Box 7, Folder 13, Document 43

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In The Nation: The Federal Mess


The Advisory Commission on
Intergovernmental Relations has
issued a timely and eloquent
warning that the deterioration
of living conditions in the great
American population centers is
threatening their tolal domina-
tion by the National Govern-

The commission’s thesis is
chilling in its logic. So paralyz-
ing is the overlap, disarray, in-
ertia, antiquity and poverty of
state and local government in
America that it cannot begin to
cope with the swiftly changing
circumstances and demands of
the twentieth-century city. And
as the city therefore spirals
downward into blight, disorder
and rioting, its residents in-
creasingly demand that the
powerful Federal Government
accept responsibility for their
security and well-being.

Jobs for All

On the same day this warn-
ing was issued, and as if to put
an exclamation point after it,
the Urban Coalition—a group
of the most powerful and pub-
lic-spirited private interests in
the nation—called upon Con-
gress to guarantee a job for
everyone able to work but un-
able to find private employment.

The coalition's appeal echoed
statements by President John-

son suggesting that the Govern-
ment would have to provide
jobs for those not employed
privately. So far, his words
have been translated only into
a proposal for a $2.1-billion
job-training program, to he
conducted in partnership with
business. Unless this shows
spectacular results—and it has
not yet even been approved in
Congress—there will be increas-
ing pressure on Washington for
the Federal Government to step
in as an “employer of last

To Fill the Gap

This step would not be taken
in usurpation of someone else's
powers and prerogatives but in
simple desperation at the in-
ability of private interests or of
state and local government to
provide either the energy or the
means for reaching the hard-
core, urban unemployed.

This process becomes most
ominous as it operates in police
affairs. Federal troops were
needed to restore order, and
keep it, In Detroit last summer;
they probably would be needed
in any city in the nation where
outbreaks of such violence oc-
curred. At some point, there-
fore, in the present cycle of out-
break and inadequate response,
the reliance of the cities for
physical security will fall more

heavily upon the Federal Gov-
ernment than even upon the
state-controlled National Guard,
much less the hopelessly inade-
quate and ill-trained police
forces of most cities.

So far, the Administration's
Federal crime legislation has
wisely concentrated on means
of improving local law enforce-
ment—not merely giving it
more muscle but improving the
quality of its personnel and the
degree of its understanding of
the complex problems it faces.
The roar of approval that went

up in Congress when the Presi-.-

dent denounced “crime in the
streets” in the State of the
Union message was striking
evidence of how easy it prob-
ably would be to get less en-
lightened, “strong-arm” legisla-
tion to deal with what too many
people seem to see as a mere
crime wave.

The Advisory Commission's
particular emphasis is on a vital
dimension of the urban crisis
that has been missing from too
many studies. In essence, the
commission has asked the truly
basic question whether Ameri-
can government today is or-
ganized and equipped to cope
with the vast, complex, kalei-
doscopic demands of an age of
technology and affluence.

It is not the “Federal system”
of competing and cooperating

national, state and local gov-
ernments that is being ques-
tioned; it is rather the organ-
ization and operation of the in-
stitutions and jurisdictions of
the Federal system “when
measured against. present and
prospective needs and expecta-
tions” that are grossly inade-
quate. The fact is that many
of the institutions of Ameri-
can government are outmoded,
poorly manned, underfinanced,
socially unresponsive, and po-
litically exploited. They lie atop
one another in an impenetrable
tangle of wards, boroughs, dis-
tricts, townships, cities and
counties, within states that are
themselves primarily historical
accidents without real econom-
ic, social or sometimes even
geographical coherence.

Operational Adequacy

The Urban Coalition is ver-
tainly on sound ground in urg-
ing immediate, emergency ac-
tion to cope with the hard-core
unemployed. For the longer
run, however, onlv a Federal
system reorganizea and reinvig-
orated to cope with the twen-
tieth century, and perhaps even
the beginning of the twenty-
first, is likely to preserve that
“political diversity” which the
Advisory Commission rightly
sees as the guarantor of in-
dividual freedom.

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