If Donald Trump were a canary in a coal mine leaking poison gas, he wouldn’t cough out a warning – “Gas—save the miners.” No, our president would sniff the air and sense the choking, dying miners and mutter in an accusatory tone at the toxic mineshaft, “Shithole. Shithole mine with shithole workers dying in it.”
When the canary-haired ˆ went after Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings’ district in West Baltimore and the Baltimore County suburbs he called it a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” and accused Cummings of failing to improve it.
What Trump failed to mention was that some of the best-documented rat and rodent infested messes in Rep. Cummings’ district are properties overseen by his own federal government, his own HUD – the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or subsidized by HUD Section 8 private rentals.
Also absent from the president’s Twitter messaging was the fact that some of those moldy, vermin-filled apartments, rented with federal Section 8 money are owned, and neglected, by his own son-in-law and so-called Presidential Advisor, Jared Kushner.
According to investigative reporting by ProPublica and the Baltimore Sun, when it comes to the human beings who live in shithole apartments it is like father, like son-in-law. Both are more likely to curse the poor than cut them a break. According to both investigations, Kushner’s management company was more likely to sue tenants for small rental debts than make long-requested repairs to their apartments.
But when we’re talking about the lovable landlords and litigants, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump we are comparing a pissant to a president.
Kushner threatens, sues, garnishees wages and even locks some folks up in 21st century debtors’ prisons. His father-in-law ignores outside criticisms of how HUD maintains its properties, dismisses proposals for reform from inside the agency and presses ideas of his own like reducing rental subsidies and trimming programs that fund public housing repairs, build new affordable housing and improve municipal infrastructure systems.
Fortunately, Congress rejected Trump’s housing elimination plan. Unfortunately, the slight increase in funding Congress passed for public housing this year is billions of dollars short of what’s needed to make up for their past decades of budget cuts. In the City of Baltimore alone, the Housing Authority says the current bill to fix the deterioration of their projects is $800 million.
Trump is right that Congressman Cummings could have done more to clean up Baltimore’s and America’s public housing mess…but the president is typically wrong, wrong, wrong to think that sneering at the victims of his government’s malfeasance will help fix the problem.
Molly Parker is an investigative reporter at The Southern Illinoisan, a newspaper based in Carbondale, IL. She has spent the past three years investigating the housing crisis in our region, and is spending the year partnering with ProPublica and ProPublica Illinois to do even more reporting on this.