SQUALOR or GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS?
Well it’s been many months since my last 30 Blocks of Squalor article. The last article detailing my commute through the beautiful streets of West Philly was Mantua Square – Your Own Block of Squalor. The Schuykill Expressway has been good to me, until last Wednesday. A three car accident forced me to deviate my trek to my old friend, the 30 Blocks of Squalor. My normal route still takes me through the bleakest parts of West Philly, but I go through at such an early time the thugs and murderers are still asleep after a hard night of killing, raping and pillaging. I had been observing a number of things in my daily trip through West Philly over the last few months that I want to get off my chest. For any new readers, I’ve included a library of links to previous 30 Blocks posts. I didn’t realize how many Squalor posts I had made. Some may find them offensive. I admit that they push the envelope and may possibly step over the line of good taste, but if you can’t take a joke then you shouldn’t be on TBP. I think they are funny and questioning of those who caused the squalor. I always have more questions than answers when discussing the 30 Blocks of Squalor.
Observations have been piling up in my brain over the last six months of trekking around lovely West Philly. Philadelphia is descending into chaos. Decades of Democratic rule have created a mini welfare/warfare state. There have been 32 murders committed in 27 days. When you enter the city limits you are greeted by this sign.
Just kidding. Every day I drive through the Mantua section of West Philly. Before the 1940’s, Mantua was mainly a white Lutheran neighborhood. But over time African Americans families moved into the area. The early to mid 1960’s, the residents began to see the start of gang warfare. Between 1960 and 1969, Mantua recorded about 10 percent of total city gang killings. The Philadelphia Police Department often assigned patrols in Mantua simply as punishments to officers. Over a decade, six major gangs called the 10.5 block their territory. During the 1980’s there was a ride of drug-related crimes. It’s seen in many industrialized cities during that time period. Many residents started to flee after crack-cocaine and the existing heroin hit the area. The number of residents went from 19,000 in the 1960’s to around 6,000 by the 90’s. There were several hundred vacant lots all along the streets. The stores that were in Mantua during the 1950’s like galleries and movie theaters were replaced by grab-and-go beer stores and delis.
A couple pizza joints, a couple corner bars and a couple delis constitute all the commerce in Mantua. The Census data shows that blacks make up in excess of 90% of the population, but all of the businesses are run by whites or asians. They are murdered on a regular basis by black criminals. The areas closest to Drexel University and the University of Penn have been rejuvenated by people willing to invest capital, renovate old houses, and rent them out to students. This is free market capitalism at its finest. These areas are patrolled by the private police forces from Drexel and Penn. It’s a thriving community.
But, just three blocks above these areas looks like a war zone. Dilapidated falling down hovels dominate every block. There appear to be more vacant house than occupied houses. The word squalor doesn’t properly capture the bleak nature of this neighborhood. When I drive down 37th street on my way home every night I get an eerie feeling. There are dozens of row homes on this block. There are cars parked in front of them. But, it is dark outside and it looks like only one out of ten houses has a light on inside. There are very few people walking around. I’m left wondering whether 90% of the houses are vacant or whether people are living in these houses without electricity. It is truly a depressing sight.
In the midst of this squalor is an oasis of apparent luxury. Encompassing an entire block between 35th and 36th at Wallace St. is a beautiful complex of 110 townhomes built in the last year. Below is a picture of the grand opening of this development.
How and why this was built in a neigborhood where the average home value is $25,000, more than a quarter of the existing hovels are vacant, the average household income is less than $16,000, the true unemployment rate is above 50%, and crime is rampant, would be logical questions by someone with an ounce of critical thinking skills. When you find out the project cost $27 million ($245,000 per house) to build, you ask yourself what businessman in his right mind would do such a thing. Well don’t worry. A businessman didn’t build this oasis amidst squalor. Your government did, with your tax dollars (or your unborn children’s dollars or Chinese borrowed dollars). That’s right – the Obama stimulus plan, along with HUD money, built this monument to government waste, stupidity and entitlement. It’s a low income housing development. The rest of the surrounding neighborhood looks like this:
I’m still trying to figure out the stimulus aspect of this $27 million taxpayer funded boondoggle. The project was built by union construction workers at a cost per square foot of approximately $200. The houses in the neighborhood are worth approximately $25 per square foot. The government included 8 stores within the project. They all face towards the Morton McMichael Middle School, that looks like a prison, with bars and cages over every window in the building. A full 20% of the students are proficient in math at this fine public school. And the dropout rate is only 50%.
Back in July when I first wrote about Mantua Square, I wondered about the government building 8 store fronts when there was no demand for new stores in this neighborhood. Business owners start businesses if they think they can make profits. With average household income below $16,000 and rampant criminality in the neighborhood, I wondered who would open a business here. Well, it is now seven months later and the 8 stores remain vacant. It appears that government’s plan of “Build it and they will come” has failed. I’m shocked I tell you.
I’ve been observing the goings on around this development as I drive by every morning. What we have are poor black people living in heavily government subsidized homes and paying little to no rent. Pennsylvania also provides grants to poor people for utilities, so they are paying little to nothing for heat and light. These people are surely part of the 46 million on food stamps. Many are receiving Social Security disability payments and are being supported by various other welfare programs. As I drive by at 7:30 am every morning there is no hustle and bustle from these townhomes. No one is rushing out the door to get to work. It almost appears to be a ghost town, but I know there are people living there because on trash day there are bags and bags of trash piled by the curb. They evidently can’t afford trash cans. Why leave the comfort of a government provided townhome and look for a job? There is absolutely no incentive to work when you can do nothing and have the state take care of you.
Of course, an inquiring mind wonders why there are Cadillacs, Minivans, and a multitude of other newer model cars surrounding this low income housing estate. The inner courtyard is only accessible through an electronic fence. In the last week I’ve witnessed a Mercedes covertible and a Cadillac Escalade SUV exiting this ”low income” estate through the gated driveway. As I cruise by in my Honda Insight to my job, after a 30 mile commute, I know where the 4% taken from my paycheck by the City of Philadelphia has gone.
In my mind this is an example of government gone wild. It is clear why Philadelphia has 26% less population today than it did in 1950. After 60 years of Democratic Party rule, the city is a shambles. The productive hard working people left as the liberal do-gooders took their hard earned money and redistributed to the unproductive people. This created a culture of entitlement and lack of individual responsibility among those remaining in West Philly and many other sections of Philadelphia. In a society where you succeeded or failed based upon your own efforts and actions, people are motivated to succeed. Failure would mean a hard life of not being able to afford the basics of life like a house, food, TVs, cell phones, etc. Studying hard in school, getting married, working at a job, and raising a family is how you slowly but surely get ahead in life. By providing the poor with housing, food, education, cable TV, and not making them accountable for having children out of wedlock, the government has created an intolerable fiscal and social situation. West Philly is now inhabited by a class of people incapable of functioning like normal human beings. Most of the children are born out of wedlock. 50% of the kids drop out of school. The unemployment rate is 50%. Only 20% of the households are occupied by married people. Philadelphia is broke. Pennsylvania is broke. The United States is broke. When the money stops flowing to the ignorant entitled masses of West Philly all hell will break loose. It is not a question of whether this will happen, but when.
Philadelphia had 2.1 million people in 1950. Today, they have 1.5 million people. The government solution to problems caused by government solutions is to raise taxes. Eventually you reach a tipping point. There are very few productive people left in Phila to shake down. The Mantua Square low income housing development is less than one year old. The little plots of grass in front of their homes are already littered with trash and beer bottles. As the neighborhood around this taxpayer paid for oasis continues to spiral downward, they will need to put bars on the windows and electrify the fence. The hoards will be looking to ransack and pillage the only thing they haven’t destroyed yet. I think a new government program paid for with your taxes is needed to rectify this situation. Don’t you?
30 BLOCKS OF SQUALOR LIBRARY