Congress Likely to Worsen DC’s Affordable Housing Crisis

February 16, 2017

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute recently hosted a gathering to discuss how the District of Columbia could continue making progress in the face of uncertainty — largely due to the unsettled and unsettling prospects for programs that depend on federal funding.

DCFPI Executive Director Ed Lazere led off his remarks on the self-imposed budget constraints I’ve already blogged on by identifying affordable housing as the District’s number one challenge.

A challenge too for residents, especially the lowest-income households — and one they can’t overcome on their own.

About 26,000 of these households pay more than half their income for rent, as compared to the 30% that’s the general standard for affordability. A large majority pay 80% or more. Hard to imagine how they get by, even with public benefits. And they often find they can’t.

The District has several locally-funded programs that enable some of these lowest-income households — technically, extremely low-income households — to live in units they can afford. It’s tended, however, to give these households short shrift, as the DCFPI report I’ve cited shows.

So the District could make different choices. But it would still have to depend in part on federal funding.

And that, as I’ve already said, is a big uncertainty that the District, like states and other local communities faces now. What I didn’t mention is a further source of uncertainty — the DC Housing Authority’s participation in the Moving to Work pilot program.

Basically, MTW allows participating housing authorities to treat funds for housing vouchers and the two main sources of public housing funding as a block grant.

This means, for example, that they can use funds appropriated for housing vouchers to make repairs and renovations that keep public housing habitable. They can instead defer some public housing work to make up for voucher funding shortfalls, though the data suggest they haven’t.

They may also shift funding appropriated for the type of vouchers that enable recipients to rent at market rates to the type that’s attached to particular units in privately-owned projects. Or vice versa.

So caveats abound as we look at what the District — and its lowest-income residents — seem likely to face when Congress decides, as it eventually must, how much to appropriate for vouchers.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities gives us a starting point. About 11,160 District households had Housing Choice vouchers last year, it says.

These are only the first type of vouchers I mentioned — commonly known as tenant-based because the subsidy goes where the recipient finds a unit to rent.

The appropriations bill the Senate passed would eliminate funding for 139 of these vouchers. A bill that simply extends last year’s funding through the end of this year would leave the District shy funding for nearly 560.

The latter is considerably more vouchers than DCHA customarily awards to other households because those who had them are no longer eligible. What then? I asked DCHA staff and have thus far heard nothing.

I’d like to think, as I’m sure we all would, that we’ll never know — and not because DCHA apparently prefers, at this point, not to put its cards on the table. Nor because its annual MTW reports don’t enable us to trace recent funding shifts.

What we can bet good money on, I think, is that DCHA won’t have more federally-funded vouchers to make a dent in its 41,000 or so households on its still-closed waiting list.

Nor enough to relieve other extremely low-income households that are shy on money for food, transportation, health care, etc. — and one further hit to the budget away from homelessness.

Doesn’t mean that the fate of so many thousands of residents lies solely in the hands of Congress and our mercurial, distracted President.

It does mean, however, that the Mayor and DC Council will have some harder choices to make—and a couple that shouldn’t be hard at all.


Black Homelessness a Sign of Where History Still Needs to Go

February 14, 2017

Well, we’re still In the midst of commotions created by our President and his choices for some top-level officials.

We’re also in the midst of Black History Month — a time when we’re supposed to pay more attention than we usually do to important people and events that brought blacks in America and thus America itself to where we are now.

A worthwhile endeavor. We may even discover the up-and-coming Frederick Douglass.

I’m taking a different tack, though one that’s far from unique. Where does the black stream of American history have yet to go? That’s a much larger question than I’m prepared — or indeed, suitable — to answer.

So I’ll d return to an issue that’s still drawing people to my blog — why homeless people don’t work or do, but are homeless anyway.

My last post on the issue ended with a bare mention of race discrimination. I left it hanging because it’s one of those complex cause-effect factors.

I’ll try to disentangle some of them here, conscious that I’m over-simplifying what merits a book, but also that those factors speak to the larger question I led off with.

Black Over-Represented Among Homeless

Homelessness itself is as good a starting point as any, since it’s unusually common for blacks. They represent 39.1% of all homeless people, according to the latest breakout from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That’s less than 10% smaller than the percent of homeless whites — and nearly three times the percent of blacks in the U.S. population as a whole.

High Black Poverty Rates

Nobody needs a post to tell them that people of all races are homeless because they can’t afford housing. That itself is over-simple. Some can afford housing, with or without a subsidy, but still may still have no safe, stable place to live.

Criminal records pose a barrier to both privately-owned and public housing. More on that below. We need here to recall that they’re not the only records that can keep people out of housing they can afford.

Merely having been poor at some time in the past can keep people out — even housing a federal voucher would subsidize — because landlords commonly check credit histories. Not out of idle curiosity, of course.

But lack of ready money accounts for a lot. And the black poverty rate, like the homeless rate is disproportionately high — and has been ever since the Census Bureau started breaking out its survey results by race.

Which takes us to work issues. Obviously, since people who have good-paying jobs can pay for housing, though not necessarily where they want it. And, as we all know, the readiest path to those jobs, is a good education.

Labor Market Disadvantages Linked to Persistent Segregation

Blacks’ disadvantages in the labor market date back to slavery, when some freed by former masters or self-liberated worked for pay, but far more, still-enslaved were denied any education.

The Jim Crow laws that replaced slavery didn’t prohibit educating blacks, but generally allowed it only in schools that were, as the Supreme Court eventually found, “separate but unequal,” inherently so, though they were also often unequal in other ways.

Federal laws notwithstanding, blacks remain segregated in many communities due in part to local housing policies, e.g., zoning, discriminatory housing practices, and vestiges of past discrimination by the federal government.

Disadvantages to living in neighborhoods — or whole communities — where policies have concentrated blacks are themselves a cause-effect tangle, reflected in the high black poverty rate.

A major, though not the only reason for the rate is lack of marketable skills — literacy, including now computer proficiency and, beyond that, a formal education credential, which employers use as a threshold sign of those skills.

Schools in high-poverty neighborhoods generally have less money than those in well-off neighborhoods and they need more to ensure that the disadvantages of poverty don’t hold children back.

This issue is far from new and hasn’t garnered much by way of consensus on solutions. I may return to it, especially now that desegregation and equal educational opportunities have again become front-page controversies.

For now, the end result will have to suffice. For too many black youth, it’s is lack of a high-school diploma or the equivalent — the minimal qualification for most jobs — and virtually all paying enough to make housing affordable.

Growing up and going to school in a high-poverty neighborhood may not altogether account for this. We’ve also got some persuasive evidence that black students don’t get a fair shake.

For example, they’re far more likely than their white peers to incur punishments that not only deter them from learning, but can tempt them into criminal behaviors — or at the very least, gain them criminal records. And so we loop back ….

Disproportionate Criminal Justice

It’s common knowledge by now that our criminal justice system sweeps in a far higher percent of blacks than whites. Police practices of various sorts put them at higher risk, according to reliable local investigations..

We’ve reasons to question whether they’re treated equally thereafter — how they’re charged, if at all, whether they’re actually sent to jail or prison, whether they’re sent back for failing to comply with parole requirements they can’t meet, including payments of court fees and fines.

Now, as I said, public housing authorities and owners of federally-subsidized housing must bar people who’ve been convicted of certain drug offenses, but some go considerably further.

Private-sector landlords generally may pick and choose tenants, though with a recently-announced constraint that may not remain a federal fair housing enforcement policy.

The weeding out helps account for the high black homeless rate. Whether sheltered or living in some place “not meant for human habitation,” homeless people are likely to be on the streets most of each day.

That in itself can lead to a criminal record, even for such harmless behaviors as resting on a park bench or sleeping under a bridge because there’s no room in a shelter—or the shelter’s too unsafe.

And so we’ve got a loop-closer, though hardly one that accounts for either the high black homeless rate or the closely-related poverty rate.

Like the other factors I’ve cited, these are more or less systemic. We mustn’t, however, levy the whole blame on systems. Every one of the factors I’ve cited affords evidence of out-and-out discrimination.

Another piece of the puzzle I’ll have to leave for another day. But even this much means, of course, that we’ve every reason to recognize the many millions who overcame — and did so much to make many of our worst policies past history.

But it also reminds us that we’ve got a long way to go — and right now, urgent needs to preserve the progress we’ve made.


How Many More Families Will Have No Affordable Housing?

February 9, 2017

We all, I think, know at least a few things about affordable housing. First, there isn’t enough of it. Second, not everyone who talks about affordable housing means the same thing. Nor do all affordable housing policies aim to help the same type(s) of people.

Third, an effective strategy requires multiple programs, some potentially funded by multiple sources. Which brings us to what we don’t know — impending budget decisions at federal, state and local levels.

Uncertainty at the Source

So far as federal funding’s concerned, we don’t know yet what Congress will do — only that it must do something to avert a government shutdown in late April and that there’s no consensus on what it should do, even among the Republican majority.

