devastating trend. By driving the Seattle-based behemoth out of the Big Apple, New York’s increasingly militant progressives have created a political paradigm that could resonate in cities across the country.
Simply put, after decades of trying to lure businesses, many cities are adopting political agendas—from minimum wage hikes to rent control and threatened tax boosts—that make them less attractive to both big firms and smaller businesses. This new development is being driven by demographic shifts as cities become more dominated by hipster radicals and increasingly polarized with little room for a middle ground between the very rich and the very poor.
Cities have traditionally been more left than the rest of the country, but now that ideological gap is widening. Chicago, New York and Los Angeles seem destined to embrace ever-more radical politics as the young, single population and the poor dominate the electorate. Only a handful of major city mayors, including Miami’s Francis Suarez, are Republicans, while pro-business Democrats, like Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, are being replaced by ever more stridently progressive politicians.
Rising Socialism in Cities
Jeff Bezos should have seen this coming. He had already tussled with Seattle’s effort to tax his and other large firms to address homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. The city council-imposed homeless tax on large corporations was only repealed when Amazon—responsible for nearly 20 percent of the city’s office space—responded by stopping construction on a downtown office tower.
Even so, Bezos loosened his ties to the ever-more-progressive Emerald City. Amazon announced expansions in suburban Washington, D.C., and Nashville, places where costs are lower and politics far less pink. The online giant has also announced plans to lease out most of the new high-rise it is constructing in downtown Seattle and reportedly plans to move employees to the less politically fraught and more affordable confines of nearby edge city suburb Bellevue.
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Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He authored The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, published in 2016 by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA.