Monday, September 13, 2010

Paved With Intentions

Census figures for 2009, to be released Thursday, are expected to show that the poverty rate soared last year to nearly 15 percent. One out of every seven Americans is now living below the official poverty level, the highest proportion since the 1960s. One in five American children is living in poverty.

The Associated Press reported the sharp rise in the poverty rate after interviewing six demographers who have been tracking the preliminary census figures, and finding “wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.”

That rate would indicate that some 45 million people were living below the official poverty line in 2009. The official poverty level, an annual income of $22,000 for a family of four, grossly understates the income required for a decent life. The real number of people living in actual economic distress is much higher, probably over 100 million.

The rise in the poverty rate from 13.2 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2009 is the largest year-on-year increase since the US government began collecting such statistics in 1959. The previous largest increase came in 1980, a year of double-digit inflation.

Conditions in the poorest large city in America, Detroit, give a glimpse of the future for wide layers of the working class. Several thousand people lined up at a west side Detroit church Saturday to get free bags of groceries and school supplies. Parents with small children, retirees and low-income workers starting lining up at 8 a.m. for the event that started at 11 a.m., and the queue circled around the city block.

----- Fact is, the US poverty rates from 1959-2006 have ranged between 12-22%, and went just over 15% in 1995. The 22% was 1959. Gotta wonder if the statisticians adjusted how they defined poverty or if the federally funded "war on poverty" was a tremendous success.

As for Detroit, we know what went on there (white flight) and what is going on now. Detroit is today 82% black, 12% white, the remainder "other." It also boasts a family household statistic of 74% "female, no husband present." You can find similar poverty stats for cities like Milwaukee and Cincinnati. That 74% is approximately the same illegitimate birthrate for black America (okay, out-of-wedlock if you insist).

In 1995 Detroit's unemployment rates were also double the national average. That was just after Detroit's first black mayor, 5-term Coleman Young, finally retired.

Many of Detroit's problems could be laid to rest at the feet of "progressive dissident" Coleman Young, power broker, and mayor from 1973-1994. Maybe Young did some good things for Detroit, I try to find the fruit of the tree. He did add more black cops.

He eliminated STRESS (Stop the Robberies and Enjoy Safe Streets), a unit of white cops accused of violent racism against black youth. Although Detroit is still notorious for excessive force. It's just now it's more likely black cops killing blacks so ...

Young was accused of taking kickbacks but was a fierce and often successful advocate for federal pork projects. Many felt he was the mayor of black Detroit, not white Detroit. Young blamed Detroit's postwar (WWII) decline on white racism and claimed his strident black rhetoric did not interfere with his call for racial unity.

By 1976 though the social activist turned mayor Coleman was described by The Workers Advocate as a "... lackey of monopoly capital."

Many whites felt Young hated whites and did whatever he could to screw them over. And sometimes he probably did - but - I think Young was a man on that famous road of good intentions; he just carried too much racial baggage for too long, alienated too many who could have been allies, and felt blacks were owed a debt, and in that I think he set the tone and policies for much of what turned Detroit into a toilet. Dennis Archer, Detroit's second black mayor and Clinton friend, couldn't seem to turn the city around after 2 terms in office, if he even bothered to try. And then came Kwame.

Some believe Young did not marshal his political energy in constructive ways, some believe he was misunderstood. Jimmy Carter called Young "one of the greatest mayors our country has known." In his biography Young spoke openly of his disdain for "pansy ass liberals", Walter Ruether, the white suburban media, the FBI, and the federal government as a whole. Carter would have been a pansy - but Carter promised Coleman a lot of CETA (Comprehensive Employment Training Act) funds and he backed Carter's campaign.

My opinion - Detroit will turn itself around when the people turn themselves around. Ain't nobody and no federally funded program going to do it for you. Ditto for other failed towns and cities. And you might want to do it soon folks because you're losing you base of sympathizers.

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