Hidden corporate wealth could help poor

Published 8:21 am Friday, June 10, 2016

The conditions in Bogalusa’s public housing are abysmal.

Sadly, the situation here isn’t unique or even terribly rare.

The public housing I’ve seen in Mississippi is hardly any better and, nationally, the public housing has become a solution of last resort and names like “section eight” and “the projects” have become shorthand for the bad parts of any town.

This doesn’t have to be so, of course. Humans designed our public housing and the dismal fact is, what we have now, with the sorry, dilapidated buildings and high concentrations of poverty and drug use are features not bugs of the design.

We have known since the late 1960s that packing poor people into small spaces is a good way to cordon off parts of town from the outside and to essentially concentrate social problems.

That such a concentration should inflate rather than dissipate the pathologies of poverty should have come as no surprise, but 50 years on, this fact is painfully obvious.

The conditions inside public housing should be a national outrage and yet, they’re not.

No presidential candidate I’ve heard has brought it up the issue of public housing. This Saturday, the GOP candidates for U.S. Senate will swing by Bogalusa and my guess is, none of them will mention public housing, unless someone asks them.

Last week, Sen. Bill Cassidy stopped by for a town hall meeting, and he didn’t mention public housing, though he did advocate for providing better access to mental healthcare, as though the state of someone’s mental health were wholly divorced from one’s living conditions.

HUD agents drove by and determined Bogalusa’s public housing is sub-par. They made recommendations they say will help conditions here in Bogalusa, though none of those recommendations include so much as a new coat of paint or new screens or, for that matter, any material fixes whatsoever.

But even the best recommendations from HUD won’t fix any underlying issues of poverty.

Is there a call from any of our state or federal representatives for higher minimum wages?

Is there a call for higher corporate taxes? If there has been, I must have missed it.

In April, the British newspaper The Guardian reported the 50 biggest corporations in America, including Apple, Walmart and General Electric have stashed over $1.4 trillion in offshore accounts somewhere through the use of shell companies.

Just as our public housing policies have concentrated our social misfits into concentrated rows of dilapidated shacks out of sight of society, it seems we’ve created a global tax system that concentrates tax cheats onto remote, tropical islands, out of sight of society. Oh, the irony.

If only there were a way to tap into some of the money we give to these corporations to help our poor…

But if there were a way, I am sure our federal and state representatives would be looking into it.

I mean, my gosh, who would be in favor of systemic, multi-generational poverty?

Jesse Wright is the managing editor of The Daily News. You can call him at 985-732-2565, ext. 301, or email him at jesse.wright@bogalusadailynews.com.