Nor, one must always add, what the President will ask it to do. He campaigned on a promise to actively support a repeal of the current ceiling on defense spending — currently $32.5 billion higher than the ceiling on non-defense spending that depends on annual appropriations..

Both the White House and Congress have already done a workaround for defense, but not so as to force a larger cut in non-defense. Trump, however, said he planned to reduce non-defense spending by a penny on the dollar each year, while holding Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid harmless.

That would slash funding for the already shrunken non-defense, discretionary part of the budget by roughly 26% in real dollars over the next nine years. No hint yet how he would parcel out the cuts — or even whether he will now go ahead and try.

Spillover to the States

All but three states must have budgets for the upcoming fiscal year by July 1. So they may or may not have a good fix on what to expect for affordable housing programs. All but one must balance its budget, though laws differ on what that means.

A large majority must end the year with no more spent than received in tax revenues, fees and federal funds, including grants like those for affordable housing programs.

So what may have seemed to balance when a governor signs a budget may turn out not to be — even if some of Trump’s recent and promised actions don’t throw the economy into a recession. As in the past, shortfalls will force unplanned, disruptive cuts.

Impacts at Community Level

Some affordable housing funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development go to states, which then parcel them out. But others that make housing affordable for the lowest-income people go instead directly to local housing authorities or to a designated organization within a network HUD calls a continuum of care.

The latter, however, is only to house particular groups of the lowest-income people — those who’ve been homeless for a long time or recurrently and have at least one disability and others chosen for time-limited subsidized housing.

These funds are iffy, as all HUD’s affordable housing funds are. So we’ve got, at best, a funding range for housing vouchers — the heftiest tool to make housing affordable for the lowest-income people.

These vouchers come in two flavors. One enables people to rent units at market rate by limiting their share to 30% of their income. The other subsidizes rents on certain units in housing projects — a needed support for operating expenses, since tenants are paying only the same limited share of their income.

The voucher programs got whacked by the across-the-board cuts required by the same law that gave us the spending ceilings. Housing authorities held onto vouchers freed up when tenants no longer qualified for them. Some also yanked vouchers from people who’d finally made it to the top of the waiting list.

Additional funds have enabled the agencies to put the withheld vouchers back in use. But merely sustaining them will require more funding because, as we all know, rental rates are rising — in some communities, soaring. Utility rates are rising too, and they’re included in covered costs.

Meanwhile, incomes for the lowest fifths of the scale have, on average, actually shrunk. This is due partly to real-dollar wage losses for the lowest-paid workers and partly to the absent or miniscule cost-of-living adjustments in the social insurance benefits that nearly half the households with vouchers depend on.

So vouchers must pick up a greater share. This means that level-funding won’t cover all vouchers in use. A year-long continuing resolution would cause a nationwide loss of roughly 108,500 vouchers, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates.

The bill that the Senate has already passed would bump up funding for both the so-called tenant-based vouchers and those attached to units in housing projects. The House bill, which still awaits an all-member vote, would also increase both, but give give less to the former.

If both chambers agree to go with the Senate bill (big if), housing authorities would still be shy about 26,575 vouchers. No way that state and local investments in affordable housing development can produce that many more units within six or so months.

Nor can the states and cities that use their own revenues to fund vouchers plow that much more into their programs. In fact, some of the affordable units they now have may disappear because the contracts with project owners are time-limited.

But the people who need those vouchers will still be homeless or potentially so because they’re paying at least half their income for rent. So what state and local budgets lose in federal funding for vouchers, will drive up needs for other resources.

These include, obviously, homeless services, including shelters. Don’t look to the federal government to supply what’s needed. Neither the House nor Senate bill would provide even a quarter of a million more for homeless assistance grants.

Other budget pressures are many and various. For example, more children will come within the purview of child welfare agencies because they’ll be living in homes unsafe for them due to domestic violence, unintended, but still harmful neglect and/or egregiously unhealthful physical conditions.

Healthcare costs themselves will rise. Schools will face needs for more remedial education and other services to compensate for the effects of hunger, parental stress and just plain moving around from place to place because their parents or other caregivers can’t afford rent.

So that’s a bird’s-eye view of the uncertainties — and partial certainties — that state and local policymakers and the people they were elected to serve face now. Members of Congress were elected to serve them too. But you’d be hard put to see that in the agendas the majority leaders have put front and center.


What Next—For Us and At Us

February 6, 2017

The recent women’s marches prompted pundits and participants to raise a question that’s undoubtedly been on the minds of progressives since November 8. Now what?

