Obama’s Promise Zones will do little to address inequality

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/27/obamas-inequality-promise-zones-fall-short

The Promise Zones comes with no actual funding, only vows to help cities apply for grants. They are PR stunts, not solutions

theguardian.com, Monday 27 January 2014

On 8 January, the Obama administration announced the selection of five Promise Zones – high-poverty communities chosen to receive special federal attention. They are San Antonio, Texas; Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma; South-eastern Kentucky; Los Angeles, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I used to live in West Philly, one of the administration’s new promised lands, so I was curious about what my old neighbourhood stands to gain from its new status.

Not much, it turns out.

Comb through the White House announcement and beneath the flurry of bureaucrat chat (pdf) about “addressing multiple community revitalization challenges” and “increased access to proven tools” the stark fact emerges that the program does not allocate a single new dollar in aid:

Promise Zones will not receive direct funding, but will benefit from technical assistance, federal staff support, and more extensive preference points and access to other federal grant programs.

All the zones are promised is unspecified assistance to help communities “navigate federal programs [sic] and regulations… [to] make the most of funding that may already be available”. There’s no new funding, just more bureaucracy for communities trying to help themselves.

What’s more, Promise Zone catchments are allowed a maximum of 200,000 residents. That means at best their sphere of influence is one million citizens in a nation where 46.5 million people live below the poverty line. The government may as well say: “We want to help the poor, but not too much, and not too many.”

All of this reflects the archaic American ideology that poverty is a monster created by the poor. Part of the Promise Zone deal is that the five designees must continuously monitor and report on their progress towards the agreed-upon goals. Not only is this offensively paternalistic – as if left alone they might splurge on cigarettes and sweets – but it’s also an absurd waste of resources. Impoverished neighbourhoods should invest scarce resources in schools, housing and public health, not writing reports.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/27/obamas-inequality-promise-zones-fall-short

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