Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sophistry in Politics

There is no Constitutional requirement for truth to trump sophistry, Dear Gentle Reader(s); although perhaps the case can be made for one in the case of political pundits.  There is a hue and cry when a reporter lies in a Pulitzer Prize winning article or a memoirist lies in purported recollection or, like Clifford Irving, a biography which really isn’t.  Who gets hurt in those instances?  People in some power who were hoodwinked.  Eh.  Caveat emptor.

Who, though, gets hurt when political pundits use clever arguments against progressive social policies which, on close scrutiny, are possibly misleading?  Poor people, for whom of those progressive policies are developed, are generally the ones hurt.  Take, for example, Thomas Sowell’s latest effort in Townhall.com, “Lured to Disaster,” an argument against the concept of “affordable housing.”  In it he asserts ‘Behind the housing boom and bust was one of those alluring but undefined phrases that are so popular in politics-- "affordable housing."

Sowell offers his own childhood living conditions to prove that responsible people, who live within their means, do not need to have a law saying “It is somehow the taxpayers' job to make up the difference, when someone chooses housing whose cost exceeds that magic number.”  That’s hardly the idea behind “affordable housing.”  At least, it’s not the only idea. 

In Cathedral City, California, affordable housing is used when developers seek public assistance for housing projects.  A developer wants to build a 100 unit housing tract using tax incentives.  Application is made, and, for the consideration of say, 1 out of 10 units to be classified “affordable,” permission to build and to utilize tax incentives is granted.

That is a far cry from the criminal mortgage lenders of the past years who led us to the current housing bust and thus to the financial boondoggle in which we find ourselves.

Sowell’s admonition that people should only buy or rent what they can afford is valid.  Affordable housing programs, used with responsible developers and consumers, expands the number of those responsible people and are also valid.

Sowell knows this.  One wonders why he takes this particular tack.

Trust, but verify.

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