My father is a wise man. He instilled a very strong work ethic in his children that has lasted to this day.
In doing so, one of his methods was to have us go out and work in his garden. When we pulled weeds, we sometimes just plucked the stems – quickly and lazily doing the minimum so we could get back to messing around. My father would scold us since we had not really done what he asked. Since we did not pull up the roots, we really did not do what we were told.
And that is the problem with liberal policies in America today, they do not get to the root of the problem.
Take the example of inequitable opportunity through housing. President Obama’s Housing Secretary Julian Castro is looking to leverage tax dollars to increase rent subsidies for the urban poor looking to move to America’s most affluent neighborhoods. Section 8 – the program designed to provide rent assistance for the poor – determines voucher rent limits by metro area; however, Castro’s plan will set it based on zip code.
The purpose of this idea, the so-called “Small-Area Fair Market Rents,” would increase the integration of well-to-do neighborhoods with the urban poor. Moreover, since this “correction” would reduce subsidies for renters in poorer neighborhoods, there is a double incentive for the poor to migrate to richer neighborhoods.
The plan, which is slated to be finalized in October (right before the election), would also include “mobility counselors” to help relocation efforts. Consider this with Castro’s “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” program that pressures suburban authorities to build more low-income housing and accept Section 8 tenants or risk losing federal grant money.
To be clear, housing had historically been used to suppress minorities. Redlining – once backed by federal policies, mortgage discrimination, and racist zoning laws kept African-Americans in poor neighborhoods in major cities, and these neighborhoods were left with inferior schools and police protection along with reduced access to food and health facilities.
Yes, housing has played a role in how African-Americans currently experience disproportionate poverty and, yes, housing is a critical component of how African-Americans will achieve parity with other ethnic groups.
The questions is how do we make housing equitable.
How not to do it is artificially interfering in the housing markets and force-feeding the poor into richer neighborhoods. Of course, one obvious flaw is the usage of taxpayer dollars to artificially inflate housing prices in the suburbs. A bigger potential problem is that, unless you have a thorough vetting system, the crime from poor neighborhoods may follow with recipients of the vouchers.
Housing vouchers have been linked to crime spikes in suburbs around Memphis, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Reading, PA. Additionally, a study published by the University of Michigan found that vouchers led to reductions in neighborhoods with high crime rates because crime became dispersed, which allowed overall crime to grow in given metropolitan areas.
In a 2011 study, HUD itself refuted some of these findings, but could not conclusively state the correlations were false.
Lack of opportunity from inequitable housing must be dealt with directly. In order to do so, it is important to get to the root of the problem and eradicate that. You must somehow decrease the disparity in opportunity between affluent and poor. It is not easy. It requires a mix of right and left. It requires encouraging private investment to provide better infrastructure and employment opportunities. It requires investing in schools and encouraging competition via school choice. It requires ensuring those who want to adhere to the law and better themselves have that chance and are not continual victims to neighborhood crime. It requires tough policing for those who have no respect for the law or their neighbors. It requires a culture shift, shaming those who encourage misogyny and violence and praising those who reject it.
The above is incredibly complicated. Instead of getting to the root of the problem and making minority neighborhoods more wealthy – fixing the schools, encouraging investment from the private sector, eradicating crime while increasing community trust for the police and all of the other hard things – why not just throw money at the problem, sprinkled with a little demagoguery (i.e. Castro’s plan to punish those mean landlords who refuse to accept these super-vouchers)?
Why pull the weed up by the root? We can solve the problem by just making an edict and score political points in the process. We will just throw money (taxpayer money) at the problem and then it is solved.
Except it really is not … just like those pesky weeds that kept growing back.
An economic conservative till the end, Hughey strongly believes in the power of self-empowerment as the solution to many of society's problems. He is a business consultant for a management advisory firm in the Washington DC area and a contributor to Project 21, a black conservative organization. He also appears on television as a political and policy commentator on TVOne and RT. A graduate of Stanford Univeristy and Harvard Business School, Hughey believes that education and economic awareness are the keys to empower Americans to take back our nation.