Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal, a documentary filmmaker, and a research fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth, Poverty, & Morality. He has directed four films for PBS, including his latest, America Lost, which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” Photo Courtesy of Christopher F. Rufo
What inspired you to make America Lost?
I’d been reading a lot about the decline of American communities, from Robert Putnam’s Our Kids to Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. I was shaken by the social problems documented in these books, but I wanted to understand them through the eyes of the people experiencing them. I took research trips through the Rust Belt, the Deep South, and California’s Central Valley, ultimately settling on three cities for the documentary: Youngstown, Memphis, and Stockton. For three years, I met people in each city and followed their lives. The experience taught me much about U.S. society and the human condition. Though I saw despair and brutality, I also saw hope and beauty. It’s a complex world, and I wanted to do my part to capture it.
What does the media misunderstand about cities like Youngstown or Stockton?
Too often, journalists and policymakers look at the decline of heartland cities through the lens of economics and public policy. When I started working on the film, I looked at it the same way. My initial goal was to determine which policies contributed to these cities’ economic decline and determine what could revive them. But after spending months in Youngstown, Memphis, and Stockton neighborhoods, I realized that their problems weren’t primarily economic or political. Instead, dysfunction had become deeply embedded in social, familial, and cultural structures. This realization made the film far more complex—forcing a shift in my approach. I didn’t want merely to understand what went wrong economically; I wanted to learn what happened with the deeper roots of society in these places.
How can struggling cities rebuild neighborhoods?
Since the 1960s, the U.S. has tried to fix poor communities through top-down public policy. We spend $1.1 trillion a year on means-tested anti-poverty programs, but places like Youngstown, Memphis, and Stockton are worse off than ever. People across the political spectrum have begun to realize that the status quo doesn’t offer a path to transform these places. In making America Lost, I observed an alternative, “inside-out” model. Residents are realizing that they have agency within their own domain—their families, neighborhoods, and local communities. They no longer believe that federal policy will change their lives, so they’re focusing on what they can do directly. This is where I found inspiration in these cities—and I hope that it can serve as a model for bottom-up community renewal elsewhere.
Has Seattle’s rising disorder led to a suburban exodus?
Yes and no. Seattle is still growing, but many young families and upwardly mobile people are moving out to escape the disorder or the high cost of living. At the same time, young people keep coming, in search of urban amenities and high-tech employment. When you combine this with a growing stock of high-density apartments, you see an increase in the percentage of renter households and a decrease in the percentage of homeowners. In general, the younger renters’ demographic has a higher tolerance for urban disorder.
What is an overlooked trend in U.S. cities?
The trend of “new left urbanism” has been underexamined. Last year, I wrote a controversial article for the Wall Street Journal about these urbanists’ drive to control physical infrastructure and remake it in their own image. We’ve seen a strange alliance between radical urbanists and real-estate developers, who are traditionally aligned with the pro-business Right. Beneath this partnership of convenience lie deeper philosophical and ideological tensions. The urbanists’ radicalism is starting to clash with the developers’ practicality, and both groups are drawing fire from neighborhood groups. It will be an interesting story to follow.
"Responsibility for this tragedy lies
squarely with the ruling class and its political representatives.
Chicago is controlled by the Democrats. It is the political home of
Barack Obama and has been run for years by Mayor
Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff and a
multi-millionaire former investment banker."
ILLINOIS FALLS TO LA RAZA MAYHEM…. Apparently Illinois
did not benefit from 8 years of Barack Obama’s sabotage of Homeland security to
build his LA RAZA base of Mexicans
"In 2008, over 90% of my fellow black
voters were hypnotized by Obama's skin color. I tried to warn black
family and friends that Obama was not black in terms of being one of
us. Obama was first and foremost a liberal Trojan
Horse disguised in
black skin, totally focused on furthering the liberal agenda rather than
dealing with issues plaguing black Americans." DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI
In 2016, 7881 blacks were murdered, 90.1% of them by other
blacks; 7100 blacks killed by other blacks. FBI crime facts show only 16
unarmed blacks were shot by police. CHRIS KEMBLE – AMERICAN THINKER
BOOKS AND CULTURE
No, Mayors Can’t Run the World
In his new book, Rahm Emanuel touts his record but fails to account for Chicago’s ongoing struggles.
