Urban progressives’ treatment plans for their self-inflicted wounds are always some toxic combination of too simplistic and too roundabout.
Over the past two years, both Walmart (four of eight) and Whole Foods (two of four) have closed half their Chicago locations.
The retailers released boilerplate, euphemistic statements to explain their choices.
“We know the community will have questions about why we are closing these locations,” acknowledged the former.
“The simplest explanation is that collectively our Chicago stores have not been profitable since we opened the first one nearly 17 years ago — these stores lose tens of millions of dollars a year, and their annual losses nearly doubled in just the last five years.”
“As we continue to position Whole Foods Market for long-term success, we regularly evaluate the performance and growth potential of each of our stores,” stated the latter before lamenting its “difficult decision” to shutter its shops.
One can sympathize with the corporate flacks tasked with constructing these statements, constrained as they are by the risks of being excoriated for either making a soulless, numbers-driven business decision or victim-blaming.
But the fact remains they have taken pains to avoid naming the specific problems that have made it near-impossible to run a profitable business in the areas where the stores have closed down.
The most obvious one being: Rampant crime both inside and around those locations renders their continued operation a costly risk with a practically unrealizable upside.
One can’t fault these stores for avoiding the ridiculous political maelstrom that would no doubt engulf them were they to plainly state this truth; after all, the Windy City’s own voters and mayor themselves flatly refuse to acknowledge reality.
In any case, these closures do make life harder for already-disadvantaged residents, forcing them to travel further for food and other necessities.
Crime can so often be best understood as a regressive tax on the poor.
Enter Brandon Johnson, the aforementioned far-left mayor who all but campaigned on ensuring Chicago’s continued decline.
Naturally, his proposed solution eschews addressing the root causes of Chicago’s food deserts for trying his hand as a grocer.
“We know access to grocery stores is already a challenge for many residents, especially on the South and West sides,” acknowledged Johnson in a statement before insisting his administration would pursue “innovative, whole-of-government approaches to address these inequities.”
“I am proud to work alongside partners to take this step in envisioning what a municipally owned grocery store in Chicago could look like,” he continued.
One has to almost respect the sheer hubris of it all.
Chicago’s municipal bonds are off in a junkyard rather than in anyone’s portfolio, crime and disorder are rampant, and the city is in considerable debt.
In fact, one recent ranking analyzing 149 major American cities’ operating efficiency, comparing their budgets to the quality of services they provide, put Chicago in the 138th slot.
Breaking down its performance in more disparate areas, Chicago ranked 129th for its economy and dead last — 149 out of 149 — in financial stability.
If you suspect a government-run grocery-store chain in the Windy City might not thrive, that’s probably only because you have eyes to see and ears to hear.
When you’re straining to walk and chew gum at the same time, it’s inadvisable to try to add juggling to the mix.
What’s ultimately to blame for this doomed, “innovative” (Google the Soviet Union, Brandon!), whole-of-bad-government approach besides terrible economic theory is an unwillingness to confront the anchors tied around a great American city’s ankles.
No retailer would flee the dense, customer-heavy communities they’re vacating if those communities were healthy.
Johnson and his ilk have it backwards — it’s the lawlessness that’s the cause of the food deserts, not the other way around.
Until he — or more plausibly his constituents — come to grips with this truth, Chicago’s other half will have to settle for preposterously insufficient Band-Aids.
Isaac Schorr is a staff writer at Mediaite.