JACK KEMP'S empowerment agenda for the poor is widely credited with containing the first new thinking about federal anti-poverty programs in the past 25 years.
Yet, Kemp has struggled to get Congress to accept even small portions of his program to let residents of public housing projects choose their own houses and apartments. The Bush administration's latest proposal to shift funding from construction of new housing units to pay for voucher programs for the poor to obtain privately owned housing is meeting with stiff congressional resistance.
It appears that many in Congress simply refuse to abandon the poverty industry. The poverty industry has enriched public housing developers, created legions of well-paid bureaucrats and helped nurture a dependency culture that politicians regularly exploit.
For protectors of the poverty industry, nothing is more threatening than the idea of giving the poor the power to change their lives.
If that empowerment occurs, lucrative government contracts will down the drain and bureaucratic jobs will be lost. Most traumatic of all, the poor will be treated as free individuals instead of as a pitiable and dependent mass of victims.