On a winter day in 2013, Barack Obama flew home to Chicago and tried to channel Jack Kemp.
As the Democratic Party and the Main Stream Media do his bidding, focusing their coverage on the “gun violence” of America’s cities, Obama attempts to ride this manufactured PR wave with a new political issue as his snowboard, the establishment of Promise Zones.
The idea is to take the worst neighborhoods – the cities most in need of help – and revive them with a public-private partnership of new businesses and more – much more – government assistance. The plan is to use government largesse to drive mini-recoveries in the cities, providing tax credits for new businesses to move in, and more federally funded pre-K schooling, mandated increases in the minimum wage, and focused job training for the jobs he dreams might someday appear in their midst. Surely such a program will save these troubled neighborhoods, right?
Surely these gang recruiters wouldn’t have been successful in attracting children to their gang lifestyle of drugs and luxury cars, gold jewelry and cool clothes, if only the kids had been introduced to “See Spot Run” and “Meet Dick and Jane” at four instead of at five. That year of pre-school simply must make all the difference…
The Promise Zones
Obama has committed to make Promise Zones his issue of the month, a new and innovative opportunity to “show the communities what government can do for them.” He said in his State of the Union address that we “don’t need bigger government, just smarter government.” He said that only a new government focus on the cities, a recognition of the areas in the most need, followed by a showering of benefits upon them, is the solution to the problems of our time.
He apparently believes – or at least, he desperately hopes that the public believes – that the problem with our cities is that they have been abandoned by government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Abandoned by Government?
America’s inner cities, in truth, are already wonderful, brimming laboratories of government activity. The larger the city, the bigger a role our government has played. Whether one looks at New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, or the next tier of Detroit, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee, the big cities of these United States have already been the recipients of every progressive scheme ever imagined by the nannies of the Left.
The government has helped foster single motherhood, by paying just enough bills for unwed mothers that they don’t need a husband and father to support them and their children. Welfare checks, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Food Stamps and WIC – all these and many more, for generations, have made Big Government the breadwinner for millions of children. Has that helped them? Do they need even more such assistance to be really happy?
But the government can’t be accused of picking sides; the government has also helped discourage motherhood, through the aggressive distribution of publicly funded birth control before pregnancy, and enabling and funding abortion “services” during. Government offices from the welfare bureau to the congressman’s neighborhood service center, from the public school nurse’s office to the abortuary down the street, have made the discouragement and/or destruction of pregnancy their highest goal. So, even as we see half the children born to unwed mothers, we also see our population drop, as over fifty million children have been killed before birth since the issuance of Roe V. Wade.
Our dysfunctional government at work. It just doesn’t quite know what it wants.
Government Programs from Cradle to Grave
How shall people live? Where shall they be sheltered from the elements, in cities that cook in the summer and freeze in the winter, like the aforementioned Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia? The government built them apartment buildings to live in, with heat and running water and even air conditioning, then arranged subsidies not only for the rent but for the water and the gas and the electricity as well. How generous. The government has taken full control of the housing needs of our cities already. How have their government-designed, government-built, government-managed ghettoes worked out for them?
How will they learn? How will the residents of these blighted swamps learn the skills needed to survive, much less thrive, in a forward-moving technological age? Has the private sector failed to educate these children? Hardly. The government took over the responsibility for education a century ago, offering taxpayer-funded “free” schooling all the way through high school, to crowd out the non-government schools of the churches, synagogues, and charity communities. Such schools still exist, and they do a fine job, but they educate a tiny percentage of the youth in question.
It’s the government that runs the schools in our cities, from kindergarten through high school, and in many states, even through college, as the last generation’s expansions of taxpayer-funded junior colleges helped A.A. pursuits to soar. And how have these been doing, under the care and guidance of the loving jackboot of the government? The dropout rates are skyrocketing; teachers and students alike fear for their lives… and those who do make it to graduation are often still illiterate after a dozen years of elementary and high school government-run “education.” The only people who are satisfied with these schools are the gangs who use them as 24/7 recruitment fairs.
