Missing: Urban Policy in the Presidential Campaign

In its lead editorial yesterday, the New York Times called out the presidential candidates for their failure to address issues facing U.S. cities in this year’s campaign. If only the Des Moines Register’s editorial board had published something like this back in November…

By now, many Americans have heard the presidential candidates talk about issues close to the heart of rural America. They fell all over themselves to praise ethanol in Iowa and condemn nuclear storage in Nevada. But as important as rural problems are, they’re not nearly as big as the task of helping the nation’s struggling cities — where most Americans live or work. The cities have been the hardest hit as federal policies have failed or gone missing in education, housing, health care, jobs, transportation and environment, to name a few. Yet urban issues have gotten scant attention in this campaign.

It’s not a new problem. For more than a generation, presidential aspirants have mostly resisted acknowledging the importance of the cities’ well being. Blame the front-loading of the primary season with rural states, or electoral and legislative systems that give disproportionate weight to sparsely populated states. Whatever the reason, it is shortsighted. According to Bruce Katz, co-author of a Brookings Institution study promoting investment in metropolitan areas, the largest 100 cities and their surrounding communities are home to 65 percent of the nation’s population and account for about 75 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

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