This critical evaluation of the efforts by the federal government to reduce poverty and alleviate inequality in the inner cities during the past decade is the work of two urban scholars who were themselves deeply involved in the design, implementation, and review of those programs from 1965 through the early 1970s. Their balanced, three-dimensional view is achieved through the double focus of academic detachment and practical experience.
The book traces the Model Cities Program from its origins as the proposed grand coordinator of all the Great Society's urban expectations, one intended to marshal and interrelate independent federal agencies horizontally and levels of government vertically, with the newly established Department of Housing and Urban Development wielding the conductor's baton. From these heady beginnings, the authors chart the subsequent inablility of both the Johnson and Nixon administrations to implement the program effectively, and the reasons why results failed to measure up to rhetorical goals and early overoptimism.
By analyzing the performance of the federal bureaucracy, Congress, and the White House, this study explains why officials in Washington were unable to meet the priorities of the cities and why the cities in turn were unable to use federal resources to make significant improvements in their poverty neighborhoods. Furthermore, the book offers an initial interpretation of two newly established programs-special and general revenue sharing-which aim, from a different direction, at some of the same goals as did the Model Cities Program, but which have failed to learn some of the key cautionary lessons that a proper study of the earlier program should have taught. After documenting the failure of grand designs for a coordinated federal approach to urban problems in the 1960s, the authors propose an alternative strategy for making effective use of revenue sharing and other current programs for the cities. As they state, "A careful reading of the federal implementation effort should help to define a future role for the federal government in reducing poverty and inequality, drawing on the experiences of the 1960s but without repeating the overly optimistic assumptions and mistakes of that decade."
In addition to the published literature, The Politics of Neglect makes use of information until now unavailable to other scholars: the authors' recollection of their personal participation, private files kept by a number of former federal officials, and interviews with these and other officials who served on the White House staff and in the federal agencies during two administrations. This book will offer insight to laymen and professionals alike, including mayors, public administrators, concerned citizens, city planners, and students of urban problems.
About the Author
Bernard J. Frieden is Class of 1942 Professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT and Chairman of the MIT Faculty.