Thursday, December 9, 2021

Last Call For Building Back Better, Con't

A new NPR/Marist poll finds that a majority of Americans approve of the Democrats' accomplishments in 2021, namely the infrastructure bill (56%), the stimulus checks (80% of the 62% of Americans who say they got them), and the child tax credit payments of $300 per month (79% of the 59% of Americans who are parents of kids under 18).

The bad news is that Biden's Build Back Better plan has only 41% support, with a full 25% unsure of what's even in the plan at all, with 61% of Americans saying the country is headed in the wrong direction (88% of Republicans and two-thirds of independents). NPR seems to think the problems are inflation and bad messaging.

Americans don't feel the direct payments or expanded child tax credits doled out earlier this year helped them much, according to the latest NPR/Marist poll, and they don't see Democrats' signature legislation as addressing their top economic concern — inflation.

Additionally, they're down on the job President Biden is doing, don't give him much credit for the direct payments or tax credits, and have soured on the direction of the country.

The results, out Thursday, come as Democrats prepare a nationwide push to sell voters on their policies ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when the party will defend its slim majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Americans do mostly endorse the new infrastructure law but are less supportive of Democrats' Build Back Better bill that has passed the House. And while that legislation would expand the social safety net, survey respondents weren't convinced that it would help people like them.

"They [Democrats] don't have a unified message for what they're doing, and that does not bode well for the party," said Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll.
It certainly doesn't help when all of NPR's coverage of Democrats is either "Manchin and Sinema are against the Biden bill", "Vice President Harris is a weird loser who would lose to Mayor Pete" or  "Nancy Pelosi has lost control".

Just saying.

The Rent Is Too Damn High, Cincy Edition

Cincinnati is absolutely doing the right thing when it comes to trying to create affordable housing and increase homeownership and community stability: selling soon-to-be foreclosed properties to rental tenants already living there rather than to billion-dollar corporate landlords.

The Port of Greater Cincinnati is buying nearly 200 homes with the goal of selling each property to the family living there as renters. It's an unusual move aimed at preventing a large investor from swooping in to evict tenants and raise the rent.

"We didn't go looking for this, it came to us," said Laura Brunner, president and CEO of The Port.

Los Angeles-based Raineth Housing is foreclosing on the 194 properties, and The Port was one of about a dozen bids to buy the portfolio of homes.

"We know for a fact that some of the potential buyers had already told tenants 'Hey, get prepared to move as of January 1, because we're going to start evictions and raise the rents,' " Brunner says.

The Port will keep rent at the same level while partnering with local nonprofits to get residents ready to purchase each property.

"Some of them probably already have the capability of buying, they just haven't had an opportunity because there's so few homes available in that price range," Brunner says. "Others will need to go through homeownership training and perhaps work on their credit score [or] identify sources for down payment assistance."

Nonprofit partners include Working in Neighborhoods, Price Hill Will, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, Talbert House, Legal Aid and more.

The Port is taking on about $14.5 million in debt for the project. Brunner says that's part of what makes this "unprecedented" — most affordable housing projects require significant public subsidy, but The Port can take on these properties on their own financial strength.

Brunner says "institutional investors" are becoming more common: 1 in 6 home sales in Hamilton County in the second quarter of this year were by large investors.

"We see these investors take an affordable home ownership opportunity and convert it into a higher price rental unit," Brunner says. "That's bad all the way around — bad for the neighbors, bad for the renters that don't have somebody that's attentive to their needs, that lives out of town."
That 1 in 6 number is almost certainly much higher now. Corporations are turning to the oldest, most valuable asset in the books: land. And they realize that if they can buy and flip every home on the area, then they control the entire political, economic, financial, and cultural landscape. No politician is going to mess with a corporation that literally owns a double-digit percentage of the county's residential real estate.

It's the return of the company town.

It's a tiny drop in the bucket to fight back, but at least Cincinnati is doing something about it.

Sadly, in the years ahead I expect this to only get far worse, and for most Americans to be priced out of living much of anywhere. When the only landlord in town is a faceless corporation

Ban 'Em, Burn 'Em Texas Style, Con't

Texas school districts are running scared of Republican lawmakers and pulling books from school libraries in a pre-emptive and futile effort to spare themselves the coming wrath of the stupid.

A Texas school district pre-emptively pulled more than 400 books from its libraries for review following an inquiry from a Republican state lawmaker.

North East Independent School District in San Antonio said it determined its libraries contained 414 books on a list of roughly 800 targeted by state Rep. Matt Krause. Krause, who chairs the House General Investigating Committee, has asked school officials to search their campuses for copies of the books from the list and respond with how many they have, among other questions such as how the books were paid for.

The school district said in a statement Tuesday that it was reviewing the books “out of an abundance of caution” to “ensure they did not have any obscene or vulgar material in them.”

“Most of those are appropriate and will stay on our library shelves as is, however, some may contain content that needs further review to ensure the books are accessible based on age appropriateness,” Aubrey Chancellor, executive director of communications, said in the statement. “For us, this is not about politics or censorship, but rather about ensuring that parents choose what is appropriate for their minor children.”

The books featured on the list are both nonfiction and fiction, and many cover issues such as race and racial equality, gender equality, identity and sexual orientation, as well as topics such as teen sexuality, pregnancy and abortion.

The list includes some well-known and lauded books such as “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Confessions of Nat Turner” by William Styron and “The Cider House Rules” by John Irving.

Chancellor told NBC News the district had already been in the process of reviewing its books after deeming one book inappropriate last year and has looked into the age appropriateness of others. She said the district was being proactive and described Krause’s list as a “jumping off point.”

“When I look at some of those titles on there, they in no way are going to be inappropriate,” she said. “They’re going to be absolutely reviewed and back on the shelves. So, you know, maybe all of them may end up going back on our shelves. But we just want to do our due diligence
It's possible that the school is right and the books will be back up.
Right until Texas Republicans start banning and burning them. We know how this ends, folks. It's not going to be pretty when it happens, either.
And it's just the start.


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