Recently, I was exploring the Whitehouse.gov site, looking for a transcript of our deal with Iran. Before finding it, I was distracted by two Obama videos. In the first, his weekly message to America on July 11th, he spoke about his new plan to make housing fairer. In the second, he spoke about criminal justice in America. Next week I’ll talk about his criminal justice speech. Today, a few words about the AFFH. Here’s an excerpt:from his weekly video address.
“In some cities, kids living just blocks apart lead incredibly different lives. They go to different schools, play in different parks, shop in different stores, and walk down different streets. And often, the quality of those schools and the safety of those parks and streets are far from equal – which means those kids aren’t getting an equal shot in life.
“That runs against the values we hold dear as Americans. In this country, of all countries, a person’s zip code shouldn’t decide their destiny. We don’t guarantee equal outcomes, but we do strive to guarantee an equal shot at opportunity – in every neighborhood, for every American.“
There is much to know about Obama’s newest program – the Affirmitively Furthering Fair Housing Regulation. Author Stanley Kurtz, in an article for the National Review, gives the following example of one of its potential effects.
“…So if some Montgomery County’s suburbs are predominantly upper-middle-class, white, and zoned for single-family housing, while the Philadelphia region as a whole is dotted with concentrations of less-well-off African Americans, Hispanics, or Asians, those suburbs could be obligated to nullify their zoning ordinances and build high-density, low-income housing at their own expense. At that point, those suburbs would have to direct advertising to potential minority occupants in the Greater Philadelphia region. Essentially, this is what HUD has imposed on Westchester County, New York, the most famous dry-run for AFFH.”
What the president seems to be missing (where do we start?), is that a person’s zip code is not the “opportunity” he implies that he wants to provide. A person’s zip code is in fact, the “Outcome” that those within it have created through hard work, perseverance and sacrifice. A person’s zip code can also be the “Outcome” of a life spent spewing hate, perpetrating, or ignoring violence, shirking parental responsibilities; or preferring welfare over work. No, that’s not a universal truth, but it is one of many truths that prove it is not the zip code that determines a person’s destiny. It is the residents who determines the zip code’s quality. Obama knows this.
I invite everyone to read pages 156 and 157 of his first book; Dreams from my Father. Here’s a few short excerpts that will give you an idea of what he knows. It should leave you with a question about what he is now trying to do. Remember – his words:
“…With the passage of fair housing laws, they began to buy homes, one at a time, in Roseland and other white neighborhoods. Not because they were necessarily interested in mingling with whites, they insisted, but because the houses there were affordable, with small yards for their children; because the schools were better and the stores cheaper, and maybe just because they could.”
“..when the blacks who’d now lived in their homes for ten or fifteen years looked back on the way things had turned out, they did so with some measure of satisfaction. On the strength of two incomes, they had paid off house notes and car notes, maybe college educations….the better these children did, the more likely they were to move away.
“In their place, younger, less stable families moved in, the second wave of migrants from poorer neighborhoods, newcomers who couldn’t always afford to keep up with their mortgage payments or invest in periodic maintenance. Car thefts were up; the leafy parks were empty. People began to spend more time inside. They invested in elaborate wrought-iron doors; they wondered if they could afford to sell at a loss and retire to a warmer climate…. conversations were marked by another, more ominous strain. The boarded-up homes, the decaying storefronts, the aging church rolls, kiids from unknown families who swaggered down the streets – loud congregations of teenage boys, teenage girls feeding potato chips to crying toddlers, the discarded wrappers tumbling down the block – all of it whispered painful truths, told them the progress they’d [the first group of buyers] found was ephemeral, rooted in thin soil; that it might not even last their lifetimes…”
Two things are clear. The first is that the zip codes in Obama’s story were products of the people who inhabited them – not the other way around. Good people with two incomes who could afford to purchase homes in the neighborhood did well, sent kids to college and contributed to the quality of the area. The ones who came after – who had not earned their way into the area, destroyed it. In the process, they destroyed the lives of hardworking people whose homes reflected a lifetime of work and savings. The second truth is that Obama wrote these words and must therefore know exactly what he is doing, in suggesting the building of low income housing in affected suburbs. Is this the future he plans for those who have worked hard throughout their lives? Is this the fundamental change he offered? Is this his warped idea of fairness and equal opportunity? Is this his perverted idea of helping the poor, or is it merely a way in which he can shortcut the tough process of creating jobs, giving people a hand up and unlocking the human potential of those currently in bad “zip codes?”
All people should be – and in fact are – able to buy any home in any neighborhood in America, so long as they can produce sufficient cash, or obtain necessary financing. It follows that they will be able to maintain their homes and will be welcomed additions to the area. The use of taxpayer dollars to promote low income housing in more expensive suburban areas is likely to increase crime while destroying both neighborhoods and lives.
However, when Obama speaks of kids not getting a fair shot, he is right. It is absolutely true and it is heartbreaking. But, as usual, his target identification is skewed. These kids will not be saved by a new zip code. The answer will not be found in cut and paste housing, or in the redistribution of wealth. The answer lies in programs that provide incentives for leaving the welfare rolls; programs that create jobs and opportunities, reduce births out of wedlock, promote skill development and higher education. The single greatest opportunity for these children lies in our ability to control crime and to influence politicians, parents, teachers, clergy and people in general, to stop teaching hopelessness and hate.
The greatest hate crime of them all is to have disempowered still another generation by fanning the flames of hate and perpetuating dependency and a bizarre pride of victimization.
Who could possibly do it better than Barack Obama?