Sunday, June 19, 2011

Poverty Inc.: The Sack of Huntsville

 If you like you can listen (to the sirens) yourself, for you may get the men to bind you ... to, the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you faster.Homer, The Odyssey (circa 900bc)

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? -Matthew 16-26, King James Bible

Odysseus Tied to the Mast
In the Spring of 1968 at the Bing Nursery School in Palo Alto California, America came to an end. Within its walls, the elites learned just how cheaply our souls could be had: All it cost was a couple of minutes and one marshmallow per soul on average.

Poverty Inc.

'If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin." ~Charles Darwin

When assessing welfare programs, it is necessary to demand that they be efficacious rather than blindly believing in good intentions.  This series explores the reasons why despite the ever an ever growing amount of money thrown at the problem, the people on these programs never seem to be lifted out of poverty but instead become long term dependent wards of the state. Other posts in this series include:

An American Tragedy in 13 Parts

In this episode, JohnQ reviews recent research on what it actually takes to be successful and contrasts this with a poorly thought out plan to decentralize poverty that is currently being carried out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Root of Wealth Versus Poverty


Bing Nursery School, A Laboratory School and Research Tool

In 1968 researchers at Stanford University, during a behavioral experiment conducted on toddlers at the affiliated Bing Nursery school, stumbled upon one of the most important psychological discoveries ever made: They could predict your future ability to find success/happiness in life based on a single life skill, ones ability to exercise self control in the face of temptation. Even more amazing, this test usually took less than a couple of minutes and only hinged on the ability to resist eating a marshmallow.


Despite the wealth of evidence that supports this finding, the US government via the Department of Housing and Urban Development has embarked on a reckless scheme to relocate thousands of people from the projects (who lack this very skill, self control) to unsuspecting neighborhoods across the United States. Tragically rather than trying to impart any life skills, they seem to believe that dumping people, whom they have raised as dependents, into successful neighborhoods will magically transform them into productive members of society.

Ominously, research indicates that, not only is this practice ineffective in reducing poverty, dispersing poverty has a crime multiplier effect. For example, in December 2003, George C. Galster of College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs at Wayne State University issued a paper entitled, Consequences from the Redistribution of Urban Poverty During the 1990's.  In it, he found that a city with dispersed poverty would suffer more total crime than a city with concentrated poverty. He also found that it only took modest increases in poverty to push vulnerable neighborhoods past the tipping point and into chaos. The below crime map overlayed with section 8 housing voucher information dramatically shows how crime spreads with poverty dispersal programs:

Attacking Rockford crime where poverty lives - The Rockford Register, February 24, 2011

While it took researchers until fairly recently to learn, the connection between success and self control is actually common historical knowledge:

Out of the Wilderness
What Makes Us Human

In the not so distant past, our ancestors clearly understood the value of self control in the face of temptation and reinforced this constantly via lessons passed down over the eons.

Zion Train

Which man can save his brother's soul?
Oh man, it's just self control.
Don't gain the world and lose your soul
Wisdom is better than silver and gold

-Bob Marley, Zion Train

The most important recent popular reference to the connection between self control and success is contained in the Bob Marley song, Zion Train.

While there may be better versions of this song, this below one is the most poignant because the performer, Bob Marley would be dead in 5 months from the cancer ravaging his body. Instead of wallowing in self pity, he used his last moments on earth trying to send a simple yet powerful message regarding the importance of self control and will power.

The First Temptation

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:1-11

 The most important reference to the exercise of self control in the face of temptation comes from the Gospel of Matthew.

Here Father Robert J. Carr hones in on an important aspect of this gospel concerning the temptation of Christ in the desert by Satan:

The way the devil works is...[using] that argument that does make a little sense until we really look below the surface and see intentions and see ideas. When we see that then we recognize that this is not something that makes sense. This is something that it manipulative and destructive.

The second most important reference to the exercise of self control in the face of temptation occurs in ancient Greek classical liturature:

Lashed to the Mast

Homer also warns us of such temptations in book XII of the Odyssey where he give the cautionary tale of Odysseus tied to the mast:


Sirens are seductive female creatures in Greek mythology. The Sirens are probably best known for their part in the Odyssey where their song lured sailors to their death. Odysseus ordered his crew to plug their ears with wax (on the advice of Circe) so as not to be lured by the Sirens' song.

