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The answer is yes according to UN Human Rights Council, Profesor Raquel Rolnik (http://www2.ohchr.org/... ). Professor Rolnik is the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. She just finished a major tour of the US. Her tour included New York city, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Wilkes-Barre, PA and the Native American reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

http://www.hicnet.org/...

Rolnik’s visit:

What is astounding is that she was prohibited (literally blocked) from visiting the US by President GW Bush for one whole year. There are only a few countries that have blocked UN special rapporteurs from entering their country (the US found itself in the company of Cuba, North Korea and Burma). Unlike Bush, President Obama has not only welcomed her visit, but has actually invited her. Thank you President Obama! Her comments were damning (these will be discussed below). She has submitted a verbal report to the State Department which has one month to respond to her comments. Her final written report to the UN human rights council will be submitted early next year.

According to the Guardian, Rolnik said administration officials were genuinely interested in what she might find, if not embracing of mission and the idea  that everyone is entitled to a decent home. http://www.guardian.co.uk/...

One of the first meetings I had at the state department they clearly told me: here, adequate housing is not a human right," she said. "I was shocked when I realised that the US, and countries in Europe – England – as well, had a solid housing policy for many years that worked pretty well. That was dismantled and the situation became worse throughout the nineties. Then we had this financial crisis and a real crisis in housing. It's all tied together," she said. "But I didn't expect to see what I have seen. In some ways the situation is worse than I expected.

Her investigation:

Professor Rolnik (professor of Urban Planning and Architecture from Brazil) was specifically examining the impact of the sub-prime mortgage crisis on the provision of adequate housing.  She travelled these 7 places, talking to the homeless, those in danger of becoming homeless, those who were being foreclosed and government officials; she held town-halls in all of the places that she visited and all were widely attended.

Rolnik laid the blame for the housing crisis and the financial crisis square at the door of the conservative philosophy that dismantled the policy of providing adequate housing for those with lower incomes in favour of "the illusion" that home ownership is the answer for all. Not only did this lead to the destruction of coherent housing policies and protection for renters, it lead to the creation and accumulation of debt and the creation of the current housing crisis in the US.
Typically those who lose their homes initially move in with relatives who are themselves barely able to subsist while looking for housing. Insufficient welfare payments often do not meet the costs of rents. Rents have been rising due to loss of protections for renters, lack of housing since so many former rentals became cooperatives and condominiums during the property boom in urban areas, and often no limits to increased rents between old and new tenants, limited (if any negotiation) between tenants associations and landlords mean that rents can be increased without linkages to maintenance costs and to the cost of living. Moreover, limited (if any) savings, and low incomes (for those employed) mean that people cannot find afford deposits for rental properties in which to live. The rise in homelessness especially in urban areas has increased tremendously. According to the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...):

The US government does not tally the numbers but interested organisations say that more than 3 million people were homeless at some point over the past year. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children, often single parents. On any given night in Los Angeles, about 17,000 parents and children are homeless. Most will be found a place in a shelter but many single men and women are forced to sleep on the streets.

According to Professor Rolnik:

"Part of the financial crisis has to do with these housing policy options because one of the main ideas of this policy is to promote home ownership to those who never got access to property. People who never had credit finally had banks provide them credit and they can buy a home. But it didn't work for the poor. [...] So now we have a new face of homelessness – people who had homes, were not living in public housing, were not living in assisted housing, but now are in a position of asking for assistance because they're homeless. But the public housing has been destroyed," she said."

Rolniks’s comments:
Rolnik’s comments leave us with some unpalatable facts. According to the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...), Rolnik

  1. "[...]  has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as "invisible" a deepening homeless crisis."
  1. She also said that it is "shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing."
  1. "The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US," she said. "I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn't been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless."
  1. "I think those who are suffering the most in this whole situation are the very poor, the low-income population. The burden is disproportionately on them and it's of course disproportionately on African-Americans, on Latinos and immigrant communities, and on Native Americans."

While she saw very difficult conditions in every place that she visited, the worst situation was that on the Native American reservation in Pine Ridge South Dakota:

You see total hopelessness, despair, very bad conditions. Nothing I have seen in other cities compared to the physical condition of the housing at Pine Ridge. Nothing compared to the overcrowding. They're not visible, they're isolated, they're far away. They're just lost," she said.

According to Haider Rizvi (http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/...):

By some estimates, up to 60 percent of the homes on Pine Ridge Reservation are infested with black mold. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, homes on the reservation are "overcrowded and scarce".

Despite the fact that Lakota people are indigenous to the land, many families in Pine Ridge are forced to live in tents or cars. About 26 percent of the housing units are mobile homes.

Activists say over 33 percent of the reservation homes lack basic water, sewage systems, and electricity. There is an average of 17 people living in each family home.

In a study released in 2006, the Tribal Council estimated the need for at least 4,000 new homes to address the homeless problem.

The deepest shame is that the US is such a wealthy country, they actually have the resources to provide adequate housing for everyone and yet it has not embraced the idea that housing is a human right:

"In the US, it's feasible to provide adequate housing for all. You have a lot of money, a lot of dollars available. You have a lot of expertise. This is a perfect setting to really embrace housing as a human right," she said."

Is adequate housing an human right? I think so. Provision of housing for the poor was a strong component of the welfare state. I am certain that people remember the idea of public housing. The current policy has yielded a situation of rising homelessness, an insufficient number of housing units, insufficient payments to actually ensure access to available housing units. A couple of days ago, someone asked me what was needed on the President’s council of economic advisers and I said we needed planners, perhaps I should have been more specific, what we need is urban and regional planners, specifically we need a complete re-think on housing provision. This housing crisis will only continue to spread if we do not begin to challenge the idea that adequate housing is a privilege rather than a right.

Originally posted to NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:18 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

    by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:18:42 AM PST

  •  This is important ... we do need (7+ / 0-)

    to refocus on a coherent housing policy. It will not fix itself and we should take Professor Rolnik's comments seriously and use it to articulate a national and state-by state housing strategy.

    No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

    by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:31:05 AM PST

  •  Define adequate. (3+ / 0-)

    Theodore Kaczinski was living in a one-room shack with no electricity.  A high school friend of mine chose to turn off his utilities for a year, just to see what it was like.

    I grew up in a 6 room house with 9 children.  Three bedrooms (boys, girls, and parents).  Kitchen, Living room, and two half baths.  (Separating toilet and shower was essential).

    I am deeply against some luxurious suburban ideal that every child needs their own room.  McMansions are clearly not a need, and even single-family housing is not a need.

    A home is what you make it, and clean, sanitary, and adequate housing can be quite humble.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:35:19 AM PST

    •  how about places for families to (8+ / 0-)

      live that are affordable, have sufficient bedrooms, having running water, electricity and access to sewage disposal. This is not a question of luxurious suburban ideals, this is about the provision of housing as a human right. We need to re-think the whole idea of home-ownership being the basis of a housing policy; we need public housing, rent control and stabilisation and enough affordable housing that people are not forced to live on the streets. People and families (with children) living on the streets in such a wealthy country is truly shameful.

      No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

      by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:44:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  While I agree adequate needs defined... (5+ / 0-)

      I think adequate by American standards should include clean running water, electricity, enough insulation/heat so that internal temperatures don't dip below some arbitrary number in winter (60, 65, whatever is hammered out), cooling such that such temperatures in summer also don't rise above some arbitrary number (85, 90?), sanitary facilities, cooking facilities, and some number of square feet per person also to be worked out.

      Theodore Kaczinski was a nut.

      Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

      by Ezekial 23 20 on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:31:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Almost nothing more important (7+ / 0-)

    than a safe warm dry place to live even if you live in a nomadic culture.

    It is the foundation on which all else is built.

    Oh no, the dead have risen and they're voting Republican. - Lisa Simpson

    by LaFeminista on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:38:33 AM PST

  •  Census bureau reports on crowding. (5+ / 0-)

    It's also probably a good idea to include some mention and discussion of crowding.

    The level of crowded households shows a mixed picture over time.  Occupied housing units with more than one person per room are considered crowded.  The rate of crowding declined from 1940 (20 percent) to 1980 (4.5 percent); it rose slightly in 1990 (4.9 percent), and rose again in 2000 (5.7 percent) (see graph).

    The rate of severely crowded homes followed a similar trend as crowded homes.  Severely crowded homes (those with more than 1.5 persons per room) ranged from a high of 9.0 percent in 1940 to a low of 1.4 percent in 1980.  In 2000, 2.7 percent of occupied housing units (2.9 million) were considered severely crowded.

    Examples of states with high levels of crowding in 2000 were California and Hawaii, both with a crowding rate of about 15 percent.  Severely crowded homes represented 9.1 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.  Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia were examples of states with low levels of crowding, all with only about 1 percent crowding in 2000.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:38:39 AM PST

    •  I agree that crowding needs to be discussed ... (5+ / 0-)

      there was simply too much information and points that needed to be raised and I centred it around Professor Rolnik's visit and comments. Unfortunately, I left out far too many things that are relevant, including statistics on rising homelessness.

      No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

      by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:46:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No problem. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tmo, goodasgold, NY brit expat

        This is a great topic, it's something we should have a lot more diaries on.

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:56:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks, I am happy to get such a strong (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tmo, Odysseus, theran, goodasgold

          positive response. Definitely we will need a lot more diaries on this subject to get people to support a transition to a sane housing policy.

          No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

          by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:59:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was thinking of writing a diary (3+ / 0-)

            about the end result of the whole New London, CT thing that was the impetus for the Kelo decision.  (Basically, Pfizer pulled out, there was no demand for the thing the developers wanted to build, etc.)

            There's an intimate link between HIGH HIGH real estate prices, declining cities and lack of livable space.  (Most of car-suburbia is neither affordable nor pleasant.)

            "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

            by theran on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 11:49:47 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Please please write this diary! I think (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              theran, Brooke In Seattle

              that the more specific the discussion, the more we can convince people of the need for a different strategy. That link needs to be explored and explained so that people can understand exactly what has gone wrong and what is causing the problems.

              No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

              by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 12:05:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I need to gather a little more local (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NY brit expat

                info (I'm not from Conn, but went to grad school in Western Mass) before I can tell a really coherent story.  

                The not yet under construction but already doomed casino in Philly is another one I'd like to get to.  Ironically, it is supposed to be a Foxwoods, which already demonstrably messed up CT for miles around and is now going bust under unmanagable debt loads.

                "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

                by theran on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 01:46:29 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  Both California and Hawaii have a costly (4+ / 0-)

      housing and rental market.  Families simply make do with less room.  I've rented apartments in Los Angeles for about 16 years and during that time, rent has at least doubled.  Back in 1994, the 2 bedroom apartment that I rented cost $825 a month, which was average.  Today I pay $1650 for a 2 bedroom.  Or you could spent
      half-million + for some rinky-dink house.

  •  Yes (4+ / 0-)

    and it's not a particularly new human right either.

    "O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
    Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
    Allow not nature more than nature needs,
    Man's life is as cheap as beast's."

    "Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,
    That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
    How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
    Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
    From seasons such as these? O! I have ta'en
    Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
    Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
    That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
    And show the heavens more just."

    "Is man no more than this? Consider him well.
    Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide,
    the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here’s
    three on ’s are sophisticated; thou art the thing
    itself; unaccomodated man is no more but such a
    poor, bare, forked animal as thou art."

    - Shakespeare, King Lear

  •  Two sides to every coin (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, thethinveil

    Rolnik laid the blame for the housing crisis and the financial crisis square at the door of the conservative philosophy that dismantled the policy of providing adequate housing for those with lower incomes in favour of "the illusion" that home ownership is the answer for all. Not only did this lead to the destruction of coherent housing policies and protection for renters, it lead to the creation and accumulation of debt and the creation of the current housing crisis in the US.

    For every action, ensure that there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    How many liberals bought cheap housing, and offered rental rooms at low rates?  (Including section 8 subsidies?)

    In 1981, my father lost his job.  He invited a co-worker to live with us for several months while they both looked for work.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:45:03 AM PST

    •  Your father did an admirable thing, but (6+ / 0-)

      I do not think that the problem can be solved through voluntarism, we need a coherent and effective housing policy. We can help each other and I think that it is important and essential, but we need to go beyond that and we need the federal and state governments to tackle this problem.

      No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

      by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 09:48:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree, NY- (4+ / 0-)

        It's not just about having a roof over one's head.  The issue is also about how many heads are under a roof.

        A friend of mine used to live next to a public housing development. The grounds and units were immaculate and well-tended.  The rules of behavior were strictly enforced (no drugs, gangs, etc.) and as a result, the families that occupied the complex have a base for a decent life.  

        It was so encouraging to see.  Look, we can do this!  

        •  I remember when I was younger driving (5+ / 0-)

          on the Major Deegan expressway (I87) and passing burnt out apartment buildings with blocked out windows in the Bronx. They actually put decals on the blocked-out windows to make it seem that they were occupied from a distance. From Haider Rizvi's report of Rolnik's comments and provision of information: http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/...

          In New York, widely considered the financial capital of the world and home to the U.N. headquarters, more than 40,000 people have nowhere to sleep at night.

          Official figures suggest that currently more than 130,000 families facing housing problems in the city, most of them from minority communities, such as Black and Latino.

          I never understood why these buildings were not bought by the government. Renovation of buildings like this to provide housing for the homeless and the destitute is a obvious and sensible policy. If they are not capable of renovation due to structural damage, tear them down and build new places to house people.

          No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

          by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:29:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  We have massive urban planning fail (5+ / 0-)

            The wholesale destruction of the social fabric of cities was subsidized in the 50's and 60's via urban highway projects that carved up neighborhoods to make the suburbs more attractive.  

            After Jane Jacobs, the concept changed, but morphed into nimbyism and inertia.  New development isn't driven by need, but by developers who can pay enough bribe to overcome the bureaucracy for some car-centric condo or big-box project.

            The failure to have reasonably priced houses is part of a larger failure to simply take actions to make cities more livable, such as transit and decent schools.  Adequate housing stock would probably take care of itself with a better macro policy.

            "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

            by theran on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:34:28 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  An average of 17 people to a household (6+ / 0-)

    in Pine Ridge is astounding number.  

    When I was growing up, I shared my room with my 3 sisters in a small, blue-collar house.  My family of 8 shared a single bathroom.  I felt very deprived of privacy and because of it, years later I still have tendencies to recluse myself and luxuriate in being alone.  

    I really can't image the damaging effect of sharing a shack with so 17 people or, heaven help them, no house at all.  Adequate housing is a physical and mental health issue.

  •  I vote yes (5+ / 0-)

    I would love to see a shift in federal policy from subsidizing home ownership to ensuring affordable housing.

  •  US policy is the expensive housing is a right n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, debedb, NY brit expat

    "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

    by theran on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:11:56 AM PST

  •  We are not a wealthy country (3+ / 0-)

    I will disagree with your statement that "The deepest shame is that the US is such a wealthy country, they actually have the resources to provide adequate housing for everyone and yet it has not embraced the idea that housing is a human right". We are not a wealthy country, we are a third-world country with a lot of wealthy people, who do not consider themselves connected to the rest of America; they think the rest of us don't deserve anything except to suffer and die.

    The wealthy people are the ones who SHOULD be ashamed, but they had the shame function in their hearts surgically removed, so that they could make more money and not feel guilty about all the misery and suffering around them.

    Californians: The Courage Campaign is working for changing the 2/3 budget rule and for ending Prop 8. Go!

    by tmo on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:29:01 AM PST

    •  Actually, the US is a very wealthy country (6+ / 0-)

      with a massively unfair distribution of wealth and income (which needs to be changed). Moreover, government revenue is not being spent for the purpose of provision of a better life for all citizens.

      You expect the wealthy with all their view of entitlement to take care of the less fortunate? I know that they will not do so. Few wealthy people and corporations even understand that they would not have their wealth without people buying their goods and services. They think that their wealth means that they are better than the less fortunate and that they deserve their wealth. They will not feel shame for the most part, blame the victim ideology is far too embedded in people's consciousness for a more positive outcome.

      We as a society need to ensure that everyone is covered and we are not doing it. The market will not do it, that is not its purpose.

      No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

      by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:37:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I support Obama, tactically, even though (4+ / 0-)

    ...it seems he's just another liberal bourgeois politician...most of his explicitly stated rhetoric and program have been...way better...than anything that could have been expected from McCain/freakin' Palin.

    And many, relatively small policy changes under the new administration are indeed, significant, substantial shifts in the paradigm...

    But I expected more and better from a former community organizer, "the most radical liberal Senator", and, yes, I"ll say it, a black man, who should be all the more poignantly aware of the issues.

    But one of my biggest disappointments (along with his stated support for "clean coal" and "safe nukes", and some of his initial appointments, and "bailout" schemes...the list is long...although I respect him taking his time about Afghan, and indications that that he is determined not to do a Vietnam.  

    But I don't recall him ever speaking to the the issues of poverty and the underclass in the US.  It seems virtually all of his remarks have been exclusively directed to the need to protect, restore, help the middle class.

    I'm not against helping the middle class, to keep them from being pushed down the ladder into the underclass...

    And I'd rather see the ones who have deliberately looted and sabotaged our economy arrested, than "bailed out"...Their corporate and personal assets should be seized, for reallocation to the public interest.

    But the people at the bottom are, and have been, for a long time, hurting bad, and need more relief, on every front, from housing to healthcare, to education and jobs.

    Many such people don't Even have a house and garage and a piece of land full of accumulated junk and sheer luxuries, that former middle class workers have accumulated over the years (before being layed off, evicted, or whatever)...no car, truck, boat, tools, equipment, furniture, to use, or sell, no savings, pensions, investments, nothing.  No cushion, period.  

    We should be working it from the bottom up, rather than the top down, or even the middle down, seems to me.  The middle is important too...but the bottom is hurting way worse, actually.

    Those at the top have to pay, to bring those at the bottom up to an acceptable level of being able to meet their fundamental human needs and potentials.  It's not happening, yet, and we need to deal with this.

    That seems unlikely, though, before 2010 and 2012.  I think it will require a substantially greater Progressive Caucus plurality in Congress, to properly sort out our national priorities, on any given "issue".  The real issue is more democracy, and it's the only solution, for justice and peace, to save the planet.

    The right is no longer politically correct, in this country.  But they will never voluntarily submit to the popular democratic will...they must be suppressed, democratically, electorally.

    All Out for 2010 and 2012!

    Photobucket

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:35:54 AM PST

    •  I agree with you completely on so (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, theran

      many points that you have made, but especially these two:

      But I don't recall him ever speaking to the the issues of poverty and the underclass in the US.  It seems virtually all of his remarks have been exclusively directed to the need to protect, restore, help the middle class.

      I'm not against helping the middle class, to keep them from being pushed down the ladder into the underclass...

      and:

      We should be working it from the bottom up, rather than the top down, or even the middle down, seems to me.  The middle is important too...but the bottom is hurting way worse, actually.

      Thank you for your whole comment!

      No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

      by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:43:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  While I am recommending for thoughtfulness (3+ / 0-)

      and many good points, I don't totally agree.  Obama focuses to an extent on the educated middle class because that's his base and where he comes from.  

      But, in addition, we haven't seen any major government programs sweeping enough to touch the middle class for a generation or more.  This is politically very problematic, since people eventually go libertarian or become apathetic, but it's practically a huge issue as well.

      Look at where the worst government falm is: public schools, letting state universities get very expensive or decline, incredibly expensive housing and healthcare.  The middle class isn't active because everybody's scuffling around trying to do as best they can or hit the lottery with their investments.

      Obama came in, essentially, with a program to change that by thinking big.  Where he's messing up is letting HCR get watered down to where it means little if you have a job and focusing his energy on bailout to the top and tinkering with our already lame safety net.

      "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

      by theran on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 10:59:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are three distinct problems at work here (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, theran, Brooke In Seattle

        Addressing these issues should not be an either/or situation. In some cases there is overlap and in others we need a change in policies or an extension of already existing coverage:

        On the one hand, the US does not have a coherent social welfare net to cover the poor. This means that provision for the elderly is insufficient, welfare payments are insufficient, there is insufficient housing, poor nutrition, lack of access to child care facilities, basic services are needed that are not being provided.

        Secondly, there are those who are not poor enough and, as such, do not have access to what little is provided by the social welfare state and they may be living in desperate situations, but they have barely adequate income, limited job protection and benefits, their poorer relations are desperate and they are sharing with them, debt and housing costs are throwing them down into the bottom.

        The third group that needs assistance is the shrinking middle class whose taxation has basically sustained the social welfare state since its inception. Those things such as decent paying jobs with pensions are being eroded, things that could be afforded (e.g., university education for their children) are becoming harder and harder to sustain. The policies of the past 3 presidents have done little to protect them and their standards of living and they are being thrown down into the second group I mentioned above.

        Helping the middle class does not mean that we cannot help the poor and the working poor; but we do need focused policies. The situation is absolutely abysmal for the poor and working poor; the middle class needs help to actually exist as a middle class. I do not know if this makes any sense, but the problems should not be treated as either one gets help or the other.

        No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

        by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 11:18:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with all of this 100% (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus, NY brit expat

          There's no either/or unless policy makers think very small, focusing on propping up asset prices, the insurance-based heath system, etc.

          To the extent I am disappointed with Obama it is for falling into this trap.

          "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

          by theran on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 11:37:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  the underclass is not well spoken for (3+ / 0-)

      even on this site.

      it's talked AROUND, I suppose--but usually couched in terms of something else--such as health-care, or race...poverty and homelessness as an ISSUE seems to be something that most liberals--let alone right wingers--don't want to touch with a 10 foot pole.

      Because these people don't really count.  That's what it looks like...I'm not sure why race and sex and gender get so much air time but poverty doesn't.

      Sadly, the only candidate to actively address the issue was Edwards...and he pretty much went down the drain.

      •  Because "poverty" is about the other (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, NY brit expat

        Race and gender are about people's personal concerns.  Except for total fakers like Edwards, politics is the projection of the private into the public space.  

        John Edwards talked about other people; Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton talked about themselves.  The outcome was obvious from the beginning.

        The condition of not having access to money and jobs is embedded in all sorts of other structural phenomena.  Even people having financial difficulty don't want to be appealed to as if they are a problem to be solved.  That's why politicians don't take the approach you describe.

        "Dream for just a second and then do it!" -- Kolmogorov

        by theran on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 11:16:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Obama couldn't do that & get elected. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, NY brit expat

      Now, I do not agree with this, but I was born in the '50s and grew up in the '60s and '70s, and if he HAD come out in support of the poor over the middle class, he would have been seen as another "race" candidate, like Jesse Jackson, who many white people saw as only having the interests of black people at heart. (Again, I don't believe that -- it's just what I've experienced.)

      That's the way the general population of white people saw candidates like Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, and why they never got any farther than they did in elections. They scared white people -- like my parents and all their white friends and family.

      It's why the real racists at FOX kept asking whether Barack, if he won, would start locking up white people and silly crap like Glenn Beck's hateful nonsense about Obama "hating white people." They are trying to stir up those memories and fears.

      He had to come out for the middle class, or otherwise he would have been tagged as someone who wasn't a "serious" candidate in the eyes of the majority.

      However, now that he's in office, Obama needs to start concentrating on some poverty programs as well as getting the middle class back to work. I'd like to see more welfare reform -- changes in income guidelines and allowing males and childless females the help to recover in this society. I'd like to see hard cut-off numbers changed so that if a family makes $1 too much for a program that they STILL get some help of some kind. I'd like to see less onerous "workfare" for mothers with small children and better daycare and pre-K for the working poor.

      No matter what he does, some entitled ass is going to scream, so he should just do it. He may have to wait for his second term to start on full-scale revisions such as this. He needs to get the country back to work first and help as many people as he can. Then he needs to help those who were't helped by the first actions and lift up everyone to a decent level.

      "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

      by Brooke In Seattle on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 01:18:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand the difficulty of getting (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, theran

        elected while running on a programme of guaranteed entitlements for the poor. People have been so programmed to believe that the poor are responsible for and deserve their situation that it is very hard to convince people otherwise.

        Unfortunately years of neglect and outright malevolence has left the poor and working poor in desperate straits and the middle classes standard of living literally has been eroded. While being elected on a programme to help the middle class (who do need help), coherent policy needs to be geared towards the poor and the working poor.

        I would actually expect more than a few entitled asses to scream, but they will scream anyway; their control and their view of reality have left us in the current mess we are in. Even those who have been hurt by these policies will scream if they view that their relative "entitlement" is endangered. The problem is that due to rising homelessness and poverty, some aid and support is needed before Obama's second term. Gearing some of this support to the working poor is important as they are extremely vulnerable especially in this current economic climate.

        No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

        by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 01:36:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I also vote yes. (3+ / 0-)

    A country as rich as this one should be able to distribute things such that everyone has the basics--food, shelter, healthcare and an education.

