Eradicating urban poverty was a priority for Obama when he was running for president in 2008, but it has not become a focus for the president during his first term. A look at what still needs to be addressed, and the neighborhood of Roseland, where Obama got his political start:
"The reason for this shift in priorities, according to people in the Obama administration, was the economic crisis they inherited. As David Axelrod, Obama’s former senior adviser and current chief campaign strategist, described it to me, 'We were essentially an economic triage unit, trying to prevent the country from sliding into a second Great Depression.' The president’s economic team during the transition was staffed mostly with centrist economists — Lawrence Summers, Tim Geithner, Jason Furman — but one of their top priorities, early on, was to send aid to poor people. A central tenet of Keynesian stimulus spending is that in an economic crisis, you try to get as much money as quickly as possible into the hands of people who will spend it right away, and the less money people have, the more likely they are to spend every dollar they receive from the government. The previous summer, Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, who was serving, at the time, as an adviser to the McCain campaign, testified before Congress on the need for an aggressive stimulus program. In his testimony, he included a handy chart, based on his own algorithm, that listed the 'Bang for the Buck' that various stimulus measures would provide. According to Zandi’s calculations, aid that went to wealthier Americans would not be very effective as stimulus: for every dollar that Congress cut from corporate taxes, the G.D.P. would gain 30 cents; making the Bush tax cuts permanent would boost it by 29 cents for every dollar added to the deficit.
"Stimulus measures that gave money to poor and distressed families, on the other hand, would be much more productive: extending unemployment-insurance benefits would boost G.D.P. by $1.64 for every dollar spent. And at the top of Zandi’s list was a temporary boost in the food-stamp program, which he calculated would produce $1.73 in G.D.P. gains for every dollar spent."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 15, 2012
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7329 words)
The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”
PUBLISHED: Sept. 14, 2011
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6952 words)
Over the last few years, a new buzz phrase has emerged among scholars and scientists who study early-childhood development, a phrase that sounds more as if it belongs in the boardroom than the classroom: executive function.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 25, 2009
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4175 words)