Public Housing

Let Us Be Clear: The Debt Ceiling Crisis is Purely Artificial

We have come to an impasse in the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling because of several conceptual errors in our public discourse. These errors were most glaring in the remarks recently delivered by Speaker of the House John Boehner in his response to President Obama. The largest conceptual error is the idea that the government of a constitutional representative democracy is different from the people. Boehner said, "You know I've always believed the bigger the government, the smaller the people."

What does this mean? The government is composed of the people, and if people are paying attention and voting according to their own interests, the government ought to work toward the happiness of the people. The problem is that too many Americans have bought into this conceptual error that the government is some kind of leviathan, a monster that exists to take away their liberties. This is nonsense. A correction of another conceptual error in Boehner's presentation makes my point.

Demolition of Public Housing Approved

Despite protests at New Orleans City Hall last December, the city council voted unanimously for a federal plan that will demolish 4,500 public housing units in favor of developing fewer units on a mixed-income model. With rents increased by up to 45 percent for the new units, former public housing residents are calling city officials to repair and reopen the existing units so that the homeless and displaced can move back into places they can afford.

Church leaders and housing activists have challenged the council’s decisions. Charles Jen­kins, the Epis­co­pal bishop of Louisiana, stated in an open letter to the council, “[T]he issue before us is about people, not buildings, and it is primarily a moral issue.” He pointed out that the city’s homeless population has nearly doubled since Hurricanes Rita and Katrina—from 6,300 to 12,000 people—and urged the council to develop alternative sites for the mixed-income housing since the shortage of low-income housing will worsen once the 30,000 people still occupying government-owned trailers are moved out.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2008
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