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Po' Money, Less Problems
June 28, 2014 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Mexico tried giving poor people cash instead of food. It worked.

Of course, this is only one study, but it adds to a growing pool of evidence that cash transfers actually aren't "wasted" on frivolous things and do improve poor peoples' lives in observable ways.

1. More evidence that giving poor people money is a great cure for poverty

A recent randomized trial found that Kenyans who received no-strings attached cash from the charity GiveDirectly built more assets, bought more goods, were less hungry, and were all-around happier than those who didn't get cash.

2. Cash, Food or Vouchers: What Type of Assistance is Most Effective in Reducing Hunger?

The three-year collaboration between IFPRI and WFP compared the relative costs and benefits of assistance programs that provided the same value of cash, food baskets, or supermarket vouchers in four countries: Ecuador, Niger, Uganda, and Yemen. (...) Cash assistance was always significantly more cost-effective to deliver. In fact, researchers determined that if they repeated the study, but only distributed cash, they could feed an additional 32,800 people with the same project budget.

3. Cash Is Better Than Food Stamps in Helping Poor: Edward Glaeser

We should ask for two things from any redistribution system. It should do as much as possible for society, especially the poor. (...) Vilification of welfare recipients makes it particularly hard to make the case for entrusting them with unrestricted cash, even if that is the most effective means of administering aid.
posted by tybeet (71 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite

 
"People whose main problem is lack of money can be most effectively and efficiently helped by giving them more money."

Only in this modern world would this be surprising and controversial.
posted by edheil at 5:07 PM on June 28 [124 favorites]


Or worse, they dare do spend money on refrigerators...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:07 PM on June 28 [10 favorites]


As we all know, poor people are only poor because they make bad choices. If we just give them money really what we are doing is facilitating more bad choices. /kidding obviously
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:07 PM on June 28 [5 favorites]


"Mexico tried giving poor people cash instead of food. It worked."

Well, duh. If they have money they aren't poor any more.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:18 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about this the other day, and instead of trying to place limits based on perceived virtue, wondering why we don't limit the spending based on what actually provides economic support and helps people out of poverty, instead. Like, why will we pay rent indefinitely? The profit from that is going to private landlords. Yes, it keeps a roof over a person's head, but the person who really wins is the landlord. The same money spent in cities and towns buying up the low end of the housing stock and paying contractors to rehab would create jobs and give assets to people who don't have assets. This is basically the Habitat model, only with actual jobs. And yet instead the government's fine with private parties profiting off of the poor, and not at all okay with the idea of the poor actually having anything nice, whether it's a candy bar or a house.

Which is to say, I don't see this happening here anytime soon because too many people don't really want the poor to be better off.
posted by Sequence at 5:19 PM on June 28 [23 favorites]


Or worse, they dare do spend money on refrigerators...
posted by Hairy Lobster


Eponysterical
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:21 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


[Please do not go immediately for the obvious joke. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 5:22 PM on June 28 [5 favorites]


it adds to a growing pool of evidence that cash transfers actually aren't "wasted" on frivolous things

If you're poor enough to get help from the government, and they give you cash instead of commodities, you aren't going to spend that cash on anything frivolous. You're struggling to survive, and you're not stupid enough to think that you can eat tickets to see Prince.
posted by hippybear at 5:26 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]




The catch (such as it is) will be that to get the more effective results of directly providing money, you have to be ok with a small but highly visible fraction of the people using the money for alcohol/crack/lobster dinners. In the US Fox News cameras would be ready to record it, just like they focus on cases of food stamp fraud.

The debate in this country is so toxic that it's hard to imagine evidence of better effectiveness actually changing how assistance is provided, sadly.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 PM on June 28 [31 favorites]


Or worse, they dare do spend money on refrigerators...
posted by Hairy Lobster

Eponysterical


Oh, man, I thought it was gonna be this.
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:48 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


A big part of the reason why in the past people were given less-fungible forms of aid was to try and prevent them being victims of predatory scams and theft. There was a much greater understanding of the evil of greed and the unscrupulous nature of businesses in the past than there is now that 14%+ interest rates are the norm. Nowadays even the governments are in on the scams so cash is the best option because it gives the poor the freedom to avoid even their own government.
posted by srboisvert at 5:52 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


> a growing pool of evidence that cash transfers actually aren't "wasted" on frivolous things

Because if you're poor, you never get to do anything beyond basic survival with any of your finds; any purchase that takes you away from your poorness by distracting you with things that are "fun" is morally wrong and is a complete waste. You don't deserve a break unless you earn it.

</sarcasm>
posted by egypturnash at 5:54 PM on June 28 [22 favorites]


Metafilter: Please do not go for the immediate joke. Thanks.
posted by riverlife at 5:55 PM on June 28 [17 favorites]


srboisvert: A big part of the reason why in the past people were given less-fungible forms of aid was to try and prevent them being victims of predatory scams and theft.

This sounds somewhat plausible, but can I trouble you for a cite? Seems to me food stamps are just as easy to steal from someone.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:55 PM on June 28


Well nowadays you don't even get actual paper food stamps right? Here (Washington State) we have EBT cards that work just like debit cards everywhere.
posted by drinkyclown at 5:59 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


The catch (such as it is) will be that to get the more effective results of directly providing money, you have to be ok with a small but highly visible fraction of the people using the money for alcohol/crack/lobster dinners.

The catch is that unless you jettison the assumption implicit in the first half of that sentence (that there are "effective results" of combating inequality beyond reducing inequality itself) you've already lost the argument to those who will use the latter against you.

This study answers a question that should never have been taken seriously; do people without money deserve to be without money because they are inherently inferior. But it's good that the obvious answer is now in writing.

Well, duh. If they have money they aren't poor any more.

Yeah
posted by deathmaven at 6:09 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's a card, although I believe Fox News has at least on one occasion insisted that using a card instead of some kind of paper stamp removes the stigma from being on food assistance and therefore is a bad thing. Because now your neighbors have to hover a lot closer to see that you're paying with EBT, unless you happen to also be buying toilet paper or something, because then you'll have to pay for the rest separately, because heaven forbid we subsidize toilet paper.
posted by Sequence at 6:11 PM on June 28 [7 favorites]


just like they focus on cases of food stamp fraud

Would that they focus on fraud in high finance and the stock market, which bilks people of many millions and costs the country and the world dearly in taxes but when ideology gets in the way of truth we have FOX News and the like.
posted by juiceCake at 6:13 PM on June 28 [6 favorites]


This reminds me of the time someone gave Vice a couple of prepaid Hillary Duff credit cards, and they gave them to some homeless people for a laugh.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:13 PM on June 28 [11 favorites]


It's so...incongruous on its face that as we roll along with quantum easing--literally printing billions and billions of dollars out of thin air each and every quarter--none of it can go to the poor (who by now surely make up the largest demographic in the economy). Not via cash transfers, expanded welfare/EBT benefits, $15.00/hour minimum wages, lowered/anything-like-reasonable higher-education tuitions/loans, nothing.

Oh, and on preview: the Koch brothers own one of the very largest toilet-paper manufacturers. There will be full cash-price for the wipe of every poor American's ass.
posted by riverlife at 6:19 PM on June 28 [8 favorites]


This suggests a way to cure rich people.
posted by uosuaq at 6:24 PM on June 28 [13 favorites]


The local gas station/convenience store has a sign on their door that says "No EBT Accepted Sorry." I'm not sure why this would be - does the business not get the full amount? Is it a way of screening out "undesirable" customers? (I'm close to the edge of the 'hood.) Anyway, giving people cash would circumvent this problem. I don't see how it's any of my business if they want to spend it on candy bars.
posted by desjardins at 6:30 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


The spanish word for cash is efectivo, which I have always felt, in terms of the english word effective, was a really interesting cognate-alike (I cannot quite pull out the word I want here). Effective - empowered, useful, active. It makes so much sense to empower those who need agency in their lives. It intuitively makes sense, in terms of efficiency, if nothing else. Plus, those who would spend the money on drugs, alcohol, consumer electronics and frozen lobster tails (God help them) are merely putting that money right back in to economy. Let's take away the money from the poor who save, pay down their debt and nourish and educate their children, they're the real drag on the economy.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:39 PM on June 28 [6 favorites]


It's not like people aren't already converting non-cash aid into cash, either. Where I live EBT can be exchanged for cash at about 50% of the value (illegally, obviously). Directly giving cash would remove the profit and inefficiency from this.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:41 PM on June 28 [4 favorites]


If we just gave cash, there would be no stigma involved in paying for the necessities of life.* Are you really willing to see sanctimony futures plummet in value?

* I guarantee you if we just handed out cash to the poor, paying for things in cash would soon acquire said stigma.
posted by maxwelton at 7:02 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]




Which is to say, I don't see this happening here anytime soon because too many people don't really want the poor to be better off.

This can't be overstated. The message that comes through unmistakably from my talk-radio list'nin' colleagues and relatives is that they A) do not want there to be fewer poor people, and B) do not want poor people to be healthier, better fed or better off. They would like to see poor people working hard if they're gonna, y'know, insist on eating and breathing, but they don't actually want to see their lives improved thereby.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:23 PM on June 28 [21 favorites]


There's a thing about how accepting EBT requires a bunch of paperwork, and if it's a small part of your customer base, it's not worth the overhead?

I <3 cash transfers and universal basic wages at work. And yet, if I had to apply that in my personal life, I totally hesitate. I have a cash transfer situation with two family members right now where I know the money is going to be used responsibly by one and blown on alcohol and general stupidity by the other. I can't give to only the responsible one because of emotional fairness, so our option is to pay directly for an expense that we can control.

And that's what it boils down to, control. I want to be able to control their choices. Cash is freedom. Terrifying freedom.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:03 PM on June 28 [6 favorites]


maxwelton is right. We're looking at this the wrong way around. The issue is not about eliminating poverty. It's about how to motivate rich people to part with their money. After all, aid to the poor comes from taxes, and the rich pay more taxes. So any kind of welfare has to give the donors of the money something in exchange for their donation. But the poor have nothing to trade for what they receive. Right? Wrong.

The poor have their dignity. That's what they trade for donations. Every scheme for wealth distribution is informed by that fact. Rich people give money, and poor people abase themselves in exchange. That's why every welfare scheme always involves humiliation.

That's why government housing for the poor looks different from ordinary houses: so the poor will stand out, so they can be shamed.

That's why poor people have to endure long lineups at the welfare office: so they can be reminded that they are less worthy of decent consideration.

That's why poor people have to endure invasion of their most private aspects of their lives, through visits by social workers: so they can be reminded that they don't deserve privacy.

And that's why the rich don't like giving out cash: because cash is anonymous, and enables dignity, equality, and privacy.

As long as this implicit bargain (money in exchange for dignity) is ignored, the cruelty of the social welfare system will seem mysterious.
posted by Zpt2718 at 8:28 PM on June 28 [87 favorites]


@ "...fine with private parties profiting off of the poor, and not at all okay with the idea of the poor actually having anything nice"

I figured out at my first job selling sleazy dresses to poor people on the layaway plan that this is actually a favored business model for anyone with access to enough capital to open a store (or a cart or a stall) and a yen to make money easily. The poor is where the most profit comes from!
posted by Anitanola at 8:36 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


OH, SNAP!
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 8:59 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


I generally think that the person with the problem is probably the expert on what the problem is and how to solve it. If they go about solving it in a way that I think is wasteful or nonsensical, they may simply be solving a different problem than the one I think they should be, and I don't get to prioritize other people's problems.

Some will solve it wrong, sure. I've been failing to solve certain problems my entire life, and don't think poverty and paternalism is a cure for that.
posted by maxsparber at 9:15 PM on June 28 [11 favorites]


That's why government housing for the poor looks different from ordinary houses: so the poor will stand out, so they can be shamed.

I'm not really sure that's the case. A lot of architects tried really hard to make 'the projects' into livable communities. The real problem is that they segregated them away from everyone else, not the architecture. I live in a 'luxury' apartment complex, but it guarantee you if they filled it with poor people, it would be just another housing project in a couple of years, with all the crime and everything else that goes along with it. You have to integrate people on public assistance with everyone else. You need people with money and good jobs and education in the same neighborhood so stores don't close down, schools stay high quality, the police remain effective and there are opportunities for people.

But everyone has a NIMBY attitude about public housing, so they just shove everyone into ghettos, which not only makes their situation more helpless, but also more invisible.
posted by empath at 9:17 PM on June 28 [22 favorites]


drinkyclown: Well nowadays you don't even get actual paper food stamps right? Here (Washington State) we have EBT cards that work just like debit cards everywhere.

Right, but it certainly wasn't an EBT card from the program's establishment through at least the mid-1990s when I was a cashier, so that doesn't jibe with the idea that non-cash benefits were chosen as a means of avoiding people having cash stolen. I really would like a cite for that notion -- my Googling isn't coming up with anything -- because it always seemed to me that non-cash benefits were chosen more due to the Fox News notion that people will spend money on dumb things, not that they'll have it taken away from them.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:35 PM on June 28


is this kind of thing why Minimum Basic Income ideas are so popular amongst libertarians these days? I wonder how they think a MBI is going to be funded though
posted by Bwithh at 9:51 PM on June 28


Bwithh: is this kind of thing why Minimum Basic Income ideas are so popular amongst libertarians these days? I wonder how they think a MBI is going to be funded though

They're also kind of popular with some on the left these days. The idea is that the UBI (or GMI, or however you define it) would be funded through scaling back or eliminating today's existing safety net programs. Of course, anyone who's familiar with American politics knows how it would end up in practice, with Republicans pulling the football away at the last minute to get major benefit cuts now in exchange for an insufficient minimum income program later.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:54 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


is this kind of thing why Minimum Basic Income ideas are so popular amongst libertarians these days?

I never knew this to be a libertarian thing. In fact, with most libertarians actually being Crypto-Republicans this would go against their ethos, as they would rather punish the poor under the guise of encouragement by making them fight for scraps of bootstrap.
posted by sourwookie at 10:21 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Minimum basic income has been a libertarian thing since at least Friedman. Earned income tax credit was supposed to have been an implementation of that.
posted by empath at 10:26 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


A lot of architects tried really hard to make 'the projects' into livable communities.

I once read a really fun book "Housing as if people mattered" that talks about this. It had lots of examples of successful public housing projects, and discussions of projects that were oppressive.

One of the issues that the authors brought up was about what the residents wanted. When questioned, most of them said they wanted dwellings that looked like ordinary houses, which they could modify to put their own stamp on the place. In other words, they didn't want their homes to look so obviously like government housing.

You do have a good point, though. Even well-designed affordable housing tends to suffer from NIMBY ostracism. The middle class doesn't want the stigma of living with poor people.

I remember seeing affordable housing in downtown Toronto that was very well integrated into the surrounding neighborhood. My brother is an architect in that city and tells me that those efforts date from the 70s and 80s and aren't being pursued today.
posted by Zpt2718 at 10:43 PM on June 28 [4 favorites]


I live in a 'luxury' apartment complex, but it guarantee you if they filled it with poor people, it would be just another housing project in a couple of years, with all the crime and everything else that goes along with it.

This attitude is exactly why people fight public housing, integrated or otherwise. The idea that poverty and crime always go together, which bleeds over into a basic assumption that living too close to the poor means you and your family will be threatened with violence, have substandard schools, have to deal with a neighborhood with more trash and homeless folks, etc. All of which tends to be self-fulfilling prophecies, but, few people want to make the "sacrifice" of living somewhere regarded as more dangerous/stigmatized in the name of social justice. Or only do so as part of gentrification, which is a whole other issue.

I haven't actually seen a good way to combat this attitude. Those who aren't poor tend to fear those who are.

I do think that if you're worried about the poor being scammed out of the money we give them, then you'd do best to crack down on payday lenders and high-interest loans of all types, which are some of the worst offenders.
posted by emjaybee at 11:12 PM on June 28 [7 favorites]


The sick thing is that diminishing poverty may be a problem for some.
posted by mantecol at 11:37 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


the Koch brothers own one of the very largest toilet-paper manufacturers. I am loath to support the evil brothers, but what is the alternative?
posted by Cranberry at 12:04 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]


The idea that poverty and crime always go together, which bleeds over into a basic assumption that living too close to the poor means you and your family will be threatened with violence, have substandard schools, have to deal with a neighborhood with more trash and homeless folks, etc.

Concentrated poverty in a neighborhood necessarily means that the economy of the area is going to be depressed. If there's no money to pay for stuff, there's no stores to sell stuff, and no jobs for people to work at, and schools are poorly funded, police work is lower priority, there's no money to maintain property, etc.

It's not that poor people are more likely to commit crimes, it's that lack of money means that there's less money available for crime prevention, for schools and so on. I've been to places like El Salvador where people were living in shacks on dirt roads and living off of subsistence farming, and while they're lovely people and not more prone to crime than anyone else, if there's no functioning police force, there's no security, no economy, no investment -- everyone just puts up barbed wire fences and hires armed guards, if they can afford it. Meanwhile you go to the wealthy neighborhoods in San Salvador an hour away and there's luxury shopping malls, McDonalds, Holiday Inns, and cops on every street corner.

Sure you can just throw money into that environment and it will improve people's lives, but there's a whole infrastructure of 'middle-class' life that needs to be built to support investment, jobs, and so on, and I feel like it would be better to focus on expanding a middle class lifestyle to poor people by moving them into middle class neighborhoods, than it would be to just plop down a housing project without fixing all of the endemic economic problems that caused the poverty in the first place.

The hard part is integrating them into a middle class neighborhood without the middle class moving out.
posted by empath at 12:36 AM on June 29 [5 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is that people aren't poor because of something they did. They're poor, in general, because they were born into an impoverished environment, and concentrating people who are poor into their own neighborhoods only makes the problem worse.
posted by empath at 12:41 AM on June 29


the Koch brothers own one of the very largest toilet-paper manufacturers.

I will think of this every time I wipe my ass.
posted by el io at 12:53 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


One thing that makes me laugh is when people complain about poor people having big TVs, as if they have wasted a huge load of money when you can buy them out of a catalogue for about a fiver a fucking week. Or even from Cash Converters paying a bit more fortnightly but you get the telly quicker. Jesus, do these people even think before engaging their brains? What makes it worse is that most of the people complaining will have used catalogues back in the day, as in the 70s they were a cool way to shop, and were even advertised on the (lol) TV, so they actually know how it works!
posted by marienbad at 3:41 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]


I'm not really sure that's the case. A lot of architects tried really hard to make 'the projects' into livable communities


That may be the case where you are, but in places like Chicago, you certainly had both social/geographic isolation and bare minimum-design and construction. I'm thinking of places like Cabrini Green, Stateway Gardens, Robert Taylor, etc. Here you had both de facto segregation of black populations alongside the mis-application of an already flawed model of public housing (Le Corbusier's "cities in the sky")- shoddily constructed, aesthetically unappealing, rapidly overcrowded warehouses for poor people with limited amenities and insufficient shopping, entertainment, and transportation infrastructure.

Thankfully, most of those places are gone now.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:08 AM on June 29


That's why government housing for the poor looks different from ordinary houses: so the poor will stand out, so they can be shamed.

This is not universally true, though it sometime is (I would argue more through neglect and deferred maintenance than from the original architecture, though). A block and a half from my last house was an apartment complex that was all subsidized/Section 8 housing, but if you didn't happen to know that you would not have been able to tell by looking, since the Housing Authority was doing a great job of keeping it maintained and looking good. Ironically perhaps, it was looking better than any of the nearby private apartment buildings.

I once read a really fun book "Housing as if people mattered" that talks about this. It had lots of examples of successful public housing projects, and discussions of projects that were oppressive.

One of the issues that the authors brought up was about what the residents wanted. When questioned, most of them said they wanted dwellings that looked like ordinary houses, which they could modify to put their own stamp on the place. In other words, they didn't want their homes to look so obviously like government housing.


Do you mean John Turner's Housing By People? It's a great book, well worth reading, and has been the inspiration for a lot of good research and writing, as well as some actual housing projects.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:41 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]


Probably they mean Housing as if People Mattered.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:28 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Reading fail! Both books are good anyway, though from very different perspectives.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:40 AM on June 29


So we have Kenyan-Keynsians and Austrian-Austerians.
posted by goethean at 8:09 AM on June 29


There is a great resource on Universal Basic Income over at reddit where questions such as how to pay for it get discussed.
posted by GregorWill at 8:13 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to point out Chris Blattman's tremendous work on this subject, which is linked to one of the Vox articles. He does field experiments in developing countries, where they give cash to people. Turns out the lesson from Mexico is universally true.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:25 AM on June 29


I live in a 'luxury' apartment complex, but it guarantee you if they filled it with poor people, it would be just another housing project in a couple of years, with all the crime and everything else that goes along with it.

Do you really believe that poor people don't want to have a warm, safe, decent place to live?

This article about Donald Sterling's discriminatory rental practices has good links and this relevant bit:
The Section 8 legal loophole leaves low-income people in the program vulnerable to being unable to rent desirable properties in safe neighborhoods of their choosing with quality schools. Nearly one-third of households with a voucher include a member with a disability, 19 percent are elderly, and half have children, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It's clear--Section 8 voucher holders need protection from fair housing violations. Congress should move to extend such protection. Otherwise, Section 8 can not meet its purported goals: to assist "very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market."
(Vulnerable tenants who are desperate and terrified of retaliation + unscrupulous landlords) + HUD's unwillingness and/or inability to hold landlords accountable = slumlords who allow properties to deteriorate + self-fulfilling broken windows effect.

It's much more complicated, of course. Others here have addressed some of the different factors involved, and that's not even broaching the whole police/law enforcement aspect. I hope it will be food for thought.

Relevant: Slum Housing and the City of Los Angeles: An Analysis of the Intersection of Human Rights and Enforcement Policies

posted by Room 641-A at 9:34 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]


I live in a 'luxury' apartment complex, but it guarantee you if they filled it with poor people, it would be just another housing project in a couple of years, with all the crime and everything else that goes along with it.

There are bad tenants everywhere, but a lot of poor people I know take pretty scrupulous care of the insides of their apartments, even if I'm kind of a mess personally. You know who doesn't take care of them? The owners. I once lived in a complex that was high-end student-targeted rentals, where if they lost their reputation for being high-end, there was tons of other student housing in the area where people would move instead. My current apartment, my landlord gave it to me with issues that he should have known about, several of which he's not fixed even though I've been here for four years now. He told me he was going to install outdoor lighting when I moved in. Well, now I'm here, and now there's been no lighting at the front door the whole time I've been here. He doesn't take care of the place because it doesn't make him any more money if he does.

And the more run down houses in this neighborhood get, the more landlords who cut back how often the lawn guy comes because it's cheaper, the shabbier the whole area gets, and the shabbier it is, the more comfortable people are treating it like we don't deserve to have nice things. When, well, again, I'm kind of a mess, but my neighbors with the family of 4+ living in a one-bedroom apartment? I've seen in when they've left the door open because they were moving stuff in and out, and despite at least two kids in that little space, it's tidier than the homes of any family I know with small children. It's frankly insulting to act like we're the ones destroying our places. Yeah, the last tenant in my unit damaged the bathroom vanity by leaving lit cigarettes on it--but my landlord was the one who didn't actually care enough to replace it.
posted by Sequence at 11:12 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


I want to be clear. I don't think the problem is the tenants. The problem is that when you concentrate poverty, the money in the area leaves. The landlord sucks, the job opportunities suck, the police suck, the schools suck, etc.

The political problem of getting people to spend money to improve other people's communities is intractable, I think. It's just not going to happen in a democracy at the scale that would need to happen to transform a place like west Baltimore or south east dc. The only way those neighborhoods improve is gentrification. Basically, you need to move middleclass people to where poor people live, or poor people to where middle class people live. You can build the nicest penthouse apartments in the world, but if everyone living there and everyone around it is poor, it's going to end up like every other project.

My point is that the architecture isn't the problem with the projects. It's any kind of concentration of poverty that's essentially caused by state incentives. The projects are in no way natural communities. They're created by governments specifically to get poor people away from everyone else. That's the problem. Complaining about the way they're built is like, I dunno, complaining about the choice of font on a death sentence.
posted by empath at 11:23 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]


My ideal solution would be to just pay everyone enough that there is no need for low income housing, though.
posted by empath at 11:25 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]


The solution is to not concentrate poverty.
posted by hippybear at 11:28 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


And to make genuine efforts as a society to ameliorate it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:12 PM on June 29


I agree a basic income would be a great idea, but it's not going to happen. The notion the conservatives are fixated upon is the "Culture of Dependence". They argue that huge sections of the country are so used to government handouts, that they've lost any strive to work.They believe that we need to completely cut off welfare, and then people will start working all those jobs in the cities that are begging for workers.

