The latest dust-up to hit the national political stage centered around the flashpoint of Baltimore has of course devolved to cries of Trump being a racist. But when you look beyond social media and breathless national reporting, well, I have some questions about what is going on in cities like Baltimore.

In 2019, and in more than one city in the United States, we have people who live in rat-infested, crime-ridden neighborhoods. And when I say rat-infested, I mean rat families entering apartments and houses through broken faucets biting and terrorizing children. And before you say well fix the faucet, apparently running water is a bridge too far in sections of West Baltimore, where people have been forced to hook hoses to fire hydrants so they can clean up and cook.

This is not okay, under any stretch of the imagination.

When Americans in a major metropolitan city do not have access to sanitary living conditions we should all be ashamed and horrified. Every single one of us. We are failing, and no one really wants to admit it.

It’s no wonder so many flee these depressed areas.

It’s not just about jobs, though that is a component in solving the problem. Baltimore, and especially West Baltimore, has a huge crime problem. Murder and rape lead the way, and rioting has destroyed much of what had been invested around the community.

Corruption and grift lead the way in a city that has had two of its last three mayors step down after being criminally charged with corruption. Crime has been allowed to fester so badly that their new deputy police commissioner was robbed at gunpoint when he was out to dinner recently with his wife. Kids don’t play in local parks, because they have been overrun with drug dealers and the drugged out.

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police released a statement Tuesday regarding the mayor’s “New Baltimore Crime Plan.” The biggest takeaways are that the police department is 500 officers short and the force lacks the resources to “even respond to the number of calls to 911.” Obviously cracking down on crime is of the highest priority. But how will the police get ahead when starting that far behind?

Life in inner cities has never been easy, and the reporters and pundits pretending that picturesque views from Baltimore’s harbor overlooking the aquarium are an accurate or complete representation of what Baltimore residents are facing are only trying to score points against a President whose existence they abhor. So nothing changes, and the problems continue to be swept under the rug.

Dunking on the president on social media does nothing to fix the blight and misery people are facing every day.

I have heard about the problems of inner cities for most of my life, yet nothing changes, even as more and more money is spent. Crime gets worse, conditions devolve, people flee and life gets worse for those left behind.

What is even more mind blowing is that in 2018 the city of Baltimore received $16 billion in grant funding from the federal government. Billion. All in Congressman Elijah Cummings’ district. Where did all that money go?

I can’t be the only one surprised that Cummings was a magnet for the president’s ire after his committee’s repeated hearings elevating the plight of illegal immigrants instead of the plight of his own residents. Especially after numerous news stories reporting Cummings’ wife is facing numerous agency inquiries over her stewardship of her non-profit and lying to investigators. Included in the allegations are claims that Mrs. Cummings accepted donations from corporations that regularly interact with committees that her husband leads.

To be fair, illegals caught in America shouldn’t be dumped into inhumane conditions. But the Club Fed amenities (at least compared to some urban standards) that ICE detainees are currently experiencing in 31 different detention centers across the U.S., including free phones, legal representation, recreational activities and supplied personal necessities, seem to be much better than a significant segment of our population has available to them in their daily lives. Cities with running water and working infrastructure would be first among them.

It’s not wrong or unreasonable to think that Americans living in awful conditions should be helped before anyone illegally entering the country. We should, as citizens and a nation, be benevolent generally. But that benevolence is squandered and wasted to line the pockets of the politically connected.

It’s not just Baltimore.

California has it’s share too. Exploding homeless encampments litter the state’s cities with drug use, unsanitary conditions and medical grade waste. Rats and fleas cause deadly medieval diseases previously eradicated. Once beautiful cutting edge cities now more resemble apocalyptic scenes of refuse and human suffering peppered with abandoned properties. All represented by politicians more concerned with their electoral chances and fund-raising than actually helping the people they supposedly represent to even be bothered to acknowledge the problems.

Trump’s campaign, and much of his presidency, has centered around the forgotten men and women in America left behind after our economy and communities were hollowed out in the name of progress and globalism. These forgotten people come in all shades. Drugs and crime will destroy everyone in their paths no matter the race or the size of the population. ZIP codes and skin color make little difference when you are left behind with zero options, and every elected representative is more concerned about optics than people.

The solutions to these problems aren’t just about more money invested into communities. It’s about replenishing society’s valuing of human life in all it’s forms, from the greatest to the least. The U.S. government must help it’s citizens. Period. No qualifiers or exceptions. And it should happen before we move on to the next problematic POTUS tweet, and flood of nonsense news stories that are meant to overwhelm our limited attention spans.

Americans need to help each other and care about what is happening not just around them, but across our country. We need to care that all Americans should be lifted before we take on additional burdens, including mass migration from every corner of the world. We need to fix a culture that says things like generational welfare is okay, people killing each other in the streets is just a fact of life and abortion on demand until delivery is reproductive health. We have to demand and empower other countries fix their problems, not spend ourselves into debt financing corrupt governments that keep their people on the front lines and in the cross hairs of gangs and poverty.

Regaining our national spirit involves all Americans, not just those you can see, but even the ones in neighborhoods no one ever visits, let alone wants to live.

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at tbutero@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 862-2222.