Reader comment on: Government Saves the South Bronx
Submitted by Michael Powell (United States), Jul 26, 2011 12:11
You posit an intriguing and foolish standard. Because an argument has been stated before (And Bobby Worth's fine effort was one of many) it should not be mentioned again? As surely you are aware, the Republican insistence that Government is not the solution but the problem (to borrow and shorten Reagan's old maxim) is taken as unchallenged truth these days. I'd guess that you agree with much of that.
In this case, there's an intriguing counter-narrative right under our collective noses, and that story becomes more impressive by the day. Sprouts have become oaks in the Bronx. As I note in my column, Bloomberg by the time he is finished, will have created 165,000 apartments for half a million people. All of that has transpired after Bobby W wrote his piece in Washington Monthly more than a decade back.
As to government's role in the decline of the Bronx, I agree with much although by no means all of what you say. You elide far too quickly the larger deindustrialization of America. Those who point to rent regulations as the source of all evil might also want to walk through a dozen American cities (try Memphis, Atlanta, Akron ... where regulations had no role and the misery is great. But, yes, government made many mistakes, not the least in creating dense and tightly packed pockets of poverty.
You're surely aware that there is but so much one can stuff into a 750 word column. More to the point, were government leaders, beginning with Koch and continuing to the present day, supposed to say: 'Oh, well, government screwed this up 30 years ago and so we should do nothing now'? The fact that the Bronx remains a sea of poor and working class people (Again, you're aware that real wages for the lowest wage cohorts have fallen steadily for severl decades?) only makes the rebuilding more impressive. It was long argued, after all, that 'these people' could not take care of their buildings.
I'd note, of course that many factors came together to make this possible. Giuliani's achievement in cutting crime laid down the necessary pre-conditions that allowed neighborhoods of, yes, poor and working class people, to retake their neighborhoods. That, too, is worth a longer piece.
It's useful, I suppose, to create comic book arguments, but as you seem to be a smart fellow, you might want to take yourself and your readers more seriously.
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