One thing seems depressingly clear. We must shift even more of our energies and other resources to protecting gains achieved over many years.

This needn’t mean shelving recommendations for improvements. But it would seem we must, in some cases, reframe them lest we seem to take those gains for granted.

Beyond that a lot seems to depend a lot on whom we listen to. Some columnists of a left-leaning sort have advised Democrats (more or less equated with progressives) to adopt the Tea Party model.

That, say three former Congressional staff members, means organizing locally, targeting one’s own members of Congress and playing defense, Not of the sort I’ve just mentioned, but defense against anything the President supports.

The last of these is apparently a live issue among Democrats in Congress. They reportedly concur on building a mass movement, which will mean reaching out to and/or creating groups outside their usual constituency.

Those groups, one gathers, include the disaffected white, blue-collar workers now conventionally identified with the Rust Belt, though some analysts say the proper scope is rural and suburban, rather than geographic.

This sort of reaching out will involve more than better messages—and better messengers, some say. The Democratic party has allegedly sold out to — or become captive of — Wall Street and an intellectual elite. In other words, the wholesale revolt against our federal government had merit, though the main instigator and beneficiary didn’t.

Joshua Holland at Rolling Stone says forget it. The Democrats just had a bad candidate. That, however, fails to explain how the Republicans wound up with the candidate who’s now causing all sorts of commotion with executive orders — and again Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

At this early point, opposing everything the President has set in motion seems the only reasonable response. The reported divergence among Congressional Democrats is forward looking.

Some don’t buy opposing everything Trump proposes as a strategic principle. They hold open the possibility of working with him (and presumably amenable Republicans in Congress). Developments of the last week or so seem to have prompted second thoughts about this.

Wonkblogger Steven Pearlstein argues for a somewhat different strategy. Democrats shouldn’t be “whipping up their own base up into a frenzy.” They should instead focus on getting a “handful” of Congressional Republicans to “defect” from the leadership’s agenda.

Now, all this is politics at a very high level, but it has bearing, I think, on what’s next — or ought to be — for advocates. Different roles for different folks, as seems always the case.

We do, I believe, have to look to national organizations and some state affiliates for reliable hard data and analyses. Some evidence notwithstanding, we’re best off with sound, fact-based arguments.

But they alone won’t win the day. We clearly need mass constituent pressure — calls, letters, demonstrations, etc. And we need stories — personal profiles and testimony on how policies we’re defending have made a difference, how what we’re opposing would cause harm.

At the same time, we do need continuing involvement in state and local policymaking. Among other things, state and local governments remain seed beds for progressive change. And at this critical moment, they can reasonably fear the practical consequences of more flexibility to cope with less money.

Nothing really new here, of course. But I perceive larger challenges — most, at this point, launched from the White House. One is keeping a focus on core principles while responding to outrages perpetrated here and there.

We won’t ourselves lose touch with these principles. But can we protest — even sometimes advance alternatives — without descending altogether into the particulars?

In other words, we need a coherent, compelling message to counterpoint and overarch our protests and other defensive actions.

If we’re against barring people more likely to be Muslims than not, repealing the Affordable Care Act, abandoning civil rights enforcement, [your choice here], what’s the vision we’re for?

Does that vision both speak to large swathes of the population and, at the same time, imply an actionable agenda that goes beyond the imperiled status quo?

The other big challenge I feel is burnout. New York Times columnist Charles Blow hints at it in saying that people already “feel deluged by a never-ending flood of national damage and despair.”

He’s optimistic, however. “American are not prone to suffering in silence,” he says. But can the grassroots activists sustain their demonstrations, petitions, telephone calls and the like for an extended period of time?

Can those most concerned about one issue or another come together in sustainable movement? Will advocacy organizations have the resources and strategy to engage with them and vice versa?

My inbox constantly reminds me that they’re trying. I get frequent emails from advocacy groups and coalitions urging me to contact my representatives in Congress, complete with tools and opportunities, e.g., hashtags, talking points, upcoming tweet chats and/or rallies.

We’ve got some bona fide grassroots organizing too. The Washington Post recently profiled a freelance writer/stay-at-home mom who sends daily text messages urging and equipping subscribers to call one of their members of Congress and tell him/her to oppose this or that pending action.

No shortage of fighting spirit now, that’s for sure.

Followers will note that this is far from my usual posts. I started it simply because I was (and am) wondering what next. Some of the high-level challenges I’ve cited pull me here and there — and sometimes exhaust me — as I think about what I should blog on.

