It is a common observation that poverty is expensive. That living on the fringes – or nearby – means higher costs for basic necessities like shelter, food and transportation. This living paycheck makes ordinary banking more difficult—overdraft fees are not a particular problem for middle and well-income people and put affordable credit out of reach. This precarious job makes deportation, a costly traumatic event, more likely. Most salaried workers will not have to delay medical care, rely on payday lenders, or spend $ 15 to cash the checks they won. Too many low-income Americans have to do just that.
While poverty is dear to the poor, it is also often lucrative for those on the other side; the people who make the payday loans, run the expensive convenience stores, and rent apartment buildings. Sociologist Matthew Desmond illustrated the latter in his book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, closely observing low-rental housing owners in Milwaukee. But these are small-scale operations largely run by ordinary people who earn middle to upper-middle class incomes through small-scale property management. But to see how this predation works on a large scale, look no further than the White House.
In a characteristic for ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, journalist Alec MacGillis shed light on the role of President Trump’s son-in-law and close advisor Jared Kushner as a real estate developer and owner. In 2011 and 2012, in search of a steady source of income, Kushner and his partners purchased thousands of working-class housing units on the outskirts of cities like Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Their largest operations are in Baltimore County, Maryland, where they control 15 complexes that house up to 20,000 people in total. And in the management of these properties, reports MacGillis, Kushner is a tough and ruthless landlord.
Kushner’s company is relentless in its pursuit of “virtually any unpaid rent or breach of lease, even in the many cases where the facts appear to be on the tenant side.” Residents are slapped with thousands of dollars in fees and penalties, even if they had already obtained permission to terminate a lease. All of this is compounded by poor maintenance of the facilities. MacGillis describes a family who had to deal with mold, broken appliances and physical damage to their unit, even after paying the management company for repairs. In one complex, a resident “had a mouse infestation severe enough that her 12-year-old daughter recently found one in her bed.” In another, raw sewage flowed into the apartment.
Jared Kushner resigned as chief executive of Kushner Companies when he took office at the White House, although he retains a $ 600 million stake in the company, which still owns and manages those properties. “They’re just slum lords,” a tenant told MacGillis. For someone whose business only exploits the precariousness and despair of people with little other choice for decent housing, it’s a fair burden.
What is striking about this story of exploitation and extraction is that she is one of many within the Trump administration. There’s the president himself, who stiffened and robbed contractors as a real estate developer, and scammed thousands of people of their savings with his “University. “There is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who reportedly (and on several occasions) violated California foreclosure laws like Head of OneWest Bank breaking notice and waiting time laws and illegally backdating documents to push submarine owners out of their homes for sums as small as 27 cents. “After years of peddling the kind of dangerous mortgage-backed securities that ultimately blew the economy up, Mnuchin stepped in after the crash to take a second bite out of families by aggressively – and sometimes illegally – foreclosing on their homes,” said the senator from Massachusetts. Elizabeth warren in a press release last December.
There’s billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, heir to amway, one of the world’s largest and most well-known multilevel marketing companies and undoubtedly a pyramid system. In his own life, DeVos has been strong support for-profit colleges, an industry long under fire (and state and federal investigation) for its predatory behavior. Many of these institutions attract students with deceptive recruitments – promising jobs and opportunities – and leave them with high debt and few prospects. The Obama administration has taken significant steps to regulate and reprimand for-profit colleges. Of yours, who has investments in industry, opposes these rules of liability.
Not only is Kushner not alone, but he works in an administration whose policies would make life more precarious for even more people. The priorities include a health care plan that would take insurance for tens of millions of people, a budget plan that would cut life-saving aid for up to one-fifth of all Americans, and a tax plan that would use those funds to lower rates for the richest Americans. In turn, this precariousness opens up new opportunities for those, like Kushner and Trump, who will not hesitate to exploit the vulnerable for profit.
The past eight years of Democratic government were far from perfect, but liberal policymakers were at least listening to the reality of exploitation and the need for policies and protections to stop and punish the companies that work for it. make life more difficult and more expensive, for ordinary Americans. Like President Trump’s ‘university’, Jared Kushner’s story in the social housing market is a reminder: with this White House, we don’t just have an indifference to exploitation, we have an administration of real predatory capitalists eager to reshape the government in their image, for their interests.