By Jaimeson Champion
Published Dec 12, 2010 11:37 PM
As the cold winter chill sets in across the U.S., homelessness is at an all-time high.
Over the past few years, millions of people have been forced from their homes by foreclosures and evictions and into overcrowded shelters and transitional housing. The number of homeless families rose by close to 30 percent between 2007 and 2009. (hud.gov)
With layoffs continuing in nearly all industries, tens of millions more families and individuals are living with oppressive anxiety caused by not knowing if they will be able to make next month’s rent or mortgage payment.
Recently, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which includes a multitude of government agencies, ranging from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Defense, unveiled a plan called Opening Doors. It has been billed as the “first ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness” and claims to be “centered on the belief that no one should experience homelessness — no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.”
Nice words. The federal strategic plan to end homelessness is more than 70 pages of charts, graphs and statistics. (usich.gov) But noticeably absent from all the analysis is the one economic statistic that shows there can be an immediate, common-sense solution: the housing vacancy rate.
According to the Census Department, there are more than 18.9 million vacant housing units in the U.S. (census.gov)
That’s enough perfectly usable housing units to put a roof over the head of every single homeless person in the U.S., with millions of homes to spare. If it is true that “it is simply unacceptable for individuals, children, families and our veterans to be faced with homelessness in this country,” as President Barack Obama writes in the preface to Opening Doors, then how can rising homelessness in the middle of 18.9 million vacant homes be explained?
The paradox of plenty
The barrier between the homeless and the millions of empty homes is capitalism and capitalist property relations. In capitalist society, property rights are protected by law while human rights — like the right to food, shelter and a job — are not. During a capitalist economic crisis, when millions can’t find jobs, are losing their homes and are going hungry, the absurdity and cruelty of this system become glaringly obvious.
Throughout most of human history the chief economic problems have been rooted in scarcity and the hoarding of scarce resources by one segment of society at the expense of another.
The rise of capitalism and the dawn of the industrial revolution, however, which enormously expanded productivity, brought about an absurd new type of economic problem. In the early 1800s the French philosopher Charles Fourier was perhaps the first to describe this new problem when he reported on commercial markets becoming glutted with more products than could be afforded by the populace. He termed this phenomenon a “crise plethorique,” or a crisis of abundance.
Read More: http://www.workers.org/2010/us/homeless_and_homes_1216/
One of the overarching themes of the 99 Percent Movement is that our democracy is too corrupted by corporate special interests. This corruption was worsened last year by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed for huge new unregulated flows of corporate political spending.
Yesterday, six Democratic senators — Tom Udall (NM), Michael Bennett (CO), Tom Harkin (IA), Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Jeff Merkeley (OR) — introduced a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the Citizens United case and restore the ability of Congress to properly regulate the campaign finance system.
The amendment as filed resolves that both Congress and individual states shall have the power to regulate both the amount of contributions made directly to candidates for elected office and “the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”
“By limiting the influence of big money in politics, elections can be more about the voters and their voices, not big money donors and their deep pockets,” said Harkin of the amendment. “We need to have a campaign finance structure that limits the influence of the special interests and restores confidence in our democracy. This amendment goes to the heart of that effort.”
Passing this amendment or any other amendment to the Constitution is an arduous process. There are two ways to propose a constitutional amendment. Either two-thirds of Congress can agree to an amendment or there can be a constitutional amendment called by two-thirds of state legislatures (this path has never been taken). In order to ratify an amendment, three-quarters of state legislatures must agree or three-quarters of states must have individual constitutional conventions that agree.
Read More: http://www.truth-out.org/senators-introduce-constitutional-amendment-overturn-citizens-united/1320248000