On Clinton, Obama, Trump and the Failures of Liberal Urban Policy - comments On Clinton, Obama, Trump and the Failures of Liberal Urban Policy 2016-11-22T16:53:59Z https://www.metropolitiques.eu/On-Clinton-Obama-Trump-and-the.html#comment692 2016-11-22T16:53:59Z <p>Reposted on behalf of Susan Greenbaum by metropolitics</p> <p>On “On Clinton, Obama, Trump and the Failures of Liberal Urban Policy”<br class="autobr" /> Susan D. Greenbaum ; Professor Emerita of Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa<br class="autobr" /> Blaming the Poor 2015 <a href="http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/pro.." class="spip_url spip_out auto" rel="nofollow external">http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/pro..</a>.</p> <p>I am in complete agreement with Prof. De Filippis' assessment of flaws in the past two decades of urban policy, more than half of which occurred during Democratic administrations. He provides a lucid overview of misconceptions, mistakes, and painful lost opportunity that the past 8 years represent. He stresses continuity with both Bush II and Clinton, making it a far longer slog than just Obama's run. I would add Bush I, under whose administration the slow motion destruction of public housing was unleashed in earnest.<br class="autobr" /> I have been involved with problems of urban neighborhoods, poverty, and racism since the mid-1970s. I remember Carter's anemic but mostly sincere policies. Back then I served as a federally funded liaison between City government and dozens of neighborhood organizations in Kansas City, Kansas, where we scored some real, albeit puny, accomplishments. That experience deepened my faith in democracy, equality, and collective problem solving ; but it also revealed the corrosive power of corruption and racism. I wrote my PhD dissertation based on that work. In more than 30 years as a professor in Tampa, Florida I have watched the changes that have occurred. My research team studied public housing communities, the effects of their dislocation by the HOPE VI program, and then the 2008 foreclosure crisis, in a place that was nearly ground zero. Over the years, my students, colleagues, and I have been heavily involved in anti-poverty work, including efforts at criminal justice reform.<br class="autobr" /> That said, I would like to amplify two of DeFilippis' main points — lack of community organizing, and consigning poverty alleviation efforts to private non-profits.<br class="autobr" /> Obama declined to mobilize his millions of supporters into a political and social force that could have fought evictions, fashioned new types of cooperative enterprises, and galvanized electoral power to install mayors, councils, school boards, and state offices with the kind of politicians that we hoped he would be. I literally wept when he appointed Rahm Emanuel, his arch-neoliberal chief of staff who called progressive Democrats ‘f---ing retards.' Recall the Community Action Program of the mid-60s, designed to effect grass roots democracy and awaken local groups and individuals whose energy and native understanding could fortify our fragile social contract. These organized grass roots demands, however legitimate, produced organized resistance by local politicians, who managed to kill the program and defeat the originators. Mobilizing grass roots engagement was threatening to the status quo. Detractors complained (with a slight degree of accuracy) that street gangs were benefiting from the program, especially in Chicago. Obama and his aides surely knew this story well. So, how can we overcome this asymmetry of power ? Perhaps by more strategic community organizing, and forging alliances with sectors whose interests will not be served by more austerity and greed based policies, as can be expected from Trump.<br class="autobr" /> My second point, which is related, has to do with the reigning philosophy in most of the non-profits that receive () ⃛funding for community based programs, like those sponsored by Obama's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. With few exceptions they view their role as rehabilitating the benighted poor and rescuing their endangered children. There is scant attempt to organize and rarely any serious willingness to listen to their ideas. Anger management, dress for success, resume writing, parenting classes, marriage promotion seminars, life skills training and a host of similar offerings are intended to help poor people eliminate their shortcomings, polish their brands, and find pathways to individual success. One of the major charities in Tampa adopted the motto : “saving families, one at a time.” Line up and wait your turn to get saved. Only a few actually succeed, but enough to provide inspiring stories told at fundraising events over rubber chicken lunch. The many who drop out or fail to meet their goals simply demonstrate how hard it is to reach and help ‘these people.'<br class="autobr" /> For many years I have been involved with Tampa's poorest census tract, where a large number of HOPE VI families were relocated in 2000. The poverty rate was over 40% then, and now exceeds 60%. An embattled white working class neighborhood in the 1960s, it was about half white in 2000, and is still about one quarter white. It was also the tract with the largest number of foreclosed rental properties in 2008, where tenants got evicted even if their rent had just been paid. Added to those afflictions, the youth of the neighborhood have been constantly harassed by police and ticketed or arrested for trivial, sometimes falsified, infractions. About ten years ago, a coalition of non-profits (both national and local) adopted this neighborhood, based in part on the fundability of its wretched statistics. Instead of addressing the problems just outlined – over policing, hostility from older white residents, housing instability, and grinding poverty – the agencies and non-profits instead focused on correcting dietary habits and presumed deficiencies in child-rearing. Their interactions have been distant and condescending, and at bottom they are afraid of the people they are there to serve. They have been hostile to ideas like forging equal partnerships, collective efficacy, defending civil rights, and bringing residents squarely into the decision-making process. I was disinvited from a child care task force after suggesting that, rather than anger management classes, we should work to ease the conditions that produce the anger. I later heard that I was not considered a ‘team player.' The residents haven't been very good team players either. For the most part, they have shown little interest in the programs that are offered, viewed as further evidence that they are not capable of taking advantage of what the non-profits believe are valuable services.<br class="autobr" /> My experiences with this struggle led me to explore the roots of poverty shaming, which go fairly deep in human history. The racialized version that has captivated both liberals and conservatives, however, is more recent. I wrote a book about this, focusing on the 50th anniversary of the so-called Moynihan Report [https://www.rutgersuniversitypress....]. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the much venerated and hugely over-rated public intellectual who died in 2003, ignited his career as author of a Labor Dept. report in 1965, titled The Negro Family : The Case for National Action. This should have been an obscure draft document (it had not been vetted yet), but he leaked it to the press in the moment following the Watts uprising, giving a loud megaphone to his belief that black poverty and rage result in large measure from bad parenting by single mothers – a ‘tangle of pathology' that wends across generations. It is this supposedly sympathetic thesis, still embraced by both the right and center left, that encourages politicians, philanthropists, social services staff, and well-meaning volunteers to believe that all the poor really need is correction and discipline. As the general rise in single parenting continues to chart an inverse trajectory with falling wages, this belief has broadened to include other ‘races,' but the underlying fallacy about parents' lack of personal responsibility continues to distort policies and thinking, including the soon to be missed President Obama.<br class="autobr" /> Both our politics and our cities would be better off if we instead returned to ideas and projects based on collective action and broad political engagement, like those that animated the Community Action Program. We really are better together ; better for respecting each other, and joining across lines of class and ethnicity to combat the disingenuous and disastrous neoliberal policies and ideas that have brought us to this unprecedented level of inequality and unfairness.</p>