The Contemptible Thievery of Gentrification

“Gentrification” describes the greed of speculators who oust middle-and-low-income families to create trendy enclaves for the rich.

Over time, words with beautiful meanings occasionally get degraded into ugliness. “Gentle,” for example, which has devolved into “gentrification.”

Originally meaning good-natured and kindly, it was twisted into “gentry” in the Middle Ages by very un-gentle land barons seeking a patina of refinement. Then it became a pretentious verb — to “gentrify” — meaning to make something common appear upscale. And now the word has devolved to “gentrification,” describing the greed of developers and speculators who oust middle-and-low-income families from their communities to create trendy enclaves for the rich.

The latest move by these profiteers is their meanest yet, targeting families with the most tenuous hold on affordable shelter: people living in mobile home parks. Some 20 million Americans — especially vulnerable senior citizens, veterans, the disabled and immigrant workers — make their homes in these inexpensive parks.

Well, “inexpensive” until the vultures sweep in, including multi-billion-dollar Wall Street powerhouses like Blackstone Group, Apollo Global Management and Carlyle Group that’re buying up hundreds of trailer parks across the country. These are easy for unprincipled speculators to grab, and while tenants might own their mobile home, they rent the lots, and the first sign that a huckster has taken over a neighborhood park is an unwarranted spike in everyone’s rent. Residents are captive tenants, for these homes are not really mobile, and even if one can be moved, the cost can top $10,000. The New Yorker notes that today’s typical mobile-home park has been called “a Waffle House where customers are chained to their booths.”

Corporate predators can collect ever-rising rents and fees while cutting amenities, steadily driving out lower-income families. Then the business model can switch to gentrification, remaking the parks to attract upscale owners of million-dollar mobile homes.

And where do former tenants go? Away. Out of sight, out of mind.

Let’s Send Hearing Aids to All Right-Wing Officials

Here’s my suggestion for stopping the ultra-right-wing loopiness coming out of the mouths of Republican officials: hearing aids.

I’m convinced that the wacko blatherings of Rep. Matt Gaetz, the ravings of the Q-Anon cult, former President Donald Trump’s tantrums and so many others are the result of a tragic neurological disconnect. This affliction lets their tongues wag impulsively, but their ears don’t pick up the noise, so they’re unaware that they are prattling nonsense.

The current chaos in Congress’ Republican caucus is one embarrassing example of this eardrum contagion, but it has also spread throughout the country, even to local right-wing officials. In Shasta County, California, for example, the Republican-controlled board of supervisors recently lurched into full-tilt screwballism, frenetically warning that Japanese forces are weaponizing mosquitoes to be “flying syringes” to mass-inject Americans. See — no way they would’ve said that if they could hear themselves.

Which brings us to the fount of present-day right-wing goofiness: Texas state officials. Their latest tone-deaf ploy is by Gov. Greg Abbott, who wants to divert our people’s tax dollars from public schools to exclusive private academies, subsidizing the rich class he serves. He’s tried to do this before, but he fails — since even conservative Republicans in rural counties don’t want their public education turned over to profiteering corporate chains. So, this time Greg is hyping privatization as a “religious freedom” issue, piously preaching that “God created us to have family units — not state bureaucrats — make decisions for families.”

Sheesh, does Abbott even have ears? Or maybe he’s hoping that we don’t have memories, for we have heard him howling constantly that the state — not families — must make every woman’s personal reproductive decisions. Let’s buy a hearing aid for him, and set it on a constant replay loop.

Jim Hightower