Commentary: Chicago Chaos – A Warning for America?

Commentary by Steve Cortes originally published by RealClearPolitics.com

A crime spree unfolded recently in Chicago that evoked a scene from “The Godfather.” In one of the more memorable moments in movie history, the Corleone family leaves a severed horse’s head in the bed of the fictitious movie mogul Jack Woltz as a sign of their power. Earlier this month in the Windy City, thieves broke into two northside stores and stole cash registers. They emptied the contents and then dumped the empty registers on the front lawn of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s private home in Chicago’s swankiest neighborhood.

Then, after depositing their discarded plunder at the governor’s abode as a show of criminal panache and disrespect, they proceeded to the high-end shopping district of Michigan Avenue where they robbed the Burberry luxury goods store … for a second time in three days. Police report that they stole over $100,000 in goods on the first Burberry break-in.

Such a sequence of events conveys a grim and foreboding reality for Chicago, and the country writ large. In Chicago, the bad guys are essentially in charge — and they know it. They did not fear the consequences of dumping their burgled garbage at the home of the man who ostensibly runs a state in America. En route, mind you, to their next act of grand larceny. But other Americans should not assume immunity to the problems of Chicago, because the Democrats and the American left of the 2020s eagerly seek to inflict Chicago-style policies on our country broadly.

That incident at Prtizker’s home kicked off a startling streak of terrible news for Chicago, even by the very low standards of a city that frequently devolves into chaos.

Consider, for example, that Chicago saw six children shot this past Tuesday in just a matter of hours. The violence commenced with the afternoon murder of a 15-year-old high school freshman, Caleb Westbrook, who was killed in broad daylight as he walked home from school on Chicago’s west side. The ages of the victims shocked even a city very accustomed to war-like street violence. Chicago “won” the dubious title of America’s deadliest city in 2021, with almost 800 total murders, the most in over 25 years. The death toll could have been higher but for expert emergency room skills in Chicago hospitals, because over 3,500 people were shot in Chicago in 2021. Local health care workers have become so proficient at treating gunshot wounds that the U.S. military sent medical staffers to Second City hospitals to train before deployment to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Part of the explanation for the street violence lies in a totally broken public school system that works well for the Chicago Teachers Union but miserably fails the children of the city, most of them black and brown children without alternative options to the government schools monopoly. How bad it that systemic failure? Well, according to a 2019 University of Illinois study, a shocking 45% of young black men ages 20-24 in Chicago are neither in school nor employed. Adding to the city’s woes in 2022, public school students missed the first five days of classes this month thanks to yet another teachers strike, this one supposedly concerning virus safety, even though area private and Catholic schools proved they could operate safely and in-person even before the availability of vaccines.

Because of the ongoing and systemic failures of Chicago policymakers and elected officials, the city increasingly resembles a Third World enclave on many levels, including a massive disparity between the credentialed elites who live near the lakeshore and the impoverished masses in the outlying neighborhoods. According to the New York University School of Medicine, those living in the luxury high-rises of Streeterville can expect to live, on average, to 90 years old. But just 9 miles away in largely black and poor Englewood, life expectancy is only 60 years.

America should not look away from these grim realities in the heartland of our nation. Chicago has historically been the grand city of middle America, but its descent into chaos must serve as a grave warning to the rest of the country. The kinds of policies pursued by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Democratic machine reflect the radical agenda of the Biden administration for the entire country. The United States must heed the harsh lessons of Chicago’s carnage and choose entirely different policies for our country.

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Steve Cortes is a former adviser to President Trump.