n his new
book, The Nation City: Why Mayors Are Now Running the World,
former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel argues that cities are supplanting polarized
national capitals. In the years ahead, he believes, urban centers will continue
to grow in power and influence. Yet Emanuel fails to account for his mixed
legacy in Chicago. He touts his record, but it’s hardly a model for other
book begins with an immigration story. His maternal grandfather, Herman
Smulevitz, migrated to the United States from Russia in 1917. The life of Big
Banger—pronounced “Bangah” by Emanuel and his two brothers, who gave their
grandfather the nickname due to his big presence and personality—is a classic
American immigrant tale. Banger arrived penniless, but with some hard work and
a little luck, he made it into the middle class.
story allows Emanuel to describe his own Chicago upbringing and highlight
cities as places
of opportunity, a theme he carries into his discussion of education
reform in Chicago, which he calls “by far the single most important thing I
did.” Armed with state funding, he launched full-day kindergarten and pre-K,
reformed teachers’ pensions, and extended the school day. For post-secondary
schools, Emanuel started the Chicago Star Scholarship, which pays for qualified
high school graduates to attend one of the city’s community colleges.
proclaims the success of these initiatives but without offering much supporting
evidence. Chicagoans are skeptical about
Emanuel’s pre-K program, for example, with some worrying that it crowds out
other nongovernment options. Some evidence suggests that pre-K can improve
children’s outcomes in the short term, but its effects on broader
academic success are less conclusive. Meantime, the Chicago
Star Scholarship too often funds students whose academic qualifications would
make them better
suited for four-year universities than community colleges.
also touts raising Chicago’s minimum wage and starting a jobs program for
teenagers and young adults. He fails to mention, however, that a higher minimum
teen employment and harms
neighborhoods when local businesses, unable to withstand the
higher labor costs, shut their doors.
also highlights the work of fellow Democratic mayors. His examples are
progressive mainstays, from more public
transit in Los Angeles to more bike paths in South Bend (yes,
Pete Buttigieg makes an appearance). He also includes a chapter on Republican
mayors, featuring Anaheim’s Tom Tait and Jim Brainard, mayor of Carmel,
Indiana. Emanuel appears to have a soft spot for urban leaders who refurbish
their downtowns or launch creative infrastructure projects, such as the 100 roundabouts
that Brainard installed in Carmel. Emanuel acknowledges that different policies
will work for different cities; but the goals, he believes, should remain
Emanuel’s view, mayors can fill the void left by a polarized, gridlocked national
government. Yet he wistfully notes the role that the federal government once
played in urban policy, from the New Deal to the Great Society. His support of
“nation cities”—large cities with economies to match—seems born from political
pragmatism rather than a grand vision for the appropriate structure of
government. He wants federal dollars to pay for parks, roads, schools, river
walks, and the like, but he also believes that polarization in Washington
prevents urban progressives from imposing their policies from the top down.
can’t print money, for example, and borrowing limits prevent mayors from
spending with impunity, as the federal government can do. Though mayors like
Emanuel have long wish lists, financial challenges block their greatest ambitions.
Decades of underfunded pensions have resulted in fiscal peril for America’s
cities. And mayors can’t just raise revenue with more taxes, as they risk
losing residents to more affordable locales. Progressives like Emanuel lament
these constrictions, but they encourage cities to spend taxpayer money more
also ignores how mayors possess little statutory power. Chicago has
traditionally had strong mayors, but council-manager forms of government in
some other big cities—including Charlotte, Phoenix, and Dallas—limit the power
of the chief executive. And even in strong-mayor cities, local officials get
their power from state government. Localities are the creations of state
governments, and states can preempt local authority with legislation. This
isn’t an issue for Chicago, considering Illinois’s politics, but mayors in
states from Texas and Florida to Utah can push the progressive vision only so
far. State officials inevitably push back.
shouldn’t be too eager to take lessons from Emanuel, at least based on what he
did in Chicago. He signed significant tax
increases, but since he left office last year, the city has faced an $800
million budget shortfall. Chicago’s traffic congestion ranks among
worst, and its metro region continues to bleed
population, while Indianapolis and Columbus are thriving.
