Rahm Emanuel and Bill Clinton

Chicago’s violence tied to policies of Rahm’s past

After 45 Chicagoans were shot over Easter weekend, including six children, Mayor Emanuel made another angry speech, talking about values and responsibility. But he shares a portion of responsibility, too — particularly for his role pushing through a series of policies in the 1990s that have devastated the communities now plagued by violence. As detailed in Kari Lydersen’s book, Mayor 1%, Emanuel was chief arm-twister in ramming the North American Free Trade Act through a very reluctant Congress in 1993. (It passed although a majority of Democrats opposed it.) NAFTA was supposed to bring back manufacturing jobs, but it didn’t: within ten years it had caused the loss of an estimated 1 million U.S. jobs. Chicago had been losing the kind of manufacturing jobs that supported black working-class neighborhoods since the 1970s, but NAFTA didn’t help: between 2000 and 2010, Cook County lost 90,000 manufacturing jobs — more than any county in the nation except Los Angeles. Today, thanks in part to a free-trade regime championed by Emanuel, which values corporate profits over communities, there is massive unemployment.

Closings point up the dangers of geography

Lametrios West has made a point to separate himself from the trouble around him. Despite heavy rain and steady cracks of lightning, the 14-year-old Kershaw Elementary School student made his way on a recent afternoon to the nearby Teamwork Englewood, a community organization whose after-school programs draw boys and girls from the surrounding area. Here, he holes up to “get out of the neighborhood.”