August 12: Civil Rights Activist Lawrence Guyot and Former Congressman Rick Lazio Debate Putting Public Housing Attendants To Work

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, August, 12 2003  that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order a transcript of the entire show.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST : Some public housing attendants across the country have been notified that to keep their housing, they will have to work a grand total of eight hours of community service a month. The requirement is a provision of the 1998 Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (search).

Is this a good way to get people to give something back to the community?

Joining us now, civil rights activist our good friend, Lawrence Guyot.


ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST : And former New York Congressman Rick Lazio, who sponsored the original legislation.

All right. Lawrence, I understand taxpayers are subsidizing in good measure where people are living, correct?

GUYOT: Correct. If you have a mortgage they're subsidizing you also.


GUYOT: Yes. Yes.

HANNITY: Lawrence, Lawrence. Trust me, I'm paying my whole mortgage, Lawrence.

GUYOT: I know. I'm paying mine, too. But understand...

HANNITY: It's not the same thing as somebody...wait a minute. The people in public housing, many of them would be homeless, were it not for the generosity of the American taxpayer, isn't that true?

GUYOT: Listen.

HANNITY: Isn't that true, Lawrence?

GUYOT: Listen, now you, among the few Americans could buy your House without federal...without a tax write off. But a lot of people who are subsidized federally...

HANNITY: Lawrence, I know what it's like to be poor.

GUYOT: ... if you have a mortgage they're subsidized.

HANNITY: You have to answer a direct question. I'm serious now. I want you to answer this question.

Isn't it true that these people would not have a place to live, were it not for the generosity of the American taxpayer. Yes or no, Lawrence?

Yes is the answer.

GUYOT: What people are you talking about?

HANNITY: The people of public housing.

GUYOT: No, no. If you look at the legislation, it exempts people under section 8.

HANNITY: Lawrence you're not playing well. You're not answering questions. You sound like a liberal cliché. You've got to stop.

Let me go to Rick Lazio.

GUYOT: I'll tell you, even Lazio would agree with that.

HANNITY: Rick, the bottom line is the taxpayers' generosity is subsidizing where people live. And most Americans don't mind that. We don't want to see people on the street, families on the street. But one small requirement, eight hours a month. A month.

GUYOT: There's a perfect solution to it.

HANNITY: Excuse me, you're not Rick Lazio.


RICK LAZIO, FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN: There are two important reasons why this bill passed by a veto-proof majority in 1998 with Republicans and Democrats coming together.

One was a sense that public housing as we knew it was a complete failure. The dozens and dozens of skyscrapers that have come down that have been complete failures are evidence of the fact that the policies over the last 40 years of public housing have largely been a failure.

We want to create dynamic atmospheres, dynamic communities where people are moving up, moving out, graduating from public housing, buying their own home, creating savings, going to work.

We don't want to create environments where you super concentrate poverty. With absolute despair and no hope.


LAZIO: And so what we're saying...

GUYOT: There's a perfect solution to that.

LAZIO: Democrats and Republicans have supported this. And what we said is, for somebody who's there who is not disabled, who is not going to work, who is not a senior and who is not a student, that's about 20 percent of the public housing population, basically the able-bodied, that you'd be asked to give two hours a week to your community.

HANNITY: Is that bad, Lawrence? What's wrong with that, Lawrence?

GUYOT: I think it's terrible. I think...

HANNITY: Terrible? Why?

GUYOT: When you look at the legislation, it says...suppose I want to work 32 hours in one week. And I can't do that by the legislation.

HANNITY: Yes, you can.

GUYOT: What they're simply saying is, "We're going to make an example of you poor people."

And to me, the perfect solution is if everyone in public housing goes to register to vote as a Democrat in the next three weeks, this legislation will be stopped.

COLMES: Lawrence, you're exactly right about one thing. And Rick, I want you to respond to this, because I don't think it got enough attention a few moments ago.