Chicago’s problems are the result of decades of mismanagement that no mayor
could fix in two terms, but the city has been
run by progressive Democrats like Emanuel, pursuing a similar
vision, since the Great Depression—so there’s good reason to believe that his
broad views on government policy have something to do with the city’s
will like Emanuel’s book; he speaks their language. Even as he criticizes
polarization in Washington, he remains deeply partisan himself. That’s
regrettable, since some of the stories he shares about mayors from both parties
offer examples of good governance that future leaders could learn from.
The new aristocrats,
like the lords of old, are not bound by the laws that apply to the lower
orders. Voluminous reports have been issued by Congress and government panels
documenting systematic fraud and law breaking carried out by the biggest banks
both before and after the Wall Street crash of 2008.
Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and every other major US
bank have been implicated in a web of scandals, including the sale of toxic
mortgage securities on false pretenses, the rigging of international interest
rates and global foreign exchange markets, the laundering of Mexican drug
money, accounting fraud and lying to bank regulators, illegally foreclosing on
the homes of delinquent borrowers, credit card fraud, illegal debt-collection
practices, rigging of energy markets, and complicity in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi
Judicial Watch: Only Crimes in Russia Scandal Are from ‘Obama
FOR EIGHT YEARS BARACK OBAMA AND ERIC HOLDER SABOTAGED HOMELAND
SECURITY TO EASE MORE MEXICANS OVER OUR BORDERS AND INTO OUR JOBS AND VOTING
OBAMA NEEDED THESE ILLEGALS TO FINISH OFF THE AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS, WHAT WAS
LEFT OF THEM AFTER OBAMA'S CRONY BANKSTERS' PLUNDER.
“The watchdogs at Judicial Watch discovered
documents that reveal how the Obama administration's close coordination with
the Mexican government entices Mexicans to hop over the fence and on to the
American dole.” Washington Times
Obama was a fully recruited agent of Moscow, tasked with giving Russia a
significant military advantage over the United States, and economically
weakening and socially dividing the nation, how would he have conducted his
presidency (or his post-presidency) any differently? TREVOR LOUDON
We are all victims of the Obama cabal’s collusion with Russia –
President Trump’s voters and all Americans who believe in our free and fair
David is a bestselling author of three books exposing the Obama administration and the Washington, D.C. swamp:
Times the GAO Found the Obama Administration Violated Federal Law
Democrats and journalists were excited Thursday when the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a legal opinion that the White
House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had violated the Impoundment
Control Act by withholding congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine last
The non-binding opinion was disputed
by the OMB, which released a memo last
month arguing that the “programmatic” delay sought to fulfill, not oppose,
The GAO decision, which had been
requested by Democrat Senator Chris van Hollen of Maryland, disagreed,
concluding that the delay had been for “policy reasons,” not “programmatic
delay.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cited the decision in her
morning press conference — though she had trouble pronouncing the word
“impoundment” — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) likewise
trumpeted the GAO decision as a vindication of the House impeachment.
Though the GAO works for Congress, it is not the finder of fact
in impeachment cases. Moreover, it is not even clear that the Impoundment
Control Act is constitution.
Nevertheless, if a mere GAO finding is sufficient to justify
impeachment, then President Barack Obama ought to have been impeached at least
seven times over for each of the following cases in which the GAO found that
the Obama administration had violated federal law.
The Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) and United States Secret Service (USSS) were found to have violated
section 503 of the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and
Continuing Appropriations Act, and the Antideficiency Act, in 2009 after
the Secret Service reported that it had overspent on candidate protection
in 2008 by $5,100,000, and used money from another program to cover
the shortfall. DHS failed to notify Congress 15 days in advance of the
The Department of the Treasury was found to have violated the
Antideficiency Act in 2014 when it used the voluntary services of four
individuals. “Treasury did not appoint any of the individuals to federal
employment, nor did any individual qualify as a student who may, under
certain circumstances, perform voluntary service,” the GAO found, adding
that there was no emergency that might have justified using the
individuals to perform several months of work without receiving pay.
The Department of Defense was found to have violated
the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 and the
Antideficiency Act in the infamous Bowe Bergdahl swap, when President
Barack Obama traded five high-level Taliban detainees for a U.S. Army
deserter. The administration transferred the five Taliban from Guantanamo
Bay without notifying relevant congressional committees 30 days in
advance, as required by law. Republicans complained; Democrats were
The Department of Housing and Urban
Development was found to have violated
the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, the
Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, and the
Antideficiency Act in 2014 when the deputy secretary of the department
sent an email to “friends and colleagues” asking them to lobby the Senate
in favor of a bill appropriating money to the department, and against
amendments offered by Republican Senators.
The Environmental Protection Agency
was found to have violated
“publicity or propaganda and anti-lobbying provisions” in
the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act and
the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
Appropriations Act in 2015 by using some of the department’s social media
accounts in rule-making for the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS)
regulations (which have since been repealed under the Trump
Two officials in the Department of
Housing and Urban Development were found in 2016 to have
violated Section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government
Appropriations Act by attempting to prevent a regional director within the
agency from being interviewed by the Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform. (Notably, the GAO reversed its earlier decision that
the department’s general counsel had not violated the law once it was
presented with more evidence.)
The Federal Maritime Commission was found
to have violated Section 711 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, as
well as the Antideficiency Act, in 2016 when it failed to notify the
relevant Senate and House committees that it had spent more than $5,000 to
furnish and redecorate the office of its former director in 2010. (The
total amount spent was $12,084 over three years, as noted by the GAO
in a footnote reference to an inspector general’s report on the excessive
Needless to say, Obama was never impeached.
Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social
Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a
J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak
Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How
Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from
Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
Don't follow the link above to read Warren's letter if you value your leisure and sanity. I've done it for you at some cost, not only in time and mental anguish, but also in some very good bourbon. It's a ponderous epistolary monstrosity, clocking in at twelve densely written single-spaced pages, with 89 (!) footnotes. Varying in tone from groveling to obstinate, choleric to good-humored, prickly to pleasant, it seeks to exonerate Warren from her claims of Cherokee ethnicity while establishing her bona fides as a champion of American Indian interests.
In reality, the letter shows Warren for what she is: a dishonest, striving narcissist with a strongly authoritarian bent, very much in the do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do philosophy of the modern left. It is carefully structured to defend Warren's deliberate false claims of Cherokee heritage, which at the very least suggests she was a diversity hire at both Penn and Harvard, both of which listed her as a "minority professor." She claims in the letter that she "never benefitted financially or professionally" from her false claims, citing a fawning 2018 Boston Globe article, which is sort of like "my lawyer says I didn't do it!"
While it can't be conclusively proven that Warren's false claims resulted in her hires and advancement, it can't be disproven, either, regardless what her acolytes in the media claim. That she did it in a professional context shows that Warren herself believed that the claims would be advantageous, or she wouldn't have made them. For a ruthlessly ambitious person like Warren, any other conclusion is nonsensical.
Warren also addresses her DNA test in a highly disingenuous manner. First, she implies that the DNA test actually produced results that support her claims, when in fact it was just the opposite. Rather, Warren, demonstrating her fundamental dishonesty, initially touted her DNA test results because they revealed a smidgen (probably less than 1%) of possible Native American heritage, a claim that was initially supported by friendly media. Only when conservative media and politicians mocked the plainly ridiculous claim did Warren back off. But in the letter, there is no mention of this — only that "DNA does not determine tribal citizenship" and that she "caused real harm" to American Indian communities by making the claim.
More hypocritical still is Warren's newfound avowal that she is a "white woman, and that is how I identify." Warren is at pains in the letter to apologize for identifying as a Cherokee and describes in painful detail all the Cherokees she's apologized to, from tribal chiefs to tribal citizens, publicly and privately, presumably genuflecting all the way.
