FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Leadership Crisis

by Ralph Nader

 

President Bush is putting a big stake in the newly formed Office of Homeland Security under the leadership of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. The rationale behind the formation of the office is a belief that the coordination of the disparate agencies with responsibility for security will provide the nation with a more effective and focused net of protections in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

If the president sees coordination as a means of focusing attention and action on security problems, he should take a hard look at some domestic programs — particularly those that have an effect on inner-city neighborhoods and low- and moderate-income families. Millions of citizens continue to fall through holes in underfunded safety nets administered by a multitude of departments and agencies scattered across the federal landscape. Each agency manages to manufacture glowing reports of their accomplishments, but no single official or department has the authority or standing to pull together scattered efforts and mobilize funding and public opinion behind efforts to rebuild our inner-city neighborhoods.

As a result, efforts to develop inner cities continue to lag far behind. The Clinton administration was long on rhetoric but short on developing a coherent urban policy that would have focused long-term congressional and broad public concern about the needs of low-, moderate-income and minority neighborhoods.

Housing is a good example of the federal government’s uncoordinated approach to the problems of the poor. The nation is 5 million to 6 million units short of needed units of affordable housing, and millions of existing units are dilapidated and in need of major repair.

In the organizational manual, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is listed as the lead agency on housing, but in reality what housing gets built and where is largely under the control of two heavily subsidized government sponsored corporations — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — whose political power has made them virtually untouchable.

The coordination between HUD and these corporations is tenuous. The sad condition of many of our inner-city neighborhoods suggests just how well this coordination is working.

Nearly 20 percent of the nation’s children live in poverty, most of them in inner-city neighborhoods and depressed rural areas. By adding the children in the “near poverty” category (below 200 percent of the poverty line), the figure rises to 43 percent, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. The current rate of child poverty is higher than in 1979 and is two to six times higher than in most other major Western nations. For African Americans, the child poverty rate is 33 percent and for Latinos, 30 percent.

High rates of infant mortality remain a sad part of inner cities. Black mortality rates are nearly 15 for every 1,000 live births, nearly twice the average for the rest of the population.

The Department of Labor and the Health and Human Services Department have statutory responsibilities for programs that bear on the health, welfare and job opportunities of inner-city residents. How could these programs and authorities be integrated in a coordinated assault on the ills that plague many low- and moderate-income neighborhoods?

While the nation is focusing on homeland security — is anyone really concentrating on what the growing economic downturns will mean to working families, the already poor and the near poor? No one wants to reduce security to a “hit or miss” approach.

But, unless there is an immediate effort to repair and coordinate the safety nets, it is going to be just that kind of chancy life for the millions who lose jobs.

A time-bomb is ticking on President Clinton’s 1996 welfare bill, which set a five-year life- time limit on continued welfare payments to needy families. Food stamps and unemployment compensation cover only part of the growing number of the needy as jobs are lost.

The Bush administration and the Congress have demonstrated that they can move fast in an emergency. It is an open secret that some of the speed has been generated by an overanxious desire to take care of corporate interests and wealthy taxpayers while the public is preoccupied with war in Afghanistan and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Now let’s see if they can get their act together to launch and coordinate government resources in a new effort to rectify an old problem — the neglect of inner-city neighborhoods and low- and moderate-income and minority citizens who populate many of these communities.

The president has made an appeal for pulling together all the government apparatus in a coordinated effort to strengthen security. True security rests with the people. The president should recognize that by assuring no one is left behind, including those who have long suffered the neglect of many inner-city neighborhoods. The nation will be stronger and more secure for it.

But as the recent lead headline in the Torrington (Conn.) Register-Citizen emblazoned — “It’s Very Scary — No Food For the Poor.” The nature of our national leadership’s priorities remains seriously imbalanced.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and former presidential candidate. Readers may write to him at: Congressional Accountability Project, P.O. Box 1446, Washington, D.C. 20036.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and Henry the First: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail