Candidates Conclude “The Poor Will Always Be With Us” – Good Luck!

Voting Location Rural Alabama 1966

Voting Location Rural Alabama 1966

New Orleans  Both major candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, seem to have concluded that, “What the heck, the poor don’t really vote, and the poor will always be with us, so later for them.” Speeches about the economy are silent on the issue of the richness of America contrasted with our level of poverty compared to other industrialized countries.

Both have kinda, sorta come out for an increase in the federal minimum wage, but don’t start thinking about a “fight for $15,” because this election season that’s more of a “dream for $15.” Trump sometimes says he is for a $10 per hour minimum wage. Clinton has settled on a $12 per hour minimum wage.

Clinton has proposed expanded benefits for child care and health care and some other existing benefits. Trump has said there might should be a deduction from taxes for the average rate of child care payment, but of course you have to have a job where you benefit from such a deduction. Neither seem to say much about the earned income tax credit, nor surprisingly housing, especially affordable housing, which seems to have fallen off either of their lists. Trump obviously knows a bunch about housing, but it’s more in the unaffordable, luxury area.

Yet, as the New York Times noted:

There is not a single state where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can rent a market-rate one-bedroom apartment for 30 percent or less of their income, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And more than 11 million households spend more than half of their income on rent.

After one federal initiative after another by both Democratic and Republican presidents, I have to wonder whether or not in the post-2007 housing collapse the candidates have lost their moorings. They can no longer stand firmly on the argument that everyone can afford to be a homeowner, and they are unwilling and unable to tackle the reality of a permanent renter-class and how that fits into a “new” sense of the American dream, and god knows no candidate wants to admit the dream is dead.

This abandonment of the poor is most striking of course for the Democratic Party, which many observers are now arguing is being upended by Trump’s success with the working class, especially white, which they have usually claimed. One columnist recently argued for example:

If current trends continue, not only will there be a class inversion among the white supporters of the Democratic Party, but the party will become increasingly dependent on a white upper middle class that has isolated itself from the rest of American society. Instead of serving as the political arm of working and middle class voters seeking to move up the ladder, the Democratic Party faces the prospect of becoming the party of the winners, in collaboration with many of those in the top 20 percent who are determined to protect and secure their economic and social status.

So, who is really going to advocate and represent low-and-moderate income families or in other words, the poor and working class? Seems clear neither Clinton nor Trump is really ready to ride for this brand, and low-and-moderate income families are going to be hard pressed to find comfortable or permanent homes in either of the two major parties.

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Please enjoy Y La Bamba by Libre.  Thanks to KABF.

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Hope for Cities or Just Developers?

Looking northeast at soon to work LinkNYC station

soon to work LinkNYC station

New Orleans   It seems like cities are starting to get more attention, and if that’s true, that’s a good thing, but reading a recent special feature on cities, it’s not something without contradictions and concerns. This is true especially if you try to figure out where low-and-moderate income families and minorities fit into the coming profiles of the future. In some ways they just are not in the picture at least the one offered in the main from the New York Times, and this despite a recent feature in the same paper that talked flatly of the almost irreversible “whitening” of San Francisco where high housing costs and extreme inequality is leeching out the African-American community.

Part of the premise of some of the new hope for cities from the pundits and professors is the world seen dimly through the grim view from the suburbs. There is finally a consensus that cities are “safer,” which means they are ready to come back in again. Once again the question of “safer” for whom is unavoidable, but facts are facts, so we’ll ignore the bias for a moment. The same lens from the Trumpistas has all of us drowning in crime and gore in the urban space without being accompanied by the full disclosure that many of the zealots have done little more than drive quickly through cities for years, do their business, and leave before nightfall.

Unfortunately, reading the various pieces it was hard to feel comfortable about these new twists on urban revival. First of course there are huge, glaring omissions already mentioned, but followed quickly behind is the realization that the dominant perspective is not people-oriented really, but more developer promotions.

The examples of innovations are telling. There’s LinkNYC which would replace all remaining public telephone booths in New York City with wifi enabled terminals that can do tricks like recharge smartphones faster. Not surprisingly, this is paid for by tech companies and digital ads that will be on the booths, an expropriation of a public utility, and of course forget about lower income folks who still need those pay phones. There’s an apartment & condo complex in Austin and billionaire-driven building developments in Seattle that are at best ho-hum, but here are passed off as part of “remaking the modern cities.” There’s a story of Reno hoping to be Seattle and Kansas City about to have a “the largest co-working space in the world,” which is neoliberal, developer speak for building a monument to the gig economy and the decline of fulltime, firm-based employment.

The exceptions prove the rule in this parallax view of urban development and the modern dilemmas of the city. There is a piece on the rightly well-publicized and highly touted repurposing of a bank on Chicago’s South Side by Theaster Gates, Jr. in a celebration of black culture and an indictment of racism in the 97% African-American community there. There is also a discussion with an architect of the development of public space, which cannot paper over his conclusion that there is little and less being done.

The unaddressed problem is inescapable: where are the people – all the people – and what is being done to make a better place in the city for them and not just for young, white professionals and tech workers so many of these cities desire.

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