National issues

Just how crazy can the WSJ editorial page be? Check out the attack on the housing trust fund.

On July 8 the Wall Street Journal editorial page let loose on the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund in an editorial that raises the bar for disingenuous rants.

The editorial blasted the trust fund claiming, “while it sounds innocuous, in practice it amounts to a new tax to create a permanent subsidy for state governments and political activists.”

The fact is that the trust fund does neither.

It is not a subsidy to state governments, it is a subsidy to build housing through for profit and nonprofit builders for the nine million renter households with incomes below 30% of the median.  As National Low Income Housing Coalition President Sheila Crowley wrote in a response to the editorial, “This is the only income group for whom there is an absolute shortage of housing nationwide. Consequently, 71% of these households must spend over half of their income for housing.”

“There is no federal housing production program today that builds housing for this income group,” Crowley continued. “Given the huge demand for affordable housing for this population, if profits could be made supplying it, someone would have figured out how to do so by now. There is no market solution; government intervention is what it will take to solve this problem.”

Despite the editorial’s claims, the trust fund is also not a permanent subsidy to political activists.  The funds must be spent only for housing and there are explicit prohibitions on political activities.

The Journal’s editorial page has long sputtered irrationally about ACORN.  So this wild claim seems to be based on their ACORN paranoia.

We see nothing in either the House or Senate bills to prevent money from flowing to Acorn, the left-wing activist outfit that was infamous for its bare-knuckle politics even before eight of its employees pleaded guilty in April to election fraud in St. Louis.

Acorn operates an “affordable housing” arm, so it is structured to immediately board the new federal gravy train.

ACORN Housing Corporation is separate from ACORN.  The competitive contractual obligations of anyone applying for and receiving housing trust funds will set out the strict use of the funds for direct husing subsidy.

The editorial also reached new heights of hypocrisy when it blasts the involvement of state governments in distributing the funds.

Much of the political clout will be enjoyed by state politicians once they receive the checks from HUD. The state pols will be free to share the wealth with favored organizations, which will include both nonprofit and for-profit groups with an agenda.

It just seems like you just can’t make a Wall Street Journal editorial writer happy.  They rant for years about wanting “devolution” and to turn authority back over to state and local governments.  Here is a program that does so and now they rail about local officials being irresponsible with the money.

Instead of spewing embarrassingly reasoned attacks like this why don’t the Journal editorial writers just lay it on the line.  They are part of a marginal, fringe, reactionary element that does not believe the government has any role in providing for the housing needs of the poor.  If they would come out in the open and debate the issue on these grounds then at least we could have an honest discussion.

The editorial did little to persuade members of the US Senate.  By a vote of 63 to 5 on July 11 the Senate approved a comprehensive housing bill that includes the National Housing Trust Fund.

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