The New York State Assembly’s Republican conference recently held another panel on how to stop the ‘brain drain’ as part of its “RemaiNY” initiative. This time, the events were held on Long Island, but previous forums were held in Upstate, which would seem more appropriate given the exodus of recent college grads from Upstate’s communities. In any case, over the past twenty years much has been made of the so-called ‘brain drain’.
But the issue always seems to be framed as if it were the responsibility of Upstate NY’s communities to adapt themselves to the needs of the young, ambitious and college-educated, when perhaps it should be the other way around. I look at everything that Upstate New York has to offer: a moderate climate, some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, an extremely low cost of living, and some of the nations’ oldest and richest historical communities. I then have to wonder what it is exactly that the people leaving in droves are hoping to find.
Well you can get your answer by looking at the places these people are leaving for, i.e. New York City, Boston and Chicago metro regions. What do these places have that we don’t, besides heavy suburban sprawl, traffic-choked highways and gentrifying (read: unaffordable) inner city neighborhoods? Well, contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s not a lack of jobs that drives these people away from Upper New York, it’s a lack of jobs that pay a ton of money to fuel an obsession with status and material acquisition that has become the standard of the American way of life.
A person can easily live in a city like Amsterdam or Utica on minimum wage (maybe with a little help in the form of food stamps, WIC and Medicaid). But what, that’s not good enough?
That these people don’t want to live in MY Upstate NY is not something I consider a problem and I don’t believe that we should waste one second thinking about how to keep these people in this state. Let them go off and join their rat race. Good riddance!