Not, as I’ve suggested, an affliction peculiar to bloggers. We all, I think, face a what next for us and from the White House.


Local Nonprofits Tell DC Leaders Not to Govern With Hands Tied

February 1, 2017

Shortly after I published my latest blast against the District of Columbia’s triggered tax law, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and about 50 other local organizations sent a letter to the Mayor and Council urging them to take the same steps I characterized as first priority defenses against prospective federal spending cuts.

They also recommend changing another law, which requires the District to put any funds not spent by the end of the fiscal year into savings accounts. That makes them unavailable for a wide range of critical needs, including those that may lose federal funds.

The sign-on list is still open. If you work for an organization that would like to join, you’ll find the instructions at the end of the letter. A fairly quick and easy way to support progress in these times of extraordinary uncertainties.


Perilous Time for DC to Trigger More Tax Giveaways

January 30, 2017

We’re into the budget season here in the District of Columbia. The Bowser administration is busy preparing its proposal, aiming to send it to the Council in early April. That will trigger hearings, then votes — first by the committees responsible for the major budget areas and then by the Council as a whole.

Budgets are always somewhat of a crap shoot because officials don’t know how exactly how much the District will collect in taxes and fees.

More importantly, they don’t how much the District will receive from the federal government and for what. But they have to factor some figure in for roughly a quarter of what the District will have to spend.

That figure is much more iffy this year for several related reasons. First, we’ve got a new President — and one that’s set on making major changes that would have both direct and indirect effects on the District’s budget.

Second, it’s doubtful anyone, except maybe insiders will know what’s in his final proposed budget before the Mayor finishes hers. The problem here is that District agencies base their budget input in part on the prospective budgets of the agencies from which they regularly receive grants.

The estimates are always just ballparks, of course. Congress can — and often does — change proposed spending levels. Or makes no changes in what it’s currently approved — something it often does, though rarely for all federal budget areas and the entire fiscal year.

But uncertainty this year will be extraordinarily high. Would be even without Trump’s threat to withhold grants from cities that don’t participate in the federal government’s immigrant deportation efforts.

The Hill reports that the administration aims to send “an initial budget proposal” to Congress long about the second week in March, but that it’s likely to run into big-time flak from some Congressional Republicans, especially in the Senate.

Can’t count on easy sailing through the House either, especially if it reflects, as rumored, either or both the Heritage Foundation’s radical downsizing blueprint and Trump’s promise to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure over the next 10 years.

Well, Congress has to do something by the end of April to prevent a government shutdown. But what that bill will look like is anybody’s guess.

What’s lots more certain are cuts to a range of non-defense programs — not only those that depend on annual spending decisions, but like as not Medicaid. But nobody can know for certain which, how much and when they’ll set in.

And nobody knows how the economy will fare. Dire warnings of a recession — in part, just because it’s time for one, though some economists also cite policies Trump has promised, e.g., new trade barriers.

As always, a recession will drive down local tax revenues, while increasing needs (and eligibility) for safety net programs that the District funds in whole or in part.

One would think that District policymakers would want to make extra sure that the ongoing revenue stream, plus money in savings accounts will cover the community’s critical needs — or at the very least, minimize the need for cuts.

Yet District law requires specified tax cuts whenever projected revenues exceed those projected for the prior fiscal year — this no matter what a longer-term forecast might indicate or what seems likely on Capitol Hill.

As a practical matter, this means that the District could give away millions of dollars — and not just for a single year, but for good, unless the law is changed.

As I’ve said before, Councilmembers didn’t carefully consider the automatically triggered tax cuts before agreeing to approve them.

The Chairman tucked them into the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Act, the package of legislation needed to make existing laws consistent with the budget proper, shortly before the first required vote.

How Councilmembers would have voted after public hearings, written testimony and committee discussions of the triggers is an open question. But that was then, and this now — a very different now from several years ago.

Different not only in ominous prospects for federal funding, but in pressing needs that call for more local funds. They’re mostly not brand new, but more urgent, for various reasons.

They include a remedy for the also hastily-passed rigid time limit on participation in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Also high on the list are increased investments in affordable housing for the lowest-income residents, both those who are homeless now and those at high risk because they’re paying at least half their income for rent.

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute has cited some others, e.g., more for public schools due to increased enrollment and rising costs, improvements in our aged, hazardous Metro system.

DCFPI and other local advocacy organizations earlier recommended a pause in the triggered tax cuts. It’s surely high time the Mayor and Council do that and set the revenues saved aside to help offset federal spending cuts the upcoming budget didn’t account for.