But why by Warren's own standards and those of the far left was she wrong? Isn't identification in most other leftist contexts an entirely subjective endeavor? Warren cries now that she was wrong to identify as a Cherokee, based upon what she says were her own honest subjective beliefs, based upon family lore she learned as a child. Yet Warren has no qualms about accepting the subjective ideation of a nine-year-old boy that he's actually a girl. Not only that, but she's declared that if elected, such a child will help select her education secretary.
Yet sex is far less mutable and far more biologically defined than race or ethnicity. Race itself is arguably a purely human construct. Sex most definitely is not. Warren was careful to say in her Cherokee letter that DNA does not define American Indian ethnicity (which is the position of the tribes), but ethnicity and race are a far cry from sex. Sex clearly does biologically define human beings, regardless of subjective sexual tastes, desires, or the ideation of individuals as to what sex they think they should be.
Warren takes the position that her honestly held but false subjective belief that she was an American Indian was a horrible error. So does she endorse puberty-retarding hormonal treatments and even surgical procedures (such as mastectomies) on minors based upon the subjective ideations of children that they are the wrong sex? And how can she even promote as she does "gender-affirming procedures" for transsexuals in her Medicare for All proposals? That's worse than Warren's dishonesty regarding her heritage.
Bernstein & The Heritage Foundation - “Lawless: The Obama Administration’s
Unprecedented Assault on the Constitution and the Rule of Law.”
“The Lawlessness of the Obama Administration: A never-ending
Barone – American Historian – Washington Examiner
Obama has found fortune by greatly benefiting in his
post-presidency from companies who coincidentally benefited greatly during his
time as president.
They knew he was a catastrophe. They
knew ObamaCare was a train wreck. They knew. Yet they proceeded, and they may
have destroyed our country. For that, they can never be forgiven.
They knew Obama was an unqualified crook; yet they
promoted him. They knew Obama was a train wreck waiting to happen; yet they
made him president, to the great injury of America and the world. They
understood he was only a figurehead, an egomaniac, and a liar; yet they made
him king, doing great harm to our republic (perhaps irreparable.) ALLAN
We are talking about the Clintons, Pelosi, Reid,
Schumer, Frank, Wasserman-Schultz, Biden, Leahy, Durbin, Murray, Kennedy,
Hagel, Kerry, Dodd, Hoyer, Baucus, and many others.
They all knew Obama was an empty suit; yet for private
gain and personal advancement, they trampled on the flag, betraying the very
people they claim to serve, preferring Party to principle. During the 2008
campaign, they said he was unqualified, ill-prepared, and unsuited for the
office. Yet when his crooked ways carved out primary victory, they jumped on board
the Ship of Fools, stoking his engine with lies, deception, and propaganda.
Hillary knew he stole victory; but like a good Party operative, she buttoned
her lip and took orders, submitting to authority and covering criminality.
For those of us not seduced by pretty
words and skillful theatrics, the Obama years were a cesspool of corruption
that brought back the stench of the Clinton years in a fashionable new package.
The national media are flabbergasted that Americans won't consent
to President Trump's removal from office. How can so many of his
compatriots be indicted and so many government bureaucrats condemn his behavior
without giving them what they desire: self-assurance that they are "on the
right side of history"?
If they ever wish to understand, the critical starting point in
their education is not the current presidency, but the last one. Although there are numerous ways to
describe the present divide in America, one of the simpler is thus: those
Americans who take Barack Obama at his word that his presidency was
historically "scandal free" and those Americans who see the unrelenting
stream of Deep State attempts to take down President Trump as a continuing coup
and the natural extension of an unethical, criminal, and at times
unconstitutional Obama presidency.
For those of us in the latter camp, Barack Obama presided over a
corrupt administration and used his historic election as the first non-white
American president as a get-out-of-jail-free card to abuse his power while
silencing his critics.
