Why do we keep looking away from the poor?


By Lisa Allen

I just finished the book “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. As heart-breaking and illuminating the book is, it is the chapter “About This Project” that is most disconcerting. As a sociologist, Desmond expected to find earlier research about the prevalence of eviction in the United States. Nope. He found studies on public housing efforts and subsidies, but those cover only 33 percent, one third, of those who need housing.

The other 67 percent? Tough. As a society we entirely ignore those who can’t afford housing and aren’t lucky enough to win the assistance lottery. Read the book to get a clear understanding of the impossible task of living on $600 to $800 a month, especially if there are children involved. Read the book to understand very clearly how landlords get rich—very, very rich—by cycling people through inhabitable housing.

As Republicans continue to slash taxes, this will only get worse. You already can see that in South Carolina where the state continues to blatantly ignore a federal court decree to spend more on education. Get this: homeowners of South Carolina don’t pay a penny toward operating their schools; those with second homes do. Really. South Carolina full-time residents don’t pay any property taxes toward school operating expenses. To this day, I don’t know why where hasn’t been a class action lawsuit against the state.

At the federal level, it’s obvious there is one and only one objective of the Secretary of Education: Move education to vouchers and for-profit education providers. The future is draconian for those without means. No housing, no education.

I try so hard to understand what the philosophy is among those tax- and program-cutters and the only explanation that makes any sense is utter disregard for those who weren’t fortunate enough to be born into a stable family.

Yes, there are exceptions of people who emerge from poverty, but if you look more closely, you’ll see they were lucky too. They found a few people who could help them, be it a teacher or a business owner or a church member. But it was random. One can’t build a society on random bursts of fate that put together a student who ignores the tragedies all around them and a person with connections who happens to have met that student. It’s too haphazard. But those are the exceptions people like Ben Carson cling to justify the decimation of stable housing.

Betsy DeVos doesn’t even have any examples to justify her zealotry, just woefully wrong data. The Detroit Free Press continually refutes her arguments using examples, data and dollars from Detroit, but to no avail.

That’s because the data don’t matter. What matters is people who have theirs do not want to help those who do not have the minimum to succeed. They say there is a system that will help them with housing or education, but in truth the system is designed to help those with means to get more from those with nothing. What kind of people are we?

I think it’s very clear exactly what kind of people we are. We’re deplorable.

Lisa Allen is a board member of Indivisible Beaufort SC, a group that is trying to preserve a caring community.