Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ending poverty and stuff

I heard recently the mayor or the city council plans to end homelessness in DC. That's nice, but if history is any guide, they won't succeed. They may wind up creating more jobs for an educated middle class, which as a member of the educated middle class, I give a snarky thumbs up.
Part of me believes that the Lord told us that the poor we shall always have with us because we as individuals and society should always be obligated or responsible to those on the bottom, and there is always a bottom. The bottom may be in the gulag, hidden in the country, warehoused in public housing, but there is always a bottom. I find it hard to believe when a Western European person declares that in their country, with their social safety net, there are no poor. I just wonder if they haven't been looking hard enough. Maybe that's what America, cities in the US, are aiming for, making the poor so invisible that we think we've ended it. 
Anyone remember LBJ's War on Poverty? I know we are too busy fighting the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism to think back that far. I'm not going to attack Medicare or Medicaid, as they are a bit out of my area. No, I'm going to hit at urban renewal, which succeeded in warehousing the urban poor and disinvestment from the urban core so much that it was ripe for gentrification. Housing policy has favored the homeowner and caged the poor in housing outside of the free market with pyrite shackles. What do I mean? There was a crazy long waiting list to get into DC public housing. By focusing on getting into and staying in public housing or local Section 8 housing, people have little incentive to leave the area in search of work. Our predecessors were poor black folk who left/escaped the South for better opportunities, housing programs like DC or Chicago public housing are like fly paper that disincentivize people from looking outside their immediate area, because moving means losing the housing they waited so long for.
I believe you can end a certain type of poverty. Having fat poor diabetic people who watch WWE! is better than having poor people who constantly die of malnutrition. We can feed the world, provided that corrupt leaders stop using food as a way to control their people. I'm looking at you North Korea.
Back to DC. Can DC end homelessness in the city? I don't think so, for various reasons. For one, not all of our homeless are homegrown. The city is better at providing services (typically run by the educated middle classes, who are paid by the government) than say Fairfax or other surrounding jurisdictions. So we'd probably attract more homeless. Next, without a plan to address the whole person, regardless of if the whole person wants to be addressed, is problematic. Sometimes the problem is mental illness, sometimes the problem is serious dysfunction (can't hold a job), or addiction, or disability, or anti-social behavior. Providing a bed does not get at why the person cannot provide their own housing. Lastly, (because I need to finish this) we have made illegal free market housing for the poor. Some people can't maintain or afford more than one room. We (the middle class voters) do not like people crowding into small spaces, nor do we want to live near housing for the poor. We (the middle class voters) don't like trailer parks, so we make them illegal (my hometown did this). We don't like rooming houses, so we zone them out of existence. We don't like people sleeping in every room of a house or having too many people in one structure, so they are housing violations. We don't let people build huts or shanties, because the city will bulldoze those structures. I know the good reasons of why these things are illegal in DC but the cost of these is less housing, regardless of quality.

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