In such a climate, there will be no chance off a BMI, or increases in payments, or even increasing the dignity of welfare recipients. Mostly what we have to look forward to, once the Republicans take over Congress and the presidency, is to have welfare programs slashed and eliminated. Lookin for something akin to Victorian England in the next couple decades.
posted by happyroach at 12:41 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


once the Republicans take over Congress and the presidency

The republicans are struggling to not lose the 38EV Texas provides in the next decade. Without real reform on the party's planks they're never getting the presidency again.
posted by Talez at 1:02 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


Republicans haven't shown how they'll take over Congress and the Presidency given, among other things, their transparent desire to slash a safety net that's very important to many of the voting demographics they need in order to win. Sure, they'll keep the House until 2022 at least, but I don't see how they'll get the Senate given the knuckleheads who've been able to escape GOP Senate primaries in recent years. They'll hold their red state seats, but I don't see how they'll win purple/blue ones. Dems won't get a supermajority any time soon, but I doubt they'll be in the minority, either.

With respect to the Presidency, for all the whinging lefties have done about Obama floating Social Security cuts last year, there's no evidence that it was ever anything other than a political stunt to make it look like he was trying to work with Boehner and make his job of controlling the GOP factions harder, knowing full well they'd never offer enough in return to make such a deal possible.

Meanwhile, the insurgent Rand Paul types that pundits are for some reason saying could be part of an anti-interventionist Libertarian/Green type coalition are the ones most committed to drowning government in a bathtub, and I just don't see how you build that coalition in this economy, or how you win outside of deep red districts and states with an open commitment to shredding the safety net at a time of high unemployment. Just look how Paul Ryan had to soften his image to run at the bottom of one-time moderate-ish Republican Romney's ticket. How are they going to put together enough statewide and nationwide appeal to get the Senate and the White House?
posted by tonycpsu at 1:07 PM on June 29


I just don't see how you build that coalition in this economy

Sadly, a lot of voters vote fantasy idealism tickets instead of direct this-will-affect-my-life realism.
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on June 29


There's only one way for Rs to take over the presidency bar a massive swing to the right. They need to apportion EVs by congressional seats + 2 at large in reliable blue states with red legislatures. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Florida would all be ripe for this. Virginia is only one gubernational away from it.

Yeah they're all small states but if you took the same electoral map from 2012 and gerrymandered the EV votes those states combined it would have won Romney the presidency.
posted by Talez at 1:45 PM on June 29


Talez: Yeah they're all small states but if you took the same electoral map from 2012 and gerrymandered the EV votes those states combined it would have won Romney the presidency.

IIRC they tried to ram this through in my native Pennsyltucky in 2011 and it crashed and burned in the legislature. I'm not saying it can't happen in any of those states, but the voters and the opposition parties in those states know what a scam this would be.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:52 PM on June 29


Just collected a bunch of related (but distinct) links into a new post.

Other links that might be interesting reading to folks here: posted by eviemath at 3:41 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]


Such a necessary component of knowing how to handle money responsibly is learning how to earn it in the first place. This is the main reason why most lottery winners are broke in less than 10 years.

Simply giving money to the poor seems foolish to me.
posted by TaylorHannigan at 7:41 AM on July 4


That's a windfall of disproportionately huge money, like an inheritance vs a trust fund with regular payments. Small regular transfers of cash have the best overall effect from the research on cash transfers I've seen because they act as reliable income that means they don't have to worry the kids will starve in a lean month, and in good months, they can use it for improvements.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:06 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]


Such a necessary component of knowing how to handle money responsibly is learning how to earn it in the first place. This is the main reason why most lottery winners are broke in less than 10 years.

Simply giving money to the poor seems foolish to me.


First of all, those lottery winners were not necessarily living in poverty or even poor. And what viggorlija said.

More importantly, comparing programs designed to lift people out of poverty with winning the lottery is not so great.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:36 AM on July 4


Such a necessary component of knowing how to handle money responsibly is learning how to earn it in the first place.

Most rich people inherit their money.
posted by maxwelton at 11:15 AM on July 4 [3 favorites]


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