I hope I have been wrong about Ronald Reagan. I hope I have been totally wrong about his new conservative economic policies. And I hope that the president-elect is right when he says that his ideas will finally, and permanently, cure the plague of structural unemployment afflicting millions of able-bodied minority men and women in America.
The Reagan approach runs contrary to the Democratic Party doctrines I have advocated during my entire career. His persistent criticisms of programs on affirmative action, job training and set-asides are mirror images of my own skepticism of his pro-business, anti-regulation, anti-welfare pronouncements.
The symptons of "structural unemploymentitis" -- poverty, crime, drug abuse and violence -- have had his frequent comment; but their root causes and the remedies proposed by liberals have been ignored or attacked by the incoming president.
The reality remains, however, that years of federal efforts and billions of federal dollars have not brought prosperity and full employment to minority communities. "Cooling-off programs," as they are perceived in many poor neighborhoods, helped defuse hostility, but raised false hopes of deliverance from the cycle of welfare and poverty.
The best-intentioned CETA programs disappointed those of us who created and funded them, and frustrated those who expected meaningful employment skills and well-paying jobs. On thousands of city street corners, unemployed CETA graduates mingle with thousands of other jobless young men and women. Their training turned out to be irrelevant or inadequate for local employers who advertise in vain for the craftsmen they need.
I freely admit that Democratic Party solutions have been less than successful in bringing the structurally unemployed into this country's economic mainstream. The major challenge to the Reagan administration is to demonstrate quickly and conclusively that its proposals will succeed where others have failed.
If, after a year or so of new ideas, no progress is apparent, they should also be willing to admit error. The Republicans' "new broom" should continue sweeping, even if it is their programs that need to be swept aside.
But for now, I will not stand in their way. If President Reagan succeeds in really putting all of America back to work, he will have my sincere admiration and support.