social security system and other retirement programs. Right now there are 4.6 workers paying into social security for every retired person. By the year 2000 that number will have shrunk to 3.5. We will be living longer, but since almost no one survives into his eighth or ninth decade without developing chronic physical problems, we will be needing more and more health care. Since most of us no longer are cushioned by extended families, capable of caring for their elderly at home, we may reach a crisis in housing and nursing care for the aged. \(If I had my druthers, I’d get myself adopted by a Mexican-American family, since they still care for their aged and will be on the political ascendancy as With the price of homes increasing twice as fast as family income, the tenant class will continue to grow. On the flip side of that coin, ownership of housing will become increasingly concentrated among the wealthiest 20 percent of the population, and a small but significant portion of our real estate will be owned by out-of-state and foreign investors who know little and care less about the quality of life in Texas. The housing crunch is already upon us. A couple of days ago, a major homebuilder in Chicago announced that new homes are now out of reach of the middle-class family with an income of between $20,000 and $40,000 a year. He said that in the future he will be building homes and apartment buildings exclusively for the wealthy. He also warned the middle class not to expect to find desirable apartment units within their budget. Many in the middle class, who until recently luxuriated in the suburbs, will be settling instead for remodeling older homes or buying trailer houses. Three years ago a Houston study predicted that by 1990 Harris County would have 700,000 blacks, 400,000 MexicanAmericans, and two million whites within its borders. The minorities would make up 48 percent of the Houston population, the study said. These predictions may be skewed somewhat as white professionals return to inner-city neighborhoods in search of cheap houses to purchase and restore in close proximity to their downtown jobs. This “gentrification” of neighborhoods such as Clarksville in Austin, Munger Place in Dallas, and the Heights and the Binz in Houston is removing from the market some of the best rental property available to the minorities and the poor. If the middle class is being squeezed by inflation, the poor are being crushed. A recent Harvard-MIT study indicates that a family of four earning $7,500 a year can’t afford to pay anything for housing if life’s other necessities are to be provided. Earlier this year, George Allen, justice of the peace for South Oak Cliff and South Dallas, the poorest and blackest sections of Big D, estimated with regret that he would make 12,000 evictions during 1979. Most of the evictees are people who simply can’t afford the $175and $200-a-month rentals that are charged even for the worst junker apartments in Dallas. Allen said he didn’t have a clue as to where the evicted would go. Says Charlie Young of the East Dallas Tenants’ Alliance, “They can’t all return to the country. Three thousand family farms were shut down in Texas last year.” It’s not just the plight of the Texas poor that we’ll have to cope with during the next 25 years but the problems of the Mexican poor as well. There is literally no other border in the world like Texas’s 1,200 miles of riverfront with Mexico. No other affluent country shares such a long and easily permeable border with a Third World country. There are currently 70 million people in Mexico, and this young, undereducated, and underemployed population is doubling every 20 years. For the sake of both Mexico’s and Texas’s future, we should hope that the Mexican government uses its newfound oil wealth to try to better the lot of the poor. Unfortunately, neither our government nor theirs has progressed beyond the trickle-down theory of wealth distribution. Both Texas and Mexico could be described, in Ralph Yarborough’s immortal words, as “the happy hunting ground of predatory wealth.” The issues The Texas Observer confronted in its first 25 years were relatively simple. Government corruption? Throw the rascals out. Racism? Well, we’ll just have to integrate. The Vietnam War? Bring it to a halt. The current issuesgrowing concentration of wealth, the devastation of the environment, the influx of illegal aliens, the impending water shortage, the urban problems, economic constrictionsare a lot more complex. More than ever before, Texas will need serious publications like the Observer with the foresight to look beyond short-term economic expediency to the linchpin questions of just exactly how we are going to blaze a civilized trail into the 21st century. Former Observer editor Kaye Northcott is afreelance writer in Austin. 10 DECEMBER 28, 1979 “”
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