by Don Washington on 2011/11/18
A few months ago the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) began to say out loud what anyone who has ever had to deal with the CHA knows has been in their dark little hearts for at least a decade: The CHA is not housing of last resort for the poor and homeless. Huh, really, then who is it for? But the thing that alarms me is that whenever anyone talks about what the government should do the discussion always about the middle class. No one ever talks about the people who are most in need of government’s help and/or protection. In fact the narrative that I’m tired of hearing is how the unworthy poor are sponging off the rest of us and we need to cut services to them and to society in order to balance a budget.
Apparently government is no longer about the business of addressing homelessness, foreclosure, unemployment, corporate fraud, environmental degradation and/or economic inequality. For the past thirty year’s government’s job has been to be a mean-spirited accountant that looks out for the interests of corporations and exists to provide security and profit centers for those interests. The society we live in now reflects this thirty-year trend. The Great Society and Civil Rights and Women’s Rights were all about creating an equality of opportunity in a way that directly confronted issues of poverty, racism and sexism. Now our public policy doesn’t address those issues but is concerned with limiting government’s ability to engage in public policy that takes those problems into account. As a result what we’ve seen is the death of compassion and a public policy animated from the worst possible angels of what remains of our nation’s soul.
A practical example of the death of compassion and how we’ve thrown the poor away is the suggestion that there should be time limits on how long someone can live in the CHA. This might be because we all know that poverty has a time limit. Look at how well this has worked out for the child poverty rate. Ever since Bill Clinton ended Welfare as we know it there have been less kids in poverty because the five year limit has ended unemployment and opened opportunities in the market for everyone… wait a second that’s not what happened. More kids are in poverty, more people are in abject poverty and here in Chicago it means that they don’t even get housing because the CHA is out of that business and is looking for MIDDLE CLASS residents for mixed income housing that makes it all but impossible for the poor to move in.
Here’s a thought to make you understand why we finished 27th in regards to social justice. If you are living in CHA there is a one strike policy and the way this policy works is that once you are arrested apparently the wheels of eviction start turning and not just you but everyone in the residence is kicked out. Your oldest daughter is arrested you and your two year old get kicked into the street. Sweet, seems fair because as you know when a teenager gets picked up on a drug charge in Cabo on Spring vacation the bank immediately forecloses on the house. Yes, it’s an imperfect analogy because the people in public housing are dependent upon our tax dollars which makes some think that they should have some control over them. For as we know the rich have historically had control over the poor and because all of us know that the less money you have the fewer rights you possess… right? Oh, wait, that’s not true we live a democracy… right? This is not to say that homeowners don’t get tax money from you and I, because they get public subsidies in the form of tax breaks and we’d think them being foreclosed on because of a crime carried out by someone residing in the house would be extremely unfair.
Still, given the Citizen’s United ruling, which directly said that the more money you have the more speech you are entitled to, via the transitive property of mathematics having less money might mean you have less rights. Certainly we have examples of how the poor suffer and the rich don’t. Mother of two lies about a drug arrest to get food stamps for her and two starving children and she’s sentenced to three years with no probation. A Wall Street bankster who perpetrated a three million dollar fraud that turned thousands of low-income homeowners into foreclosure victims was sentenced to two years and may get probation. So in that light the CHA one strike rule makes perfect sense.
At the end of the day what’s really happening is that as the American middle class sinks into the mire of economic inequality no one is thinking about the fate of the poor… even as more people join them. CHA is just another example of how the fate of the poor no longer matters to policy makers and if that doesn’t shake you up the perhaps you can riddle me this. If government isn’t interested in serving the needs of the people who most need society’s help then why should they follow society’s rules? It’s just a thought that should keep all of us at night especially since so many of us are joining them. And if that thought scares you here’s something to feel better about what austerity actually is and you can feel better about fighting against the idea of what these prick-rat-bastards are doing to us: