Thursday, October 11, 2007

This Is Immoral

The following is part of a series of stories produced by the Miami Herald, detailing the abuses of the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, a non-profit setup to administer millions of dollars in government funds to fight poverty in the worst neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County. What resulted was the poster child for wing-nuts looking for why social programs do not work. As I read the series of reports I was appalled by the deliberateness of the people involved. It was as if there was no accountability by anyone and the funds became the personal accounts for the employees, family, and board members.

On Aug. 23, 2005, a chartered Gulfstream jet landed in Miami carrying a famous passenger: music mogul Sean "Diddy'' Combs.

Diddy flew in to host MTV's Video Music Awards at the AmericanAirlines Arena, where the hip-hop impresario known for his vast fortune and extravagant tastes handed his diamond-studded wristwatch to a fan in the crowd. Another luxury plane took him back to New Jersey the following night.

The round-trip flight cost more than $87,000, including $1,070 for in-flight catering.

But Diddy didn't pay the bill. Neither did MTV.

A nonprofit poverty agency picked up the tab -- using tax dollars set aside to help Miami-Dade County's poorest residents.

That agency, the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, was founded by county leaders in 1999 to take aim at the backbreaking poverty in nine designated "empowerment zones'' - among the most destitute neighborhoods in Florida.

Created to fight poverty, the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust squandered millioins of dollars on insider deals, pet projects and bad loans.[1]

The insane thing about this is that it has been going on for over a decade without anyone noticing what was taking place. The board forged documents, misled federal agencies, and basically handed out cash as if there were no tomorrow. This trust was setup to provide living wage jobs to some of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods and to date very few jobs were created and the few that were created came at an astronomical cost. I hope God has a special place in hell for those who would line their own pockets with proceeds earmarked for the poor and for pimp preachers. The sad thing about all of this is that the people taking the money are not poor, they are just greedy. They don’t have enough, so they take from those who have nothing.

The truly shameful part to me is that the avarice knew no racial or ethnic boundaries. Its funny how well folks get along when it comes to stealing from the poor, all those biases and animosities just fly right out the window. We can argue about racism and immigration after we divvy up this money. They need to line them all up and make them live in the conditions that they were suppose to try and alleviate. This type of behavior really chaps me, because I work with poor people through my church. I also went to Atlanta a few years ago on a mission to bring technology training to the unemployed black men that wander so many of Atlanta’s streets. On my rounds to all of the “so-called” social trusts in the city designed to help these men I got the same refrain, “Our people can’t fix computers”, we need to start them out at (fast food restaurant of your choice). I left Atlanta heart-broken; these were not white wing-nuts and bureaucrats these were black men. These were black men who would rather help themselves, than to help another struggling black man. You see they had to keep providing low-skill minimum wage workers to their corporate sponsors.

If this is how our government officials are going to administer our funds and our trust, I could almost agree with the wing-nuts. Almost, I can’t get past the part where they line their corporate benefactors pockets off the public dime either. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would almost be tempted to believe that the Bush Administration’s (both Jeb and George) allowed this program to continue to draw support for their nefarious schemes to gut social programs. Thanks to these social service robbers there will be no shortage of antidotal evidence of why social programs don’t work.

The idea was in 1994, to create “empowerment zones” in 15 of our most intransigent poverty areas, these empowerment zones would be infused with government money to create new businesses and to entice other businesses into the zones to create living wage jobs for the residents. They were also to help provide affordable housing, training, and other social services to help overcome the cycle of poverty in these areas with little oversight from the Feds. This would allow local authorities to administer the money as they saw fit and to address local needs. To date, the Federal Government has given 1.1 billion dollars and cannot verify whether the programs have had any beneficial effect at all.

After investigating the Miami Herald could not verify that the Trust had provided any new jobs, housing, or business opportunities for those it was suppose to be targeting. That’s over the course of almost a decade and 68 million dollars of tax payer money and basically they have little to nothing to show for it. What they were able to verify was criminal and shocking. This program is scheduled to expire in 2009 and anyone would be hard pressed to be able to rally support for its extension. I guarantee you the wing-nuts and other corporate welfare whores will hold these results up as reason to terminate the program. The injustice of it all is that it won’t be the people who it was designed for that screwed it up, it will be the usual collection of poverty pimps who have for years made a living off the misery of their fellow citizens.


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