Seperating Man from the Apes

In fact, self control is widely recognized as the most important characteristics of humanity:

The Evolution of the Human

The human is designed by nature (evolution) to modify any behavior that would normally be instinctive to one that would provide optimum benefit (survivability). This process is called self-control or self-discipline, and is the major difference between the human and the lower order animals, those that apply only instinct to their behavioral decisions. Self-discipline, therefore, is the measuring stick of the human. The more disciplined behavior (behavior determined by intellect) displayed by the individual, the more human he becomes. The less disciplined behavior (behavior in response to instinct) displayed by an individual, the more he becomes like the lower order animals that are lacking in intellect and are driven by their instincts.

Condoms for Kids.....

It is curious then that our elites posit the opposite to be fact: That man lacks self control. Even more odd is their obsessive urge to indoctrinate the most vulnerable members of our society with this strange notion. In this fascinating video, they justify giving first graders condoms on this basis:

Experimenting with Marshmallows

Many experts believe that the Marshmallow Experiment is the most important behavioral study of the last 50 years. The results of this study and follow up with its participants over time starkly demonstrate high correlation between self control to success and happiness in life.

Below is a video of the experiment recreated:

Below is a link to the best article that JohnQ has found on the subject:

Dept. of Science, Don’t, !The secret of self-control by Jonah Lehrer in the New Yorker, May 18, 2009

While I highly recommend reading the whole thing, below are some of the salient points raised:

Self Control - A Way of Thinking about the World...

Mischel argues that intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework. “What we’re really measuring with the marshmallows isn’t will power or self-control,” Mischel says. “It’s much more important than that. This task forces kids to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the second marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.”

Importance of Families (Fathers)...

Mischel took young children from both ethnic groups and offered them a simple choice: they could have a miniature chocolate bar right away or, if they waited a few days, they could get a much bigger chocolate bar. Mischel’s results failed to justify the stereotypes—other variables, such as whether or not the children lived with their father, turned out to be much more important

Context is Everything...

Volunteers were tested for standard personality traits, and Mischel compared the results with ratings of how well the volunteers performed in the field. He found no correlation; the time-consuming tests predicted nothing. At this point, Mischel realized that the problem wasn’t the tests—it was their premise. Psychologists had spent decades searching for traits that exist independently of circumstance, but what if personality can’t be separated from context?

Ego versus the Id...

“Young kids are pure id,” Mischel says. “They start off unable to wait for anything—whatever they want they need. But then, as I watched my own kids, I marvelled at how they gradually learned how to delay and how that made so many other things possible

Hot Stimulus and the Strategic Allocation of Attention..

What, then, determined self-control? Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten.

Nature versus Nurture...

The early appearance of the ability to delay suggests that it has a genetic origin, an example of personality at its most predetermined. Mischel resists such an easy conclusion. “In general, trying to separate nature and nurture makes about as much sense as trying to separate personality and situation,”

Contrast what is known about achieving success to the efforts by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to dump people lacking in life skills into unsuspecting suburban neighborhoods in Huntsville, AL:

...Get Knocked Up

The city of Huntsville reacted in shock when they learned of a bizarre government scheme several years ago to relocate residents of urban housing projects into luxury apartment complexes through out town in order to "make a difference in their lives." All evidence to the contrary, our elites believe that success is not developed by learning self control but by some sort of magic that is supposed to occur when you drop a dependent class into successful neighborhoods.

Instant Self Sufficiency?

Housing Authority Takes Over Apartments - WHNT News, March 19, 2009

The Huntsville Housing Authority takes over an apartment complex. Now several people are looking for a new place to live.

"One of the things that we're trying to get away from is having public housing in clusters and putting people throughout the community," said Paige Rucker, Huntsville Housing Authority Spokesperson. "So that they can become self sufficient."

..or Poor Planning

Those pesky tax payers...

Huntsville Residents Voice Concerns Over Public Housing - WHNT News, April 16, 2009

Linda Lawrence was at the meeting. She asked for more accountability of HHA. She also wants their plans to stop.

"The 50 unit Stone Manor luxury apartment purchase is proof of the Huntsville Housing Authority's poor plan. What is to motivate the residents to become self-efficient themselves," said Huntsville Resident Linda Lawrence.

Get pregnant

The government elites being the good Samaritans that they are also have some sage advice for the locals:

Does public housing mean there goes neighborhood? - Huntsville Times, May 30, 2009

Michael Lundy, executive director of the Housing Authority, has said he hopes to continue to buy more apartments, as well as use housing vouchers, to scatter public housing throughout the city.

