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19 million empty homes

Published Apr 1, 2012 10:07 PM

Statistics are kept on a global basis that supposedly quantify the level of social development of a country — figures on infant mortality, life expectancy, educational levels and more. Countries that have been enslaved by colonialism and imperialism are usually rated as having very low levels of development.

But where are the statistics on the cruel and irrational discrepancies that are rife in the so-called developed countries?

One such figure that should be emblazoned across the headlines and should make the television anchors shed real tears is instead found mostly in technical reports on the web.

It is this: As of the last count by the Census Bureau, there are almost 19 million EMPTY housing units in the United States.

Many are brand new but have no buyers; people can’t afford them. Others have been lived in for years, but now lie empty after their occupants were chased out and their belongings dumped on the street by foreclosure enforcers.

Allowing an average of only three people per housing unit, the statistic above means that at least 57 million people in the U.S. who are now homeless, in shelters, doubled or tripled up with relatives or friends, or living in trailers, campers or other vehicles, could have a real home to live in.

What is preventing this?

In olden times, people lacked decent shelter because there wasn’t any. The means of production were not developed enough for most people to live in more than a shack. Even earlier, during the long period of communal society, humans worked together to build group homes that saved on scarce fuel, aided in rearing children and promoted cooperation.

By contrast, today everything can be had in abundance — at least, the potential is there. But you have to have money to realize that potential.

Welcome to capitalism. It leads to society being divided in a never-ending struggle between those with capital, the less than 1%, and the people who do the work, the 99%. It also leads to the cruel and absurd contradiction of hunger amid record crops, homelessness amid a glut of houses, and people dying with nothing to their name but huge debts after a lifetime of hard work.

This newspaper hates capitalism and all it has done to the world. We exist for the day when a workers’ revolution can bring economic life into harmony with human needs and bury the very idea of a few profiting from the misery of the many.