Signs and Wonders
Members of a tenant's organization in East Harlem protest gentrification.
Associated Press/Photos by Bebeto Matthews
Members of a tenant's organization in East Harlem protest gentrification.

Signs and Wonders: Gentrification is not genocide after all

Newsworthy

Gentrification boon. In 1988, riots in New York helped promote the false idea that the gentrification of neighborhoods forced poor people onto the streets and pushed them further into poverty. Signs bearing the catchy slogan “Gentrification Is Genocide” made the front pages of newspapers and became a rallying cry for leftists who advocated rent control, government housing programs, and wealth redistribution programs. It turns out, though, that gentrification may actually be good for the poor. An NPR report admits that “a series of new studies,” including one from the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, indicate that “gentrifying neighborhoods may be a boon to longtime residents as well.” It turns out that all those affluent yuppies, Gen-Xers, and millennials moving into poor neighborhoods support the local businesses, volunteer in the community, and generally do things that help their poorer neighbors. Some of them are “evil capitalists” who start businesses and hire long-time residents, raising the income of the poor in those same neighborhoods as well as their own. That makes the poor actually more likely, not less likely, to be able to stay in their neighborhoods.

Evangelical divorce rates. A new survey by sociologists at the University of Texas is being shamefully manipulated to reach false conclusions. According to Religion News Service, “Researchers found that simply living in an area with a large concentration of conservative Protestants increases the chances of divorce, even for those who are not themselves conservative Protestants.” The findings of this survey are much more complicated than that. What’s causing divorce is not conservative Protestantism, but poverty and a lack of education. Regular church attendance by conservative Protestants actually reduce divorce rates, though not by enough to counteract the effects of poor education and poverty.

Vitter redux. David Vitter is running for governor in Louisiana. This is an interesting development because just a couple of years ago, Vitter was at the center of a scandal related to the notorious DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who ran an escort service that catered to wealthy Washington-area clients. Phone records—and Vitter’s own confession—revealed that he had been a client of her service. Palfrey maintained that her business was legal, but she was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to prison. She committed suicide on May 1, 2008. Vitter seemed to weather the scandal, saying he had committed a “serious sin” but also saying his family had forgiven him and he’d moved on. The public seemed to accept that, and he was subsequently re-elected to the Senate. The current governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, cannot run again because of term limits and is widely thought to have his eyes on a presidential run. He’ll have formidable competition, though, as a number of high-profile Republicans are already in the race.

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Now that’s ironic. The meeting in Davos, Switzerland, of the world’s rich and powerful is extraordinarily expensive to attend. By the time you pay for the registration, travel, and accommodations, the average cost is about $40,000 per person. The fact that these folks are talking about income inequality is ironic and humorous. The truth is—as I have mentioned in this space before—income inequality per se is not a problem for the poor. When President Barack Obama vows to reduce income inequality, he does not seem to fully realize that one of the unintended consequences will be a system that no longer rewards thrift, innovation, and creativity. By the way, another theme of the Davos meeting is global warming, which adds to the irony as many of those at the event arrived by private jet.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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