Didn’t, as I said, because it couldn’t. And sadly, neither the District nor any state can fully offset what they could lose in federal funds.

The DC auditor reports that just the “rollback” of the Medicaid expansion piece of the Affordable Care Act, i.e., the enhanced federal match for newly-eligible beneficiaries, would cost the District $563 million next fiscal year alone.

Just one of many signs that the District needs every penny it now collects in fees and taxes.


First We Kill All the Lawyers for Poor People (Or As Many As We Can)

January 26, 2017

Old story, new chapter. We don’t have enough lawyers to give low-income people an even playing field in non-criminal cases that will have major consequences for their lives. (Not enough for criminal cases either, but that’s a separate story.)

Now we’ve reasons to expect that our newly-elected President will move to deny millions of low-income people free professional legal advice and representation by wiping out the Legal Services Corporation—the single largest source of funding for them.

How the Legal Services Corporation Fits Into the Anti-Poverty Effort

LCS has its roots in the War on Poverty, as one of many initiatives to afford poor people economic opportunities by delivering funds to local organizations. It became an independent, nonprofit corporation during the Nixon administration.

Its purpose, the law says, is to “provide legal assistance to those who face an economic barrier to adequate legal counsel” because that “will serve best the ends of justice and assist in improving opportunities for low-income persons.”

The Corporation ran into trouble when President Reagan took office, bringing with him hostilities from his time as California’s governor. But it survived and recovered lost funding.

During the Clinton administration, however, Congressional Republicans took out after it. And Clinton agreed to new limits on what it could do and for whom as part of the bargain that ended welfare as we knew it.

For this reason, plus funding limits LSC-funded organizations are properly part of a more comprehensive and diverse informal system that helps poor and near-poor people when they need, but can’t afford legal advice and/or representation.

But they’re an essential part. LSC provides financial support to 134 grantees. Collectively, they have somewhat over 800 offices throughout the country. That meant nearly 4,600 lawyers available to help people with incomes no greater than 125% of the federal poverty line in 2015.

Lawyers in LSC-funded organizations handle a range of matters. The two most common types are family matters, e.g., custody cases, domestic violence, and housing issues, e.g., foreclosures, threatened evictions. They also, among other things, help clients secure the benefits they’re entitled to.

Yet they can’t help nearly as many people as seek their aid. They turn away half or more, the Corporation says. And these are only people who come to them and ask—not those who’ve heard it’s probably futile.

These facts and figures all argue, as the Corporation did, for a larger appropriation. What it’s received in the last two years is less in real-dollars than it had before the recession set in, though the number of people whose incomes make them eligible has significantly increased.

A funding increase could help reduce homelessness—and with it, poverty, as Matthew Desmond’s justly-celebrated Evicted shows.

An increase might be even a life-or-death matter, since LSC-funded attorneys represent clients in domestic violence cases. (Lest you think that grants awarded under the Violence Against Women Act would suffice, they too reportedly could be zeroed out.)

Why the Concern for the Corporation

Last week, The Hill reported that Trump transition team staff had been meeting with career White House staff to develop a plan for reducing the federal budget. And by a whole lot — $10.5 trillion in the first 10 years.

This is even larger than what the House Republican Study Committee came up with, but couldn’t get a vote on.

The Trump team reportedly is relying on a budget blueprint the far-right Heritage Foundation published last year. It would have balanced this year’s budget within seven years, while cutting taxes by $1.3 trillion over ten—this without touching the core of defense.

To get there, it would eliminate a host of programs—not only the LCS and VAWA grants, but others that “assist in improving opportunities for low-income persons,” e.g., the job training programs funded under the Work Innovations and Opportunity Act.

It would phase out Head Start. And it would cut the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division by a third because it’s sought to protect voting rights and has “filed abusive lawsuits intended to enforce progressive social ideology in areas ranging from public hiring to public education.”

It would also ensure that we couldn’t measure the impacts so well because it would eliminate funding for the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure — a long-standing target of the Heritage Foundation.

Now, The Hill report may prove nothing but a gift to other news media, which need a constant supply of new angles for Trump stories—and for bloggers of the policy sort. Who knows what Trump will do? He himself often seems not to know.

But the Legal Services Corporation has proved vulnerable in the past — most of all when the lawyers it funds effectively champion the interests of the constituency they’re supposed to serve.

So this inkling of an attack on yet another program to further economic and social justice should, I think, serve as an early warning.