Last week, in East Point, Georgia over thirty thousand people arrived to file an application for section 8 housing. This is a subsidy for their housing expense. The problem? Only 13,000 applications were available. These weren’t applications for the actual subsidy, but applications to get on a waiting list to get the subsidy.
Well, given the fact that many in the line waited over two days to get the application and the late summer heat, trouble started brewing. Over 200 riot police arrived on the to provide crowd control. In the end, 62 were injured. This is, I think to be expected, when unemployment is high, bankruptcies are endemic and people are just plain busted these days.
See here for more detail:
There is no need, at this point, to detail the commentary taking place on forums like this one at Datehookup.com or this one at Free Republic. As a result of this near riot, forums and blogs all over the internet are filling up with charges of “SOCIALISM!” and acknowledgements that all of the applicants in the news videos are african-american (what must that mean, hmmm?!). It does no good to point out that right wingers are often racist. We know that. They know that about themselves. They will never admit it publicly, even as they display it.
Commenters in both of the aforementioned fora chose to post this 26 second video, which really has nothing whatsoever to do with the events in East Point, Georgia:
What does deserve comment however is the way Newsweek chose to articulate this story. Named “Home Improvement”, the tag line reads “Federal aid for renters sparked a near riot in Atlanta because it is so successful. How Section 8 is helping spur the housing market.” The article notes that
Atlanta will become the first U.S. city to demolish all of its public housing projects, which a decade ago housed more than 14,000 families.
and goes on to say that
Section 8 tenants get to choose where they live. Rather than isolating the poor in segregated high-rise towers, it disperses them, many throughout mixed-income communities with lower crime, better schools, and all the other amenities that middle-class Americans take for granted. Recipients don’t have to live in the city that issued the voucher.
That means that Section 8 is more than a gateway to an affordable home—it can be a ticket to live anywhere in the country. This is especially potent at a time when many cities, particularly in the Sun Belt, are filled with fancy new homes that were built in the boom and that have gone unsold in the bust. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, Las Vegas landlords have been renting out brand-new luxury condos to voucher holders who have relocated from points east and who pay a few hundred dollars a month out of pocket for condos that were formerly on the market for several hundred thousand.
So by implication, we need not feel bad for these folks because they are going to be better off. That seems like self-soothing happy talk to me and reminds me vaguely of Barbara Bush during Hurrican Katrina.
Conclusions and Predictions
What do I think this event has to teach us? Well, I call it a crowd swarm and not a riot because I remember the LA riots. I remember the riots of the sixties and seventies, too. Riots involve buildings being burned, mass looting, clashes between police and armed protesters, like at the WTO in seattle. This does not rise to that level. I think it is a portent of things to come if the economy does not improve. As Damien Hoffman points out, bankruptcy filings have hit an all time high despite legislation passed on 2005 to make it nearly impossible to do so. Food stamps usage has doubled since 2007. This may not have been a full blown riot but I suspect there are many, many, more in the offing.