In the 1950s and 1960s, a generation used New York City (and other central cities) as cash cows, and then decamped for the suburbs, spitting on the ground as they left. They voted themselves richer pensions but didn’t pay for them, with the best off public employees – police, fire, teachers – among the first to run for the exits. They ran up debts while failing to maintain the infrastructure. They benefitted from rent control even as their income increased, providing them with money needed to buy homes in the suburbs but not providing landlords with a sufficient incentive to reinvest in their buildings. Eventually, as things started to go downhill, the large corporations that the cities had nurtured followed the middle class out the door, to their own fortress like suburban campuses.
Now it is five decades later and what do we find? Like a plague of locusts, the generations that moved to the suburbs have turned the same trick there. New Jersey and Connecticut are small states that had a number of small, pre-suburban industrial cities. For the most part, however, these two states are suburban – the two most suburban states in the nation, and for most of the past four decades the two richest. Despite this they are now among the most bankrupt. And once again, the rats are fleeing the sinking ship.