Sunday, October 07, 2012

More "help"?

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."  This is seemingly a gag line for some. But most of what I hear from both presidential candidates is about how ready and eager they are to "help" anyone within earshot.  Earnest commentary is usually along the lines of "But did he signal his readiness to help [fill in the blank]?"  It is worse when news people interview prospective voters, most of whom complain that the man they had just seen/heard did not say enough about how he would help them.

Today's NY Times has an op-ed piece along similar lines.  Under the mock newspaper banner "Republicans to Cities: Drop Dead" ( take off of the NY Daily News' "Ford to City" 1975 headline), there is, "The party can't get past its disdain for the very idea of urban life."

But consider the source.  "Urban life" to writer Kevin Baker and his editors means Manhattan or something similar.  Baker acknowledges that while the country is four-fifths urban, most of that is suburban.  And, "... as urban areas continue to grow, they become more and more intertwined with what once were the distant suburbs ..."  Yes, there are thousands of distinct comunities and neighborhoods out there.  (And we are no longer in an era of 1960s Model Cities programs when "help" was rooted in a view of urban America as a world of dysfunctional "inner cities".) Baker and his editors must grasp that "the cities" we have are extremely varied.  This complexity and variability is well beyond the capability of federal officials and politicians to "make policy" for or to "help."

"Do few things and do them well," is gone.  What we have instead is, "Do many more things and do not stop to consider that you have no prospect of doing them well."