    "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

    by greywolfe359 on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 11:25:43 AM PST

    •  Seems to be obvious to me, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      getting the majority of people in the US to recognise these things as rights or even a government to act to do so seems to be a bridge too far. Thanks for your comment!

      No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

      by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 11:32:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've worked for HUD for over 30 years (5+ / 0-)

    I'll be retiring soon; don't tell my boss. It upsets her.

    The concept of "ownership" as the be-all and end-all is part and parcel of much that is wrong in the US. And of course the "ownership society" mantra was one that the Reagan administration kicked off. Homeownership is alleged to be the answer to housing problems. It most assuredly is not. It is neither necessary nor appropriate for a great many people. Single-family homes are intrinsically resource-consuming; the house very few people on a great deal of space, take away land from other purposes, guarantee that cars are needed for nearly every daily task and generally speaking drive up the cost of housing overall.

    HUD is now, finally, in the process of rethinking its focus on homeownership and broadening its approach to the issue of adequate and affordable housing in general. I could not be happier.

    •  It's parallel over in the UK was with Margaret (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Brooke In Seattle

      Thatcher's (and the Tories) policy of literally selling off council housing. Now we have incredibly expensive housing in London, housing speculation, rising consumer debt and an housing shortage.

      I am really happy to hear that HUD is in the process of rethinking this absurd policy and strategy. That has actually made my day. Now to get government to sponsor building of public housing again and abandon this ideological and incredibly stupid policy.

      No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

      by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 12:01:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, there's a mindset (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, NY brit expat

      that assumes if one is a renter, the property has no value to them.

      Which is nonsense, because I've never owned a house or condo, only rented my whole adult life, and I've never torn up a place I lived in. I've seen homeowners who seem to think that because they own the property, they can trash it however they please. But oh, hell no to renters, because they might not care for it as well as an owner.

      I do agree that there is no need for everyone to have a three-bedroom house in order to call it a home, but the towering apartment complexes in urban areas that became the housing projects can't be repeated.

      Sociological studies prove that even gentle animals such as deer will turn on their own and kill them if you cram too many of them in too small of a space. No apartment building should be higher than about 10 or 15 floors. But greedy owners want to cram every square foot upward and get as much as they can for their trendy little spots, so they build 50-floor towers that block views and create urban canyons that can be as ugly as any blight.

      "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

      by Brooke In Seattle on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 01:27:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have to laugh, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat

      Homeownership is alleged to be the answer to housing problems. It most assuredly is not.

      I always wanted land. It was far more important to me than having a house on a lot.
      So I have land. And an apartment in the end of the barn. I lived here for over 10 years with no running water. Finally got that through a CREP program. That's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Basically, I got reimbursed for cost of well, pressure tank, lines and water troughs and fencing to fence the livestock off the pond. As we were finishing up signing the papers, I said to the man "boy it will be great to have running water!" He looked at me all steely like, and said "Mam? This water is for livestock watering purposes, and livestock watering purposes ONLY!" I said, "oh yes SIR! I meant it will be nice to have running water to fill the water troughs with! SIR!" He laughed, and told me that what I did with the water after he left was my business.
      So I'm making progress on the roof over my head. I have water in the house in the form of a pressure tank sitting in the kitchen, with a spigot at the bottom. I heat water on hotplate or woodstove, depending on the season. Some day, I expect to have a system whereby water can exit the house besides in a bucket.

      Point is, it is incredible that there are funds to water livestock, but not to have running water in and out of the house. Go figger.

      •  Hurrah for running water ... that is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        emmasnacker

        extremely depressing (but at least the livestock is covered, small favours). You would think that the provision of water for a human being would be of some importance and that there could be a way to have government support (or obligation) of ensuring clean water for human beings.

        No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

        by NY brit expat on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 04:42:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'd be happy if the gubmint (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat

          felt obliged to ensure clean water at the source... ie, stopping MTR, protecting forests, wetlands, rivers, ephemeral streams. And insured access to it. After all, it's no good if it's toxic when it comes out of the tap!

          •  definitely and that is an understatement ... (0+ / 0-)

            access to clean running water and clean water at the source ... these seem to be such obvious things and yet trying to get them seems to require such hard work that is often fruitless. sigh!

            No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

            by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 15, 2009 at 07:36:51 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

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