Saturday, September 17, 2005

 

Katrina Opens Eyes

The presidential address of Thursday night showed a man who now realizes poverty exists in the United States, and is determined to do something about it.

In announcing the multi-billion dollar attack on poverty, the president asserted that now is not the right time to raise taxes. I can only assume he somehow imagines the tax cuts of the last four years helped lift people out of poverty.

The evidence, in terms of census figures, is that more people slipped over the line into poverty while the tax cuts went into effect. It would appear that cutting taxes for the wealthiest members of our society does not actually help the poor in the way the ruling party's economists have theorized.

Remember >"voodoo economics"?

We hope the ruling party avoids the mistakes of the past. Concentrating the poor into ghettos puts the most vulnerable people in the worst possible location. The pockets of extreme poverty we built or allowed to develop result in depressed areas lacking jobs, decent schools, opportunities and hope.

Social science has learned a lot in the last twenty years about how society and the government can help poor people.

Integration of low income people into the rest of the culture has proven effective in many localities. The government, using zoning laws, requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of housing units for low income families. Typically this is ten to twenty percent. The government then subsidizes the rent or mortgage for the poor inhabitants. As a result, kids grow up in neighborhoods with decent educations and the same kinds of opportunities as the rest of us. Families often "pull themselves up by the bootstraps" when given this kind of chance.

For a full treatment of the subject, read Orfield's Metropolitics.

Of course, upper class and middle class enclaves do not welcome "Section 8" people. I have witnessed some very ugly prejudice first hand.

We can only hope the ruling party proceeds with foresight and insight. We can only hope they base policies on the realities of modern urban life, not ideology.

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