Milwaukee's impoverished inner city is a regional problem, says Mayor Tom Barrett.Well, bravo for them.
Of course it's a regional problem. How could it not be? No region can be strong with a troubled city at its heart.
And that's what U.S. census figures last week revealed Milwaukee to be. Despite its many charms and strengths, our city is a troubled one, with nearly a third of our neighbors officially considered poor, including four in 10 children under the age of 18.
The problem is broader than the central city. Median income in Wisconsin has crashed since 2000, falling 9% from $56,269 to $51,318 in inflation-adjusted dollars.
This is no longer news, of course, which makes the new figures all the more troubling.
It's one thing to see the stark statistics on the impoverished in the black-and-white pages of a newspaper. It's quite another thing to see the human embodiment of those statistics in people who more often die younger, are more often victims of crime, are more often unhealthy, are more often addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Spend some time in the soup kitchens or the shelters or on the streets, and you'll see the sorrow. As columnist James E. Causey noted last Sunday, we can blame those who are struggling — or we can ensure they have opportunities to rise.
"You have politicians who say that it's a Milwaukee problem," Barrett said. "The problem is we have focused and concentrated the vast majority of low-income people in the city of Milwaukee and then we say it's a Milwaukee problem."
Barrett is right to call for a regional approach to Milwaukee's biggest problems, nearly all of which are rooted in a chronic poverty that most people cannot imagine.
Now maybe they might want to explain to their readers why they have been promoting the very things that add to the poverty problem of which they complain. They have come out for Act 10, which has taken hundreds of millions of dollars out of the economy. They balk at people being paid living wages. They have supported politicians like Scott Walker and Chris Abele who openly push agendas of austerity which do nothing but deepen the poverty problem.
When they stop trying to ram their corporate agenda down our collective throats, they might - just might - be taken seriously and they might actually see their circulation go up. But I would advise that no one hold their breath for that to happen.