Nixon's Other Ceasefire
GUIDED BY THE RHETORIC of returning "power to the people," and by the social admonition that we must first ask "what we can do for ourselves," President Nixon has finally unveiled his plans for the "New Federalism." Devoid of substantive social concern, the "New American Revolution" is to be ushered in with dramatic procedural changes--changes which delegate responsibility to local officials while leaving the needed resourses back in Washington.
Motivated by alleged duplication and failure of many Great Society programs, the President has presented a budget which reneges on statatory committments, retreats from programmatic national goals, and leaves the future of Urban American in grave jeopardy.
Having previously extended the promise of flexible "general revenue sharing" funds to meet "pressing local priorities," the President has now dismantled any rational federal approach to urban problems, and has beat a hasty retreat from substantial funding of legitimate and proven federal programs. The "New Federalism" emerges as a shell game of enormous proportions for the cities of this nation...as essentially a bureaucratic hocus-pocus in which poor people, blacks, the elderly, and others who seek hope and opportunity in our central cities will be forced to play the role of "odd man out."
The full impact of the President's budget probably won't be felt in Boston for another 12 to 18 months, but the immediate consequences belie their long-range severity.
Last year, Boston's residents and businesses sent $2.2 billion to Washington in taxes, but our direct return will be cut in half--our loss will be $100 million. Our direct return on the federal tax dollar then, will be cut from a dime, to less than a nickel.
At the same time, we will receive about $18 million in general revenue sharing. Even if we were to use all our general revenue sharing to make up the difference for cutbacks in local federal programs, our net loss would still be more than $80 million.
The shell game at the local level means that for every new dollar we receive in general revenue sharing, we will lose $5 in traditional federal funding. We will be forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, and the hard arithmetic shows that we will end up starving both.
And in programmatic terms, it means that:
* 5,000 new housing units for low and moderate income families will not be built, and 4,600 construction jobs will not materialize.
* The Community Action Program (ABCD) will be eliminated, and with it a decentralized mechanism for community participation in decision making.
* Model Cities will be cut almost in half.
* Many of the 800 Vietnam veterans and unemployed inner city residents hired under the Public Employment Program will go back on welfare and unemployment compensation, at a time when the city itself is cutting back 1600 employees.
* More than 5,000 inner city unemployed youths will go without a Neighborhood Youth Corps Program this summer.
But in a larger sense, the President's budget represents an intangible psychological setback to the progress of our city and to the hopes of our people. The indirect consequences--to our economic prosperity, to our soical progress, to our neighborhood revitalization--can't be measured in terms of dollars or programs.
What makes the recent pronouncements so brutally ironic is that the President has finally disengaged from a long undeclared war overseas, and only after prolonged bilateral negotiations. And at the same time, he has unilaterally disengaged from declared national committment to the poor, the disadvantaged, and our central cities here at home.
As a mayor, I know only too well that the central cities of this nation--Newark and Cleveland and Detroit--must be counted among Vietnam's victims. And yet now that our involvement in the war has ended, and as the President begins plans for reconstructing North Vietnam, the rebuilding of Urban American will have to wait.
Kevin H. White is the Mayor of Boston.