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Statement Submitted to Republican National Convention Committee on Resolutions: "Problems of the Cities"

August 01, 1968

If our cities are to be liveable for the next generation, we can delay no longer in launching new approaches to the problems that beset them, and to the tensions that tear them apart.

The present Administration promised a rebirth of America's cities. But despite the billions spent, its promises have not been kept—and many were unkeepable.

We have not seen the rebirth of a single major city. But we have seen proof of the failure of the old ways. These old ways are still the conditioned reflex of those whose policy approaches are rooted in the 1930's—the old ways of massive spending piled on massive spending, and of looking to Washington to solve the problems of every locality. In the ruins of Detroit and Watts and Newark lie the ruins of a philosophy of government that has outlived its origin and no longer speaks to its time.

A city is many things—homes, offices, schools, factories. But basically, the people are the city. The problems of America's cities are the problems of its people; the hope of America's cities lies in the spirit of its people.

This has been the missing dimension of the old way—the old way of government charities that feed the stomach and starve the soul; of government programs that keep a dismal cycle of despair and dependency going from generation to generation.

If our cities are to be saved, the people in them have to be saved—and in the long run, the people will save the cities.

Because of massive and mounting Federal deficits, we face today a fiscal crisis; and the plain fact is that the Federal government today does not have the money to do the job in the cities by itself. But this is not cause for despair and not cause for abandoning the task—because most of these tasks can be done better through government encouragement of private energies.

When we think of the urban crisis, we think first of the problems of race and poverty—which too often go hand in hand.

To the problems of poverty, many reply—provide government jobs, government housing, government welfare. Government has a role—a vital role. But what Government can do best is to provide the incentives to get private resources and energies where the need is. What we need today is not more millions on welfare roles but more millions on payrolls.

Thus, for example, in the area of jobs I have proposed such measures as tax credits for businesses to hire and train the unemployed; a national computer job bank, to bring job-seeking men and man-seeking jobs together; and special tax incentives to businesses that locate branch offices or new plants in poverty areas.

In the ghetto, providing jobs is an essential first step—but this by itself is not enough. Jobs have to be made available within a framework that establishes the pride, the dignity and the independence of the black American as well as the white. We have to lift the ceiling from black aspirations—and essential to this is the encouraging of more black ownership, more black control over the destinies of black people.

If black and white are to be brought together in peace, the light of hope has to be brought to the ghetto. If we are to bring this light of hope to the ghetto, we have to show by example that the American opportunity is neither a black nor a white opportunity, but an equal opportunity—and to make this opportunity real, we have to begin in the ghetto itself, where the people are and where the need is.

To assist in this, we need new incentives to get capital flowing into the ghetto. We need both technical and financial assistance for the starting of new black businesses and the expansion of existing ones. We need new institutions that can be the channels of enterprise.

What we have to do is to get private enterprise into the ghetto, and get the people of the ghetto into private enterprise—not only as workers, but as managers and owners.

To meet the crisis in housing, again we should turn to where the resources are. Private enterprise built the cities of America, and given the necessary incentives, private enterprise can rebuild them. At the same time we must press forward with imaginative new plans for more widespread home ownership—to put this within the reach of all.

There can be no lasting progress in the cities without a massive upgrading of our educational effort; unless our schools keep abreast of change, our people won't. This includes, quite specifically, such programs as Head Start and Follow Through. It includes compensatory and remedial education for those who need it in order to compete on an equal basis. It includes vocational education, keyed to the needs of today's job market—and tomorrow's. Our investment in education is an investment in America's future; none that we make will pay better dividends.

The problems of our cities are, of course, much broader and much more complex than those of jobs or schools, poverty or race. They are problems of human concentration, with all the abrasive frictions that occur when many people of diverse backgrounds occupy a small place. Increasingly, they are problems of the physical environment we all share—congested streets, fouled air and polluted water. And they are problems of the future. When we look toward the year 2000, we see that population of our cities will have doubled; this means we will need as much new city by then as we have old city today.

That new city will be built, as the old city has been built in America, by Americans acting individually and by Americans acting together. But Government has a role to play in the building of the new city.

That role is primarily to encourage the energies of individuals and the resources of America's private institutions, business and labor, to become involved in the solution of America's social problems—housing, education and jobs. It is to provide leadership—marshalling the ideas, the intelligence, the vision and the will that can get the job done. It is to use tax incentives and credit incentives to bring to bear upon America's unsolved problems the power of individual initiative and of private enterprise. We can build the housing we need for the urban poor, we can clean up the air above our cities and the water around them—if we get into action the engine of private enterprise that already has performed so many miracles to produce America.

With strong local leadership, with earnest and continuing federal cooperation, with a recognition that we have only begun to tap the enormous energies of private enterprise in meeting public problems, we can have a rebirth and renewal of America's cities. We can restore them as safe and pleasant places to live and as what they should be—places that lift the spirit and cap the glory of our civilization.

APP NOTE: From section five of the volume "Nixon Speaks Out" titled, "Unmet Needs and America's Opportunities".

Richard Nixon, Statement Submitted to Republican National Convention Committee on Resolutions: "Problems of the Cities" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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