The Breakfast Table

Domestic Aid

Almost everyone despairs to tackle the root causes and, consequently, settles, sometimes with bad conscience, for “aggressive policing.” That’s the connection between Kosovo and Diallo. Neither Milosevic nor Giuliani, whose resemblances are greater than their differences, nor Clinton and NATO believe that it is realistic to deal with issues of poverty and unemployment, racism and nationalism–whose affinities are deadly. So they clamp down. In New York, to adopt a “root causes” strategy would, at the minimum, have entailed imposing commercial rent control and extending rent stabilization beyond $2,000 a month. No N.Y.C. mayor has been willing to support commercial rent control and put a lid on real estate development that has thrown tenants out on the street, and the Giuliani administration promoted the partial end of rent stabilization by decontroling rents higher than $2,000. So the aggressive policing is the outcome of the government’s refusal to address root causes, here and elsewhere in the world.

Clinton signed the so-called welfare reform of 1996, which has intensified poverty for millions, causing hunger and more homelessness. It puts some pall on our government’s “humanitarian” efforts in the Balkans. Wouldn’t it be nice if the U.S. government sponsored tens of thousands of temporary homes in the cities and supplied enough food to feed the hungry? I bet one of the outcomes of the Balkans crisis is that NATO and the United States provide billions to rehabilitate Yugoslavia, including Kosovo. The problem with the American poor is that they have no weapons with which to negotiate aid.