By Clay

Unintended Consequences:  “The current law came about in 2007, when lawmakers amended Florida's condo statutes to lower the thresholds for terminating complexes' condo status—changes inspired by several storms in 2004 and 2005 that left complexes so damaged that many owners couldn't afford nor agree upon repairs. An ideal way to rebuild such a complex is for the owners to sell it to a developer with the capital to make the repairs and reopen it, often as rentals. But, first, its condo status must be removed.  The 2007 amendment established that, to terminate a condo designation, at least 80% of a complex's owners must approve. Second, to block a termination, 10% or more of the complex's owners must object. Any holdouts on the losing end of a vote must be paid fair-market value for their units by the complex's buyer. The 10%-objection threshold was aimed at allowing the majority's will to prevail.  Before 2007, the requirement in most cases for termination was unanimous approval of owners involved. But the process could be blocked by a lone holdout owner, stymieing rehabilitation efforts.  Lawmakers also extended the termination guidelines to undamaged complexes, mostly to accommodate efforts to redevelop aged, obsolete complexes. That opened the door for the guidelines to be applied to failed condo conversions to revert them entirely to rentals. In many cases, the developers applying to terminate a complex's condo designation already own 80% or more of its units because they never succeeded in selling the units as condos in the first place. Some 235 Florida complexes, about 1%, have ended their condo status since 2007. The state doesn't track whether terminations are contested.  Legal experts say the Florida condo-termination law can be seen as a "functional equivalent" of eminent domain, the process in which a government entity compels the sale of private property at fair-market value, sometimes on behalf of a private party, for economic development. "It appears to be pretty much the same thing," said Robert Hockett, a law professor at Cornell University.  Now, Florida lawmakers are pondering tweaking the law further. "I think something has to be done for the [condo owners] who must leave their property involuntarily but owe more than it is worth," said George Moraitis Jr. , a state representative from Fort Lauderdale. "But it's hard when you start trying to mitigate the market" by trying to account for changing property values.”

There are a lot of legislative solutions that ARPI will look into as we research various issues.  But as an organization, we must be ever-mindful of unintended consequences in those proposals because you never know how changes will impact people (and impact them negatively).

Poverty in the 21st Century:  There’s a critically important aspect to McMillan’s story that’s essential to this shift in perspective: the people she profiles live lives defined by persistent scarcity—not necessarily food scarcity, but a generalized and even traumatizing kind of material instability. Absolutely nothing about their lives is secure.  Critics of McMillan’s piece complained about how the low-income cohort she profiled possessed houses, cell phones, decent clothing, and televisions. Nobody mentioned how precariously close these people were to losing those things, much less the anguish such anxiety entails. One unexpected medical bill, one glitch with the car, one minor brush with the law, one argument with your shift manager—all these events could have sent the entire edifice of material life crumbling. And that’s terrifying. The subjects pictured and videotaped in McMillan’s story are not just overweight. They’re scared out of their minds.”

And also this article:  “Andrew Jewell’s home is filled with buckets used to heat water on the stove. The furniture is sparse. The walls are bare. Yet if you ask Andrew if his family is poor, he would say no. “The definition of poor is no roof, no lights, no water, no food. We have lights. We have water. We have a roof. We have food. We have money,” he says. 'We are not poor.'”

This isn’t Dickensian poverty, and our we as a society comfortable with that?  Will we just blame the person for their situation?  This gets back a little to that structural vs. personal responsibility issue that I hate—err sorry mom—dislike. 

Also of interest is the discussion on the food desert myth.  So the larger question is why are people making poor food choices?  I don’t think the article adequately answers the question—if only there was an organization willing to research the issue!  I’m not going to speculate on the answer here, because frankly I don’t want to offend some dude named Lation.

Stay Gold Ponyboy:  A newly coined voting bloc called Young Outsiders has two major attributes – they are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Really fiscally conservative.  An overwhelming majority of these Millennial-aged voters actually think government aid does more harm than good, that the government is at its max when it comes to helping the poor, and – get this – that people on the government dole have it way too easy.”

 This totally sounds like an S.E. Hinton book, but I’m glad to have found out the name for my voting bloc—although I wonder how much I actually fit in.  I’ve always felt that among liberals I was a conservative, and among conservatives I was a liberal.  So considering all that, maybe I’m just an outsider.    I’m not thaaat young, I’m not that socially liberal, and I don’t think every person who receives government assistance has life too easy.  Heck, I’m going to be a pensioner soon (or not that soon—it is the VA) and I have student loans. 

 I wonder how this group would view SIBs and the stance that RFK took in his 68 campaign regarding welfare and poverty.  I’m not sure why being skeptical about assistance and government programs makes one immediately skeptical of those who use the program.  I certainly can’t be the one to throw the first stone.  Maybe these Young Outsiders can.

 

Aim High; Fly, Fight, Win:  “Between 1946 and 1961 the U.S. Air Force and the now-defunct Atomic Energy Commission (whose regulatory duties were taken over by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC in 1975) oversaw the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) program. But ANP engineers and management were mired in debate over reactor technologies, how best to transfer nuclear power to a conventional engine, and the best material to shield the crew from radiation. Ultimately, they retrofitted the Convair B-36, a hybrid prop/jet-engine bomber weighing more than 400,000 pounds* (181,435 kilograms) and with a wingspan of 230 feet (70 meters), to house an air-cooled reactor in the aft bomb bay. Up front, the plane was outfitted with a 12-ton lead-and-rubber-shielded crew compartment. The atomic version of Convair's plane, called "Peacemaker," made 47 test flights over Texas and New Mexico between July 1955 and March 1957.”

 I’ve never given this a moment’s thought until I saw this article.  Interesting history even though the idea does not seem feasible—although I think some politicians may look into it after this article ;)

This is my favorite not-so-feasible idea.  I dream of a day that a private company would do this to rural roads and use it to offset energy costs for the rural poor. 

End Poverty—Difficult But Not Impossible: None of this means that policy changes won’t help or that the challenge of poverty shouldn’t be addressed, but remember for 50 years, through good times and bad, the poverty rate has moved little. As a campaign issue, poverty may be a good topic. Politicians can discuss how various proposals will or won’t work — but voters beware: actual progress is much harder to come by.”

A good blog post that shows how little has changed regarding the poverty rate over the last 50 years.  The list of highest poverty rate states reads like a college football poll, and unfortunately Georgia is in the Top 10 on this one too—as well as most of the Appalachian Southern-tier.

False Dichotomy Alert: If poverty is ultimately a question of character, as the Brooks' essay would suggest, then poverty is genuinely something that can be solved by the poor themselves showing more of the effort and determination necessary to transform their circumstances.”

 I don’t read the Brooks essay the way Coates does.  Instead Brooks suggests that character development is difficult but important—which isn’t exactly going out on a limb.  I don’t see that being suggested as the single panacea to solving the issue of poverty, but maybe I missed it:

 “The problem is that policies that ignore character and behavior have produced disappointing results. Social research over the last decade or so has reinforced the point that would have been self-evident in any other era — that if you can’t help people become more resilient, conscientious or prudent, then all the cash transfers in the world will not produce permanent benefits.”

Read the full opinion here.

How to Stay in the Bottom 20% of Household Wages:  “For the bottom 20% of household incomes, you have a 50% chance of staying in the bottom 20% if you are without a college degree.”

Watch the whole clip.  Mind the talking points.  I wonder if those numbers she cites change in different parts of the country—and what do we about those that continue to stay in the bottom 20% of wage earners?