Re: Bad News for the Poor

Restore Hope in America (
Tue, 16 Jun 1998 12:29:20 -0400 (EDT)

Bad News for the Poor

The Washington Post had nothing but bad news for the poor this
morning, perhaps worse since the various articles highlighted the fact
that this country has chosen to ignore decades-long trends which should
have served as the harbingers of despair among this nations downtrodden.

Taken in order of appearance, rather than extent of harm, the first article=
described Philadelphia=92s latest tactics in how to deal with the problem o=
deteriorat(ed/ing) inner-city ghettos.

=93Scores of police officers and federal agents, followed by a convoy of
garbage trucks and graffiti cleaners, invaded Philadelphia=92s most violent
and bleak neighborhoods at dawn today and vowed not to leave until the
area is safer and cleaner.=94

The strategy follows New York city=92s get-tough stance a few years ago,
as well as one I had the privilege (aka disgust) to witness here in DC in
1996. Called =93Operation Sunrise,=94 the City of Brotherly Love is showing
a perverse disregard for its reputation, as well as a high degree of frustr=
spawned from its inability to =93revitalize=94 blighted neighborhoods, a fr=
which can only be said to be well-deserved from the gross ignorance it and
other cities around the country have displayed when it comes to solving bas=
problems of economic and social injustice that run rampant in so many of ou=
communities where opportunity has fled elsewhere in pursuit of profits earn=
through lower labor costs in a global economy.

The only comments I found meaningful in the article were these:

=93Other residents, however, expressed doubts. Some said that without more =
and better schools in the area, the odds of success are remote.=94

The second article covered a new report (confirming HUD=92s own report in A=
that should shake up those who believe the economy is doing well these days=
, or
believe that this country has the guts/integrity/honesty to admit the flaws=
 that exist=20
in our economic system, one we are bullying others in the world to embrace,=
which is largely responsible for the growing disparity between rich and poo=

Since 1970, a combination of wage stagnation and decline, as well as housin=
inflation, has turned a 300,000 unit surplus in low-cost housing into a sho=
which in 1995 meant that of our 10.5 million households living below the po=
line, 4.4 million were left out on a limb.

Meanwhile, an utterly nonplused Congress, which has shown their disdain for=
poor by forcing HUD into a policy that will reduce housing for the poor in =
immediate and the far-out future, last week approved an increase of 8,000
vouchers, not even the equivalent of a proverbial drop-in-the-bucket. Presi=
Clinton doesn=92t seem to care much, either, as he has only asked for 100,0=
vouchers, an amount less than the margin-for-error in public opinion polls =
the economy, the results of which clearly demonstrate that the vast majorit=
of Americans share the ignorance of the true plight of the poor in this cou=

The final insult was an op-ed piece by James K. Glassman, a fellow at the
American Enterprise Institute. Flying the banner of free-market capitalism,
he, as many others in this country, continues to pay homage to former Pres.
Ronald Reagan=92s =93trickle-down=94 economic theory, a catastrophe which
put this country trillions of dollars in debt with nothing to show for it, =
and also
gave impetus to the growing disparity between rich and poor. Personally, I
think that history will show Reagan as the worst president this century, on=
who did more harm to our economy and our economy than any other.

Perhaps the worst thing about this is that, while all indicators point to a=
of jobs and economic opportunity available to the poor, society will most
likely respond in the same way as it has in the past, which is to say that =
root cause will be ignored, even as advocates for the poor push for more
money that will provide hundreds of thousand of jobs for the middle class.

I would expect that CDCs will respond to the =93crisis=94 by: building more=
(using outside labor and contractors); expanding ineffective programs, such=
how to interview for a job (that isn=92t there,) or how to get off drugs (w=
is largely a response to hopelessness spawned by joblessness,) and; going a=
the myriad of other federal, state and local programs that do everything bu=
address root cause, yet create more middle-class jobs and bring accolades t=
groups who are applauded by a gullible citizenry even though they do more=
harm than good.

So, as Mr. Glassman pushes a vision guaranteed to continue oppressing the
poor here and elsewhere around the world, Congress is holding tight on new
spending in order to give tax breaks to the rich. While these may be somewh=
subtle, Philadelphia at least is making abundantly clear their vision of ho=
w the
poor should be treated: Get tough with the bastards, so they=92ll learn to =
live and=20
behave like =93decent=94 Americans!

David R. Quammen
Restore Hope In America

The Sticky Wicket: Poverty=92s Home Page