Jana Rice makes more than $37,800 a year as a paralegal. That's too much to avoid eviction at Stone Manor. But Rice says a representative of the Housing Authority suggested a way to keep her apartment....'Get pregnant'

Shhhh...Its a Secret

Jokes on you taxpayer, we kept it a secret until it was a done deal:

No change to Stone Manor plans - Huntsville Times, May 31, 2011

Michael Lundy, executive director of the Huntsville Housing Authority, told his board of directors on Monday that there are no plans to back out of the purchase of Stone Manor Luxury Apartments in south Huntsville in response to public outcry.

"The community is just very upset about the fact we bought the property, and felt that they should have been notified," said Lundy during a monthly meeting at the authority's downtown headquarters.

Huntsville Housing Authority outlines 5 year plan - WAFF News, April 9, 2009

Many worried they won't have another opportunity to express their thoughts.

"It wasn't that we were trying to keep it a secret we just don't want to put a profile on people trying to make a difference in their life," said Rucker.

Shut the Hell Up...

So why don't you citizens just shut the hell up:

Housing execs get 2nd forum with public - Huntsville Times, April 16, 2009

Huntsville Housing Authority officials have been invited to tonight's City Council meeting to discuss their long-range plans for public housing.

But city leaders don't want a repeat of last week's public meeting at Chaffee Elementary, where residents loudly protested the authority's moving public housing into south Huntsville.

"I'm sure the council will ask questions, and the public may have some input," Russell said. "There won't be a debate or dialogue back and forth."

Racial Star Chamber

..of course if you insist on disagreeing, we will put you through the racial star chamber:

The Power of the State - Flashpoint, Politics Alabama Style, June 18, 2011

By admitting that its supposed investigation is being prompted by public criticism of affordable housing initiatives, HUD is not even bothering to hide what it is doing.  This is straight-up, pure thuggery by a federal agency that wants to intimidate the public and cut off debate

Fair Housing
The Stealth Right

Urban Decline Through the Back Door - Flashpoint, Politics Alabama Style, March 18, 2011

The Fair Housing Act was initially passed in 1968 and has been amended at various times over the years both by Congress and via presidential executive order. The law “prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing and in housing-related lending activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status.” This is an important civil rights law and one that almost anyone can support. Note, however, that income is not a protected category.

But some activists want to change that. That is, they want to establish that a person has a legal right to live in a neighborhood he can’t afford to live in.

At Thursday’s City Council work session, Dr. Wilson presented the draft plan and took questions from the Council.  By far the most entertaining part came when Council President Mark Russell asked her point-blank why the “affordable housing” elements were in this document and if they are required by the Fair Housing Act.  Twice she ducked, weaved, and equivocated, and twice Russell came right back and asked the question again, before Wilson finally admitted that affordable housing is not “technically” a requirement of fair housing law.

Blowing the Lid

When assessing true intentions, it is always better to look at results rather than believing in promises. Unfortunately, this process leads one to conclude that the elites may have a darker motive in mind.

In the July 2008, the Atlantic Monthly Magazine, published an article entitled, American Murder Mystery, by Hanna Rosin that ripped the lid off the dangers involved in the scheme to "decentralize poverty". In it she describes, how an enterprising criminologist, Richard Janikowski, from the University of Memphis discovered a pattern that indicated that this decentralization of poverty was causing spikes in violent crimes that were imploding cities across the United States.

In this CNN Video, Hanna discusses her article:

Hanna Rosin talked about recent research on an overlap between the destruction of inner city housing projects and an increase in crime in historically quiet neighborhoods. She explained her article on the Memphis research and the impact these findings could have on the national effort to diffuse inner-city poverty.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you are so right. The professional POVERTY industry. Those slackers. If only the professional chemical industry, the professional prison industry, the professional sports industry, the professional energy industry -- all those so-called "industries" could get some traction, but they can't, because of the way the professional Poverty industry is holding them all back. What a bring-down. What a drag. Brother, thank you for showing me the light.

John Quincy said...

Thank you for your comment. At JohnQuincy all viewpoints are welcome.

Sure it has been a bad economy for the past couple of years. How does that justify efforts to disperse poverty over the last couple of decades? A policy that has been shown to increase overall violent crime rates and tip marginal communities into poverty, thus increasing the overall poverty rate too.

I suppose that you are cool with the fact that the very communities bearing the brunt of this policy tend to be minority communities teetering on the edge.

As mentioned in the post, when assessing true intentions, it is always better to look at results rather than believing in promises. A poorly thought out policy, poverty dispersal, that increases overall violent crime rates and poverty does not seem like a good bargain to me.