An excerpt from Pollitt's newest column:
My first day back in New York after a year in Berlin, I got on the subway and found my end of the car dominated by an obscenity-shouting black man with a crutch and a suitcase spilling garbage. When he tried to leave the train at Penn Station, he fell and cursed so loudly at two young men who tried to help him up that they backed off. Not once in my time in Berlin did I see anything remotely like this scene. Berlin is a poor city by German standards, with homeless people and beggars and presumably mentally ill people as well. But it doesn't have the kind of destitution we take for granted in the United States, especially for African-Americans. The strong German safety net keeps people from plunging into the abyss.