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Est. April 5, 2002
Sept 17, 2020 - Issue 833
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Evictions and Foreclosures
Welcome to 2020 America’s
Cities or Rural Countryside


"Whatever the politicians have done, especially the
Republicans in the Congress, the money has not
reached the people and the eviction tidal wave that’s
coming is going to cause big problems."

There are those who believe that by 2021, the eviction pandemic will be one of the most persistent and damaging problem that facing the people of the United States and their elected officials.

This problem is just beginning and the unemployment numbers are climbing, but worse, the underemployment figures are going to be climbing as well. In the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, everything seems to be collapsing, financial, economic, and political. The rich, however, are making out like the veritable bandits they are.

If the federal government would stop bailing out the rich and Corporate America and start giving the relief money directly to the people, there might be a chance that the nation will somehow survive and regain some semblance of normality, although a return to pre-pandemic “normal” is not likely. The people will just have to adjust to a new normal and it won’t be easy. For one thing, everyone will have to begin getting accustomed to doing with less, as they are during the pandemic.

Americans might not have to be sequestered in their homes, as most of them are, but they have learned to do with much less in the way of material goods. In food, however, the people should not have to sacrifice a nourishing diet, especially for their children, because there is plenty of food to go around, but the way the national government and state governments are set up, there are food deserts and places where people don’t have easy transportation to and from supermarkets and other stores. And, there simply is not enough money to buy groceries if there were supermarkets close by.

A simple look at the problem shows us that joblessness, homelessness, evictions, hunger, and a lack of steady education for children are mostly caused by the same thing: a lack of money. In other developed countries, the governments have been set up to care for just about all of the people, especially the working poor, the poor, and those unable to work. And, of course, all of this in the U.S. is compounded by the lack of universal health care, as most other “first world” nations have.

As widespread poverty in a nation is not an accident, it is also not an accident that the Great United States does not care for the health of its most vulnerable people. There are fortunes to be made in failing to provide a system of health care and there’s the rub. Just as the U.S. has a “military-industrial complex,” it has a “corporate-congressional-medical complex” and, if the numbers were crunched, that amount might be just as much as the military and “defense” industries.

Numerous reports in the mass press have pointed out that even as the American people are suffering in this moribund economy, the rich are raking in the money by the billions, not the least of which is coming from the “pandemic relief.” Those funds should have gone to the people and to small businesses, but have gone largely to big corporations, however it was that they wangled the pandemic relief money.

Whatever the politicians have done, especially the Republicans in the Congress, the money has not reached the people and the eviction tidal wave that’s coming is going to cause big problems. As is usual, single mothers with one or two small children are the hardest hit. Image having no job prospects, no safe child care, and seeing your furniture and what little you own taken to the street and a new lock put on your door. No amount of political flim-flam is going to solve the problem of mass evictions.

Writing for the Monthly Review Online from Manhattan, Michael R. McBrearty wrote of the coming eviction crisis on Sept. 2:

The workers will necessarily need to demand a cancellation of that debt and a permanent freeze on evictions in response. In 2008, during the last economic crisis, millions lost properties to foreclosure. Though low income, they were, at least to some extent, people with something to lose. In the 2021 crisis, in contrast, the renters thrown out on the street will have nothing to lose. The class question will be posed most starkly. One side, one class or the other, must win or lose.

Across the nation, the fight for housing security has already become a part of the general struggle against inequality made possible by the epochal rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. And that makes sense. Nationally, 80 percent of evictions are against people of color. The most frequent victim of housing displacement is a woman of color with children. In New York in 2018, for example, according to Census Bureau figures, the zip codes with the highest number of evictions - all in the Bronx or Brooklyn - were all minority neighborhoods.

The intertwining of all of these issues has been made crystal clear by the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, even if those who started BLM didn’t realize the support it would have or the breadth of support among people across the board, no matter what their station in life. But what is missing is that, unless proponents of all of the change organizations are going to form under the umbrella of BLM, there must be another organization formed that will include them. And they are many, too many to count. Even though BLM has become broad-based and powerful (or the ruling class would not be so afraid of it), The organization needed is one that will be able to match the power of Corporate America, the right-wingers in Congress and the state legislatures, and the white supremacists and their enablers. Eventually, that organization will have to become political, in that it will have to express political power, through elected offices across the country, from town, village, and city offices to the congressional posts. The alternative, which would be political power through the power of money, is not likely.

McBrearty cites the anti-eviction actions of the 1930s, in the time of the Great Depression, before the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his works programs that were designed to get the money directly to families and to provide something of value to the nation in the process. The Works Progress Administration (WPA), which in 1939 was renamed the Work Projects Administration – employed millions of mostly unskilled men to carry out public works infrastructure projects. They built more than 4,000 new school buildings, erected 130 new hospitals, laid roughly 9,000 miles of storm drains and sanitary sewer lines, built 29,000 new bridges, constructed 150 new airfields, paved or repaired 280,000 miles of roads and planted 24 million trees. The unemployment rate had been 20 percent in the depths of the depression.

By 1935, the WPA employed 350,000 black Americans, about 15 percent of its total workforce. The Federal Music and Theatre projects also supported black musicians and actors. The WPA made significant contributions to the preservation of African American culture and history with the Federal Writers’ Project. The program collected interviews, articles and notes on African American life in the South, including oral histories from former slaves.

For untold numbers of families, the small weekly stipends that went directly to the people were the difference between keeping their homes and being evicted or foreclosed. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a similar New Deal program, primarily for rural areas, where unemployment was even higher. Eviction and foreclosure was always a worry for the working class and the people had to find ways to prevent mass evictions and foreclosures.

In rural areas, the people did, indeed, find ways to stop foreclosures. When it was commonly known that a foreclosure auction was to be held at a particular farm, scores or hundreds of farmers showed up, some of them armed, and when the bidding started, there wasn’t a first bid and the sale was over. That’s not to suggest that this is how the current urban eviction wave will end, but there already are signs that tenant associations and BLM supporters and others will be there when poor folk are about to lose their homes. It doesn’t matter that evictions and rents may be delayed for the duration of the pandemic, either by President Trump or any of the governors. If they do that, there will come a time when the full rents have to be paid. For working poor or poor, there will be no money to pay for any of it.

Trump has proposed “helping” workers by deferring the payroll tax, which are levied to finance Social Security, the hospital insurance portion (Part A) of Medicare, and the federal unemployment insurance program, but beware. It eventually would have to be paid back by the worker at the end of a set period. In this, Trump will have set in motion a way to reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits and cut into the federal part of unemployment benefits. He could do this to the people by deferring rents and mortgage payments for the duration of the pandemic.

There is a solution. During this time of rampant unemployment, lack of a job market that pays a living wage, and the pandemic, rents and mortgages must be forgiven. The rich landlords and the banks, which have been the beneficiaries of much government largesse, will just have to settle for what they can get (in the same way Trump has always done business, making workers, contractors, and his lenders scratch for the money he owed). Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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