8:12 AM, Nov 16, 2015 • By ELI LEHRER
Sometime in the next two years, if Obama administration bureaucrats get their way, public housing tenants who smoke in their own apartments will face sanctions, fines and perhaps even eviction. The proposed policy is deeply flawed. However, those who oppose it—as many conservatives will reflexively—ought to use their opposition to reconsider misguided if well intentioned efforts to micromanage the lives of the poor even when such efforts come from the political right.
First, one ought to give the Obama administration’s proposal its due. Cigarettes are addictive and smoking them shaves years off of life. Americans living near or below the poverty line smoke at a higher rate than the population as a whole. Since nearly all people in public housing of them qualify for government-supported healthcare, taxpayers end up picking up their medical bills. Bans on smoking in workplaces and indoor public areas appear to have caused reductions in the smoking rate while sparing millions from second hand smoke.
Nonetheless, the proposed bans are deeply problematic because they involve micromanagement of public housing tenant’s lives. Because cigarettes are addictive and because smoking them is a cultural and social ritual, the overwhelming majority of quit attempts fail. Telling regular smokers they can’t smoke in their own homes will seriously disrupt their lives. While private market landlords can and do restrict smoking, of course, people who rent from such property owners will almost always have a choice of housing. Public housing tenants don’t. Forcing people who happen to live in public housing to give up a perfectly legal habit-albeit one that is considered a vice-raises lots of questions. If smoking is to be restricted, then why not restrict alcohol use? If that, why not unhealthy foods? At some point it becomes ridiculous.
And enforcing one-size-fits-all anti-smoking rules may well prove impossible anyway. Studies of efforts to ban smoking in apartments show that the great majority of smokers ignore the rules. Indeed, even though a third of all public housing units already ban smoking, smoking rates in public housing remain higher than they are among the population. And the wrong rule could even harm public health. The current draft regulations hint at the possibility that the federal government might ban e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco has well. Since these things deliver nicotine in a much safer fashion than combustible cigarettes, banning them would encourage more smoking and thus more disease. If this happens, the rule will end up being more an effort to impose left-wing lifestyle preferences on the poor than a legitimate public health measure.
And we should be just as cautious of similar, conservative efforts at social engineering. Kansas, for example, has placed numerous restrictions on how cash welfare recipients can use their benefits. The states’ restrictions on buying movie tickets and underwear with welfare benefits and even withdrawing cash from ATMs reek of micromanagement. Even the fast-growing idea of drug-testing welfare recipients has caught very few scofflaws while imposing costs far in excess of its benefits. While it may be fair in principle to deny cash welfare to drug users, furthermore, it seems a lot more dubious to do what Wisconsin is proposing and deny SNAP benefits (previously known as food stamps) to people who test positive for drugs.
None of this means that the poor shouldn’t be held responsible for their own behavior: work requirements, experiments that require Medicaid beneficiaries to make token co-payments, and efforts to evict public housing tenants guilty of serious crimes are all good policies.
But those who criticize the ways that government run everything from transit authorities to farm programs ought to be just as skeptical as efforts to micromanage individuals’ lives simply because they happen to be poor.
Republicans need something to say about 2008.Oct 26, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 07 • By PETER FERRARA and STEPHEN MOORE
After the Great Depression, Democrats ran against Herbert Hoover for 30 years—and with great success. Even though Hoover’s policies were anything but market-oriented—he greatly raised spending, taxes, and tariffs in response to the 1929 Wall Street crash—Republicans took the fall for Hooverism. It wasn’t until Ronald Reagan that free markets were fully politically rehabilitated.
2:22 PM, Jun 4, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
The Hillary Clinton campaign is looking for some Everyday Americans willing to open up their homes to strangers. On a webpage entitled "Host a Hillary for America Volunteer," the campaign asks for name, email address, phone number and home address for those willing to host a fellow Clinton supporter.
4:34 PM, Apr 29, 2015 • By IKE BRANNON
Bob: I've got an idea for a new government program to help homeowners.
2:01 PM, Nov 4, 2014 • By TERRY EASTLAND
Last winter President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development published a regulation pursuant to the Fair Housing Act that defines discrimination as actions or policies that while neutral and nondiscriminatory in their intent have a disparate impact, shown through statistics, on a group of persons defined in terms of race (and other protected groups).
Can't refinance his mortgage.9:09 AM, Oct 3, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The old saying about how banks only loan money to people who don’t need it seems to be coming around again. This after the disaster that followed a policy of lending money, and lots of it, to people who really needed it but weren’t likely to pay it back.
11:29 AM, Sep 18, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
First, the good news. Initial unemployment claims, which were expected to come in at 305,000, came in at 280,000 good deal less than that.
4:46 PM, Jun 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former President Bill Clinton insists he and his wife, Hillary Clinton, are not out of touch. The examples he cites? They talk to people at their "local grocery store on the weekend" and, he adds, they "talk to people in [their] town."
12:00 AM, May 31, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Little ado about not very much. Markets yawned when the government revised its initial estimate of economic growth in the first quarter from a slight positive, +0.1 percent, to a non-trivial negative of -1.0 percent. There are several reasons that the first shrinkage of the economy in three years did not deter investors from driving share prices to record levels, defying the old injunction to “sell in May and go away.”
12:00 AM, May 10, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Hedge fund manager Barry Rosenstein is not a man to be fazed by the recent rise in mortgage interest rates. Nor is he one to worry that the housing market might be softening, loping the odd million off the $147 million he shelled out for an 18-acre beachfront home in the Hamptons, on New York’s Long Island Sound. So all is well in the housing market.
3:01 PM, Mar 18, 2014 • By JAMES K. GLASSMAN
Top Senate Banking Committee members released plans this week to wind down mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace them with a complicated apparatus disturbingly similar to Obamacare.
12:00 AM, Mar 1, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
The housing market and house prices are the economy’s gift to journalists. For one thing, almost everybody either owns a house, is looking to buy one, or to sell one – and all want to know whether prices are going up, down, or sideways, whether buyers are in the saddle and ride sellers, or vice versa.
2:06 PM, Feb 14, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The highest rents in the country aren't in major metropolises like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago--they're in Williston, North Dakota. Business Insider reports that the highest average monthly rents for entry-level, one-bedroom apartments can be found in Williston, a small town in northwestern North Dakota that's the central city in the state's oil boom of recent years.