It is heartbreaking that so many of America’s urban areas, from the West Coast to the East Coast, from Chicago to El Paso, are in economic despair and in desperate need of rescue.
The good news is the president – the tone of some of his tweets over the last several days notwithstanding – is right to call attention to a genuine crisis going on in America. That crisis is the brutal reality of abject poverty, and how this economic condition impacts millions of America’s families.
But, rather than disparaging these underserved communities, as was done to an alarming extent on Twitter over the past week, we need a revitalized generation of leadership committed to empowering these depressed communities, including systemically underperforming urban areas here in Santa Barbara County.
America’s pockets of hopelessness – and Baltimore isn’t the only example; Lompoc, Guadalupe and many parts of Santa Barbara and Santa Maria are feeling hopeless, too – are in desperate need of progressive, economic action.
What Baltimore, Lompoc, Guadalupe and Santa Maria all have in common is they are represented in Congress by two men of color, both of whom continually claim to care about the plight of the working poor, particularly minorities.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and former Santa Barbara County supervisor-turned-congressman, Salud Carbajal, have records of public service including on issues relevant to the economic plight of their constituents. Both of these congressmen can and should be assessed for their effectiveness on these matters.
If we judge these two well-intentioned public officials by the content of their Facebook posts and their political rhetoric, especially as it relates to how much they claim to care about the economically disadvantaged, then perhaps America has no better representatives in Congress than these two.
However, if we judge Reps. Cummings and Carbajal on the success of their years of public service in the context of their respective legislative initiatives and, ultimately, their records of actual achievement in lifting up families from poverty, well, unfortunately, by this metric, both men have failed miserably and are in need of being replaced by representatives who will get the job done.
I take no pleasure in saying this. I consider Salud Carbajal a friend. We agree on very little, but I have no doubt he’s a good man. And as I said, he’s a well-intentioned public servant, but he’s just not effective. And it is not because he isn’t doing the best he can; he is doing the best he can.
Unfortunately, his best isn’t good enough, and it will never be good enough because his ideas, which are embedded in his philosophy, his ideology and his legislative priorities, are counterproductive for the struggling families he has spent the past 16 years representing.
Santa Barbara County’s “North County” communities, all of which are within a few miles of some of the wealthiest enclaves in the world, are crying out for higher-paying, head-of-household jobs in industry sectors that have historically employed them, particularly in our oil and gas industry.
Whether we are talking about West Baltimore, the east side of Santa Barbara or Santa Maria, what is needed are pro-family land-use policies that make it easier to produce local energy, open a new business, grow or expand an existing business, as well as the right to access a better education for their kids.
In every instance where barriers exist to these sensible social and economic objectives, it is inflexible policies imposed on us by obstinate politicians that are to blame.
Well-intentioned or not, politicians and their failed policies are the problem resulting in entire generations of Americans being left behind and left out of the American dream. These politicians must abandon their failed ideologies and governmentalist remedies, and commit to market-driven solutions that can break down the economic barriers that separate the haves and have-nots.
America’s cities are ideal incubators for social mobility, private commerce, cultural diversity, philanthropy, faith-based fellowship and human achievement. Elected officials from the city and county levels, to the state and federal levels, need to work together to forge new public policies that lift up all people, in all areas of America, including right here in Santa Barbara County.
It is unworthy of a great nation to settle for a status quo that results in two Americas and two economies – one for the connected, privileged and wealthy, and another for everyone else. Just as the Good Shepherd proves his love to the majority by leaving them in order to save the one lost lamb, so too must we commit to not moving forward while leaving even a single struggling family behind.