Housing Costs, II
December 20, 2001
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Remember the front-page article in Tuesday's New York Times that claimed "Housing prices, which soared in the expansion of the 1990's, have not gone down"? Well, today's New York Times front page carries a story that begins, "Rents on thousands of apartments in Manhattan have tumbled in the last few months as the economy has worsened and fallout from the terrorist attack has spread beyond Lower Manhattan."
The Tuesday article claimed that the still-high housing prices had contributed to a surge in homelessness. Today's article tries to finesse that question. Today's article first claims that "the trend of reductions carries over to rent-regulated apartments on a smaller scale." Then it says, "Low-income, subsidized housing is not affected." And then it says, "While rents have fallen, the city's homeless population is still increasing, as the worsening economy strikes particularly hard at those at the bottom end of the economic ladder. Also, the lower end of the rental market, where most of the poor live, is highly regulated and thus not affected by the new cuts in rents."
Try to untangle this jumble of conflicting information. A reader is tempted to throw up his hands in despair.
First, there are the contradicting claims about what is happening to housing prices. One article claims prices "have not gone down," another claims the prices "have tumbled."
Then there are the contradicting claims about who is being struck "particularly hard" by the worsening economy. Today's article claims "those at the bottom end of the economic ladder" are being struck particularly hard. But a front-page New York Times article on Sunday claimed, "Unemployment has risen for nearly every group, climbing most sharply for college graduates and others who usually escape the brunt of a downturn."
Then there are the contradicting claims about how housing prices affect homelessness. Tuesday's article listed the steadily high housing prices as among those factors "responsible for the surge" in homelessness. Yet today's article seems to suggest that the poor are insulated from the effects of price in the housing market because their housing is "highly regulated."
Some of these contradictions may be explained by the rent control and "stabilization" regimes in place in New York and in a few other bastions of Marxism but not in other parts of the country. The Tuesday article was about homelessness nationwide, while today's article focuses on New York. Still, the overall picture is confusing.
Watch the Label: A "news analysis" in the national section of today's New York Times mentions several interest groups and advocacy groups. Consumers Union is mentioned with no explanation. Families USA is described as "a consumer advocacy group." The Kaiser Family Foundation is described as a "health research group." And the Heritage Foundation is described as "the conservative Heritage Foundation." In typical Times fashion, the conservative group gets labeled as such, while the liberal groups get labeled as "consumer" or "research" groups or get no label at all. There are plenty of conservatives -- some of them even consume things -- who think that the Heritage Foundation's policies would be better for consumers than the policies of the so-called consumer advocacy groups. The board of Families USA, for instance, includes not just "consumers" but a doctor, a former president of a union that represents health care workers, an aide to a Democratic congressman, a Democratic state senator, and Hillary Clinton's former chief of staff.
Death By Socialized Medicine: A dispatch from London in the international section of today's New York Times reports, "About 1,200 people died in public hospitals last year because of mistakes in prescribing and administering medicine, according to a report published today by a government watchdog group." The Times doesn't compare the deaths caused by Britain's socialized medical system to the incidence of such deaths in America, which has a health care system with more competition and less government control. That would be an illuminating comparison, but one unlikely to sway the true believers at the New York Times. Here's how one retiring Times columnist on Sunday described his view of Britain's National Health Service: "You know, the health service doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work."
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