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Politicians worry about votes, not inner city problems


"Now we're gonna get a healing process, huh?" said Slats Grobnik. "That sounds nice, but I don't know what it means. Are they going to hand out free Band-Aids in L.A.?"

I believe it means that we, as a society, must begin addressing the root causes of civil disorder: unemployment, lack of opportunity, inadequate education, a sense of hopelessness among young minority members.

"Uh-huh. And who's gonna do this? I mean, I'm kind of strapped for time myself."

It will have to begin at the top levels of leadership. The president and Congress.

"What are they gonna do, make programs?"

Yes, I would assume they will take a harder look at the need for better urban schools, the creation of jobs, bringing those who are alienated into the mainstream of American life.

"George Bush is gonna do that?"

Well, he is the president, and as Harry Truman always said, the buck stops here.

"Forget it. You know who elected George Bush president. The suburbs did, not the city neighborhoods where you get riots. And Bush ain't gonna start shoving a lot of money into the cities that the suburbanites think is coming out of their pockets."

Possibly. But Congress is controlled by the Democrats, and they might be more inclined to look favorably on measures that would improve urban life.

"You can forget that, too. Most congressmen are terrified that they're going to get booted out of office for kiting checks or just being around too long. So except for the congressmen from the tough city neighborhoods, most of them are going to be careful about how they spend the money of the people who voted them in."

Believe me, they will come up with programs. They have to.

"Then what?"

Then we will begin seeing changes, improvement in the quality of urban life. A halt to the decay of the inner cities.

"Sez who? Show me a program that's gonna suddenly make young guys stop dealing drugs and put them to work as bank clerks. Or programs that'll keep teen-age girls from getting pregnant and having kids when they should be studying geometry. What kind of program is going to make guys stay home and raise their families instead of taking off for points unknown? And how you gonna keep those kids from dropping out of school and starting the whole thing over again?"

Well, obviously there won't be any overnight, miraculous cures for these problems.

"That's for sure. How long ago did we start getting riots? In the 1960s. And everybody said, hey, we got to start dealing with all these problems. Look it up. They were saying the same things back then that they're saying now. So now the students get dumber, the families are even more screwed up, and all that's changed is there's more dope out there and everybody has got better guns and are more willing to use them. And you know why?"

If you know, share your wisdom.

"Because the politicians in Washington listen to the

wrong people. They listen to the bureaucrats, the con men political leaders, the knee-jerk, bleeding-heart social workers."

And who should they be listening to?

"They ought to listen to the parents whose kids didn't get screwed up and ask them how they did it. They ought to listen to the ones who didn't join gangs or peddle drugs or heist cars and got jobs and made something of themselves and ask them how they did it. For starters, they got to let the parents decide where their kids go to school. Why should some decent kid have to worry about getting shot by gangbangers in the hallways? Let 'em go to a school with other decent kids."

The education lobby doesn't like that freedom-of-choice talk.

"To hell with the education lobby. They're all living out in the burbs, sending their kids to the schools of their choice, so who are they to say what somebody else should be doing?"

Yes, but that doesn't solve the immediate problem of jobs. The riot has killed 14,000 jobs in L.A. Chicago's West Side is still an economic wasteland as a result of the 1968 riots. How do you create jobs?

"I'll tell you how. Businesses are in business to make money. So you tell a company, build a plant on the West Side and hire local people and we'll give you the land free and you won't have to pay real estate taxes or payroll taxes or any other taxes for 10 years. Or 20 years. Or never. That'll look good on your bottom line. What's the difference? The vacant lot isn't doing nothing for the economy anyway."

You make it sound simple. But those who have the responsibility, our political leaders, know that it is far more complex than that. There are many other factors that must be considered.

"Yeah, like counting the votes."

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