The middle class in America gets a housing subsidy because they don't pay income tax on interest on their mortgage. Isn't that a housing subsidy? And if you're going to apply this principle to the very poor, how about the middle class, who get a pretty nice goody from the government? What about that?

LAZIO: Alan, only if you believe as a matter...

COLMES: Rick, go ahead.

LAZIO: Only if you believe as a matter of philosophy that the government had the first claim on your money and you're lucky to get back whatever you get back.

People like me and I think the majority of people in Congress who voted for this believe that the people who work hard and earn the money have the first claim on the money.

And so the question as to whether you are able to keep more of your own money that you earn is not an equivalent issue as to...

COLMES: It is still basically a housing subsidy. It's the same principle.

LAZIO: It's not the same principle. Because Alan, you're asking somebody who's making $35,000 a year, who's digging ditches, or somebody who piece working in the local department store to work harder, to stay away from their kids longer so that somebody who's able-bodied won't contribute...

COLMES: But you're doing the same thing. You're asking people to do eight hours a month, two hours a week, whatever it is, whatever any community decides. That's time they don't have with their kids. Also time they don't have out looking for a job, which is what most people want to do.

LAZIO: It's two hours a week, Alan. It's two hours a week.

There's not a single person who's able-bodied...And you know, if you look at the recent articles, as I did in preparing for this the last couple of days, almost every single person who was interviewed who was a tenant said it is a good thing. And if anything, people should be given more hours.

COLMES: Not everyone I read.

LAZIO: It's been a huge positive.

COLMES: It's time taken away.

LAZIO: Read the San Francisco Chronicle of all papers, one of the most liberal papers in the country, and what they're saying.

COLMES: A lot of people say...

LAZIO: They're saying they want the dynamic atmosphere where people go out and actually contribute to community service.

COLMES: Let me get Lawrence back in here.

Lawrence, the fact is, this takes time away from child rearing, quality family time. These people are out looking for work for the most part. This takes time away from that.

The very thing you would think the taxpayers and the government wants these people to be doing, time with their families, family values, and out seeking job opportunities.

GUYOT: You're precisely correct.

HANNITY: Oh, please.

GUYOT: But if you listen to the author of the bill, he said we don't want the guy working in the ditch to pay for the person not working.

The real problem about this is he's committed to destroying federalism and I support it. And the Republican Party is committed to...

HANNITY: Socialism.

GUYOT: First they take away the money. Now they're going to say, 'Not only are we going to take away the money. Instead of stimulating faith and stability in poor people we're going to humiliate them even more.'

COLMES: It's discriminatory to the poor. It's free labor from the poor. You're treating the poor differently than most. It's discrimination from the government to poor people.

LAZIO: If I can, I just want to remind some folks back in 1998, there were a number of Democrats, as well as Republicans, who said, 'Let's just voucher out, meaning give vouchers to tenants, and get out of public housing altogether.'

There was another group who I was a part of that said, 'Let's fix it; let's get it right. Let's make sure people are responsible. Let's create dynamic communities where you have opportunity. And let's send the message that people can be responsible.'

It's a good thing for children to see their parents get up in the morning and go to work. Even if it's sweeping the hallway.

HANNITY: Absolutely.

LAZIO: Even if it's planting things in the front yard...

HANNITY: Hey, Rick.

LAZIO: ... of public housing. That's what we want people to see.

HANNITY: People...wait a minute. People who are getting a mortgage deduction are actually paying taxes. The people who are in public housing, they're subsidized. So we're not going to subsidize your socialized...your federalism, as you call it.

I've got to run. Guys, good to see both of you.

LAZIO: Sean, when we passed that, some were getting everything paid for.

GUYOT: ... throughout America. The abolition of section 8.

HANNITY: You know what? The more people we can get into their own homes and out of housing is going to be better to them. We've got to go. Thank you.

GUYOT: I wish it were that simple. It's not.

Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.

Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2003 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2003 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.