No. 739



Competition is healthy. Competition is good. It’s the American way. We see it in business, in athletics, in education, in politics and even in the heart of a young man who is in competition with another for the hand of a beautiful and available young lady. When we don’t have competition and one side completely dominates the other, it becomes very unhealthy and even destructive.
A good example of this can be seen in something a thoughtful reader sent to me the other day. It clearly demonstrates what happens when one side wins every time, year after year, for several decades.
According to U.S. Census Bureau, August 2007 American Community Survey, here are the Top 10 Poverty Cities in America, listing the city, state, and percent of people below the Poverty Level.
1. Detroit, Mich. – 32.5 percent
2. Buffalo, N.Y. – 29.9 percent
3. Cincinnati, Ohio – 27.8 percent
4. Cleveland, Ohio – 27.0 percent
5. Miami, Fla.– 26.9 percent
6. St. Louis, Mo. – 26.8 percent
7. El Paso, Texas – 26.4 percent
8. Milwaukee, Wis. – 26.2 percent
9. Philadelphia, Pa.– 25.1 percent
10. Newark, N.J.– 24.2 percent.
Here is a question that gets to the core of what I want to share with you. What do the top 10 cities (over 250,000 population) with the highest poverty rate all have in common?
You might be surprised with the answer. I know I was. Detroit hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1961; Buffalo hasn’t elected one since 1954; Cincinnati since 1984; Cleveland since 1989; Miami has never elected a Republican mayor; St. Louis since 1949; El Paso has never had a Republican mayor; Milwaukee since 1908; Philadelphia since 1952; and Newark since 1907.
Now please don’t misconstrue my motive for sharing this information with you. It is certainly not a campaign commercial for the Republican Party. I have been turned off lately by both the Republicans and the Democrats. I have said many times in this column that I don’t get involved in partisan politics. I am an Independent and voted for candidates in both parties in the last election. In every case, I just vote for the candidate that I think has America’s best interest at heart and will do the right thing for the present and also for the future.
The real question becomes, why would the citizens of these cities continue to elect a mayor, the city’s chief elected official, from the same party for decades on end when they are mired in poverty? Why not change, at least once in a while, to create healthy competition? I will confess that I am far from being an expert when it comes to matters such as this, but I believe there are two basic reasons. First, is the power of incumbency. After several elections with the same party in power, they have all or most of their appointed positions filled with members of their own party. At this point it’s almost impossible to remove them.
Second, it is an established fact that lack of education is the primary reason for poverty. It’s easier to convince voters that you have their best interest at heart if they don’t know any better, and more especially when they become dependent on you. It really becomes a mind-set for millions of these people. Our most important task in the coming years is to improve our nation’s educational system. Poverty and illiteracy go hand in hand. When we look across the world and look at the poorest nations, we also see high rates of illiteracy.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)