How do people move; how do they get around, living in the congested cities? There too, the government is in control. As the cities have grown ever more crowded, the automobile is more and more the vehicular choice of the suburbanite; there’s little room or money for garage or parking lot space in the cities, and automobile insurance for drivers with city zip codes is understandably unaffordable.
But worry not, friends, your government is there for you too! They price taxicabs out of reach with their six-figure licensing rates, but the taxpayers subsidize a marvelous network of buses and trolleys, and elevated and subway trains, all of which will happily take you wherever the government wants you to go. It may not be where you want to go, but hey, what do you want for free… or, well, almost free?
Actually, of course, these public transit programs cost an incredible amount, always several times more than promised by their supporters. Buses at least are flexible; if a mall closes or an employer goes bankrupt, you can put the bus in another route with more demand. But trains, once built, are there forever, running past closed stations built to serve factories that were shuttered generations ago. Our commuter trains are seen too often carrying the unemployed to visit the unemployable, traveling through blocks or even miles of urban blight, endangering their patrons as each station, and sometimes even the train cars themselves, become havens for everything from muggings and drug deals to rape and murder…
…which brings us to security. In the suburbs and the millions of square miles of rural America, police are handy enough to take a police report after an incident, dedicated enough to investigate the crime and hopefully apprehend the criminal. The police patrol to the extent that their numbers allow, but nobody would be foolish enough to presume that a policeman ten miles away could respond in time to a rancher’s or farmer’s report of a robbery or assault in progress. The rural resident is armed, and criminals know it, so crime is rare. The cities, by contrast, imagine that a policeman a mile away can respond to a call from a third floor apartment faster than the criminal can escape through the alley, so they forbid the residents from arming themselves. And as a result, there are twice as many killings a year in Chicago alone than in the rest of the entire state of Illinois put together.
Oh, yes indeed, the cities have quite enough government, thank you. They don’t need any more, and the rest of certainly can’t afford to give them any more.
Now, this isn’t to say that we should give up on the cities. No indeed, we do need to help them. The big cities, having been plagued for so long with so much destruction at the hands of government, do need help.
Real Solutions for Real Problems
Rather than dragging them down even further with the destructive programs run by city, county, state, and national governments, let’s commit to helping our urban pools of despair to fix their own problems by removing the impediments with which these many government bodies have weighed them down for so long.
Let’s have meaningful sentencing for crimes, so that when police risk their lives to catch a criminal, we don’t release them the next month to terrorize their communities again.
Let’s cut corporate taxes – all corporate taxes – so that new businesses can spring up everywhere; if we first address the crime problem, worry not, many of the new businesses will indeed pop up where the people are.
Let’s return to the welfare reforms of the 1990s – measures that actually worked until the Obama administration gutted them. Let’s redesign our safety nets so that work is rewarded and single motherhood is discouraged.
And let’s reduce the outlandish and destructive regulatory burdens, from EPA to F&W, from Energy to OSHA, that have driven manufacturing out of our cities over the past generation or so. Along with crime control, this relief from the constriction of red tape is the most important piece of the puzzle.
Barack Obama says he wants to save our cities; he attempts to become the new Jack Kemp by dressing up the Enterprise Zones of a generation ago with the new clothing of a Promise Zone. He should leave such ideas to the late Jack Kemp; at least the late secretary and congressman was a real economist, not a sham law lecturer and community organizer who had a couple of memoirs ghostwritten, and read well enough off a teleprompter to get himself elected.
The solution to the urban blight and societal decay that permeates the American big city is a simple one to diagnose, maybe even a simple one to cure, if the political class had the will:
The cancer that sickens and weakens our cities is called Government. And just like any cancer, the cure is to shrink it, to weaken it, or quickest of all, to cut it out.
Copyright 2013 John F. Di LeoJohn F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and trade compliance lecturer. A former Republican party activist in Chicagoland and southeast Wisconsin, he has managed campaigns and served on various civic groups, including a term as Milwaukee County Republican Party Chairman before moving back to Illinois. He has now been a recovering politician for over fifteen years, but like any addiction, you’re never fully cured.