Whataboutery is frowned upon now that President Trump is in
office, but if President Trump had done a tiny percentage of what Obama
orchestrated, he actually would be in federal prison. Imagine what
would have happened if President Trump had done the following:
used a recession to bilk a trillion
dollars from the public to stuff the pockets of campaign donors like
facilitated Agent Brian Terry's
murder by arming the Mexican cartels
targeted American citizens for
assassination without a whiff of due process
lied to voters that their doctors
would be protected and premiums reduced, while illegally funding Obamacare
and covering illegal aliens' health care
stolen from victims of Iranian
terrorism by plundering escrow accounts protected by law while handing over
$1.7 billion in untraceable European currency and planeloads of American
cash, releasing twenty-one Iranian convicts, and shutting down a
decade-long DEA operation against Hezb'allah's double-whammy assault of
smuggling cocaine into the U.S. and financing terrorism against us, all
for the glory of an "Iran deal"
spied on reporters while putting a
record number of their sources in jail
used the IRS as his personal gang
of thugs to target conservatives before the 2012 election
allowed a 9-11 anniversary
terrorist attack to unfold without sending reinforcements while falsely
blaming the four resulting American deaths on a YouTube video and American
sent an untold number of American
veterans to early deaths through widespread negligence and corruption at
protected his attorney general who
lied to lawmakers on the president's behalf so persistently that Democrats
joined Republicans to make him the first A.G. to be held in contempt of
protected his CIA director, who
spied on lawmakers and lied about it
protected his director of National
Intelligence, who illegally spied on all Americans and lied about it
protected his heir apparent, who
used an illegal and compromised email server and lied about it
promoted his U.N. ambassador to
national security adviser for unashamedly circuiting Sunday-morning talk
shows and peddling demonstrable lies to the American public
and all of this while betraying his
oath of office by vigorously attacking Americans' constitutionally
protected free speech, religion, and right to bear arms; squeezing
colleges and private companies to submit to his socialist vision; and
punishing his ideological foes by using a corrupt Justice Department and
FBI to hunt his enemies
If President Trump had done all this and everything else Obama
pulled off, well, then the American media might finally see how luminous the
federal government's corruption over these many years truly has
been. Instead, not only have they rebuffed Obama's critics as mere
racists, but they flood their editorials and airwaves with the commentary of
the very actors who took part in his crimes. Never before have we
seen intelligence chiefs and justice department officials so quickly run to
television studios to demean themselves as propagandists intent on protecting
the last president by taking down the current one.
For those of us not seduced by pretty words and skillful
theatrics, the Obama years were a cesspool of corruption that brought back the
stench of the Clinton years in a fashionable new package. Obama ignored court orders and
congressional oversight, protected his friends from criminal prosecutions, and
stirred up racial tensions by creating unnecessary controversies and playing
whites and blacks against each other for electoral gain. He entered the White House as one of our
poorest presidents, and he will die as one of the richest ex-presidents. Whereas the Clintons found fortune
through their charity, Obama
has found fortune by greatly benefiting in his post-presidency from companies
who coincidentally benefited greatly during his time as president. Wherever he goes, he picks up
checks, including a staggering sixty-five-million-dollar book deal advance from
Penguin Random House, a publishing house taken over in 2013 by Bertelsmann, a
privately held German company; one of the world's largest media conglomerates;
and the parent of Bertelsmann Investments, an international network of private
banking funds in the services and natural resources industries, including those
in Iran. The "most transparent president in history" has
now become the "most transparent billionaire in history," adding to
his vast wealth in ways the public can only imagine.
So, for the preening junior senator from Utah who manages to be on
the wrong side of every issue, the formerly esteemed conservative pundits who
now push Bernie Sanders's communism on the United States, and all the news
personalities who pretend to have original thoughts by repeating endlessly what
the Democratic Party has written for them, if you are dense enough to
misinterpret the unprecedented coup against the sitting president instead as
crimes worthy of his repeated condemnation and impeachment, it is way past time
to sit down, open your mind, and begin learning about the presidency of one
Barack Obama. It will be a lot to take in; it certainly was for
those of us who endured it.