The Lessons of the Long Hot Summer
Toward the end of the long hot summer of 1967—a summer which saw riots in more than thirty-two cities and the death of nearly one hundred Negroes—Vice-President Humphrey was asked to comment on the assertion that the United States had spent $904 billion (or 57 per cent of the nation’s budget) on military power since 1946, while spending only $96 billion (or six per cent) on social programs in the same period. “The fact is,” he said “there has been a ‘sickness’ in the world in these post-World War II years which we have not had the luxury of ignoring.” Apparently, however, we have had the luxury of ignoring the sickness created by the simultaneous growth and decay of our central cities. The question posed for us by the events of this past summer is whether we can now afford the price.
In 1910, a large majority of our population lived in rural areas; today, about three-fourths of our population lives in urban areas (and since 1950, 1.5 million Negroes have moved to Northern ghettos). Yet the United States Congress remains a basically rural body. In the House, 225 out of 435 members come from towns with populations of 50,000 or less, and in the Senate the ratio is 56 to 44. It is, therefore, no great cause for wonder that the needs of our cities should simultaneously have increased and been neglected. Until recently, indeed, we did not even possess a precise inventory of those needs. Largely through the efforts of the AFL-CIO, however, the Joint Economic Committee of Congress has now drawn up such an inventory, projected to 1975.
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