Obama's housing policies, part one – Is past prologue?

During the Vice-presidential debate, Joe Biden attempted to pin President Bush to McCain-Palin by saying “the past is prologue.” If there is any truth to that saying, then it is fair to examine the past record of Barack Obama. Specifically, over the next several days I will examine the record of Obama on housing. A signature issue for Obama, he has 8 years of work on housing as an Illinois senator which is open to review.
I must admit that I was not aware of much of what I plan to cover until mid-last week. I had read about Tony Rezko and knew there was a relationship between Obama and the convicted slumlord but I had not considered the context of that relationship until recently. A June, 2008 Boston Globe article by Binyamin Appelbaum triggered my interest in this matter. Honestly, I was shaken to read about the conditions of housing in the South Side of Chicago during the two terms Barack Obama spent in the IL Senate. He served for 8 years in this district and said he did not know conditions were as bad as they were. I find that to be an incredible admission.
This post begins with an embedded video released with the Boston Glose article. Coming articles will explore in more detail the programs and people which contributed to the sorry state of housing in the South side of Chicago.

I urge you to read this article. It is over 3 months old but I doubt many people are aware of these facts.
Stay tuned…
Other posts in this series:
Part One: Obama’s housing policies: Is past prologue?
Part Two: Obama’s housing policies: Cold constituents
Part Three: Obama’s housing policies: A story about what did not happen
Part Four: Obama’s housing policies: Obama’s housing advisors

10 thoughts on “Obama's housing policies, part one – Is past prologue?”

  1. @Drowssap
    There is apparently some evidence that suicide is higher amongst young men who are less active in LDS, so my own tentative hypothesis would be that it has something to do with lack of ability/desire to conform.

  2. Legolas
    Truth be told I don’t think the government is capable of duplicating the good work that families and communites do. If the Mormons know how to do something, the government couldn’t copy it even with billions of dollars. It’s too clunky.
    I find it interesting that Utah has a high suicide rate among young men. Suicide correlates with poor mental or physical health. Interesting.

  3. @Drowssap
    Well, it’s certainly possible there’s something about LDS/LDS families that is responsible for at least some of these patterns (but, of course, that still begs the question of how the family patterns came about, and what the downsides are). For example:
    Literacy could just be matter of emphasis on learning to read holy texts as an additional incentive to literacy beyond any other educational efforts – an interaction effect. And not really one the government can duplicate.
    I have the greatest doubts about effects on health, since cancer especially often depends on environmental factors. But dietary restrictions that, for example, discourage soda consumption, might be partially responsible for lower rates of obesity. Of course, part of the potential down side here is that Utah also consistently ranks among the highest suicide rates, particularly among young men.
    There are a number of cultural factors that might account for low violent crime rates: religious sanctions and/or nonviolent teachings combined with a hierarchical ideology might be one possibility. Again, not clear how goverment would reproduce such a theorized effect.

  4. Legolas
    I know that broken homes and crime, emotional problems, etc. go hand in hand but it turns out that Utah has a divorce rate just barely better than the US average.
    by comparison:
    2007, Australia rate of divorce 2.3 per 1000
    2007, Utah rate of divorce 3.5 per 1000
    2007, USA rate of divorce 3.6 per 1000
    So… I dunno.
    Around 75% of Utah’s residence (I thought this was even higher) are LDS. Plus Utah has the highest percentage of married individuals for all age ranges. I think that must be their built in safety net.
    I wonder if whatever crime they do have is committed disproportionally by people outside the LDS community. Back to Google.

  5. Legolas
    Australia has a divorce rate of 2.8 per 1000
    New Zealand has a divorce rate of 2.7 per 1000
    Germany has a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1000
    Japan has a divorce rate of 2.2 per 1000
    By comparison the USA has a divorce rate of 4.2 per 1000
    Guess which nation has the highest rate of violent crime? Obviously, the USA. The worst part is we have to incarcerate people at the highest rate to keep crime as low as it is.
    It’s not always an exact correlation but for the most part broken homes and social ills go hand in hand.

  6. Legolas
    The LDS church probably does improve the lives of the average Utah citizen through social welfare. However I’m willing to bet it’s the strong families that are most responsible for the higher standard of living.
    But for the sake of argument lets say that the LDS church is primarily responsible for providing the citizens of Utah the following three things
    A) Excellent education: highest literacy rate in the USA
    B) Excellent health: low cancer rates and lowest rate of childhood obesity in the USA
    C) Public safety: One of the lowest violent crime rates in the USA
    Somebody from the government needs to find out what the LDS church is doing and copy it nationwide.
    Personally I think it’s families that make Utah perform so well but if it’s the church we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find out what they do and copy it.

  7. @Drowssap
    While not discounting its effect by any means, I’m pretty sure those rankings are affected by more than the LDS church – at the very least there are some interactional effects.
    However, it is significant to point out that the LDS in effect provides a parallel education and welfare system beyond public spending. Given LDS’s ubiquity in Utah this suggests there’s probably more going on here than just individuals pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.
    There are also certainly advantages to a highly structured, hierarchical institution strongly driven by ideology – in fact, social science suggests many people respond very well in certain respects to such institutional environments. On the other hand, there are some obvious drawbacks.

  8. The video story was excellent. Obama didn’t improve these people’s lives but realisticaly speaking neither did anyone else. Nobody can.
    One of the last things the female resident said was

    Still the question is, where’s the money?

    The problem isn’t money. Nobody spends less money on public education and welfare than the state of Utah. Guess which state always ranks at the very top for health, safety, education and quality of life? You guessed it Utah.
    A few notable state of Utah rankings
    Some info about Brigham Young University

    BYU is ranked #19 in the U.S. News and World Report’s “Great Schools, Great Prices” lineup, and #12 in lowest student-incurred debt. Due in part to the school’s emphasis on undergraduate research, BYU is ranked #8 nationally for the number of students who go on to earn PhDs, #1 nationally for students who go on to dental school, #6 nationally for students who go on to law school, and #10 nationally for students who go on to medical school. BYU is designated as a Carnegie research university with high research activity, one of the highest classifications by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

    I’m not LDS but I have to admit I admire their hard work, dedication and steady upward mobility. The people in Obama’s old district could learn a lot from the Mormons.

  9. I’m not surprised this is posted here. It would be easy to find failed past policies of either candidate and put them up on a blog. Though I’m not as familiar with this incident in Chicago that happened over a decade ago, I thought this quote was pretty telling:
    “”I’m not against Barack Obama,” said Willie J.R. Fleming, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and a former public housing resident. “What I am against is some of the people around him.””

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