Sunday, April 29, 2012

HUD brass should take Romney less seriously

Why is HUD Sec'y Donovan answering Mitt Romney so earnestly, so much in Romney's own kind of language, about the absurd idea of ending HUD?

He should be laughing off the rank ignorance, or insulting dishonesty, or nihilism -- take your pick -- in the pretense that any developed society can get by without a housing agency.

Here's Donovan in Business Week defending HUD basically on Romney's terms:
“When you say, ‘Let the market hit bottom. Government shouldn’t be engaged in supporting housing in any way,’ what you’re talking about is telling those families who want to send their kids to college, who want to start a small business, who want to save for retirement that they’re going to give up on those dreams,” Donovan said. “That’s something we are not willing to accept.”
HUD subsidy and finance programs serve so many vested interests in the construction and finance industries that, considered as a group of functions, HUD is not seriously in danger, or most of it isn't.

Unless Romney is just ignorant (always possible, but unlikely given his family history), what he's really talking about is splitting off and killing the subsidy programs for people who can't afford to deal directly with private landlords unaided. (I'm not saying "market rate" because it's hard to even tell what that means any more.)

So Donovan is accepting Romney's idea of who matters when he answers with a reminder that HUD also serves the middle class, as though the agency therefore is worth saving.

Later in his defense of the agency, Donovan gets around to the poverty programs:
“Fundamentally, if you ask the question, ‘Does what HUD provides to the most vulnerable Americans, is it necessary today? Is it more important than it’s ever been?’ The answer is yes.”
So the full defense, translated, is "HUD serves more people than you'd think who have enough money to deserve public services, and also, by the way, the odd little subpopulation of The Poor need their special kinds of help in their separate little world, and you don't want to be uncharitable to Them, do you?"

It would be so much better for Donovan to refuse to give a bifurcated defense -- to refuse to accept Romney's view of the poor as something different from the public.

Too much to ask, I know.

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