The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Cruelty and Stupidity of Trumpian Homelessness Rhetoric

From a study by his officials:

In the report, “The State of Homelessness in America,” even shelters get some of the blame for increasing the number of people who are homeless. The argument: Some people would be able to find their own housing if they were turned away from shelters.

“While shelters play an extremely important role in bringing some people off the streets, it also brings in people who would otherwise be housed, thus increasing total homelessness,” the report states.

So tiresomely stupid. Shelters are shitholes, and unsafe, and most people hate them. Many homeless people refuse to sleep in them, and even die of exposure. They are simply too dangerous.


homelessness could be dramatically reduced by slashing restrictions on housing construction and being less tolerant of people sleeping on the streets.

In which case, more condos which poor people couldn’t afford would be built. Developers don’t want to build for poor people in “world cities,” it’s just that simple. It’s a market failure, and there are solutions; simply slashing regulations won’t do it as the current market preference is for expensive homes and apartments.

As for being less tolerant of people sleeping on the street: What? These fucktards think more than a tiny minority of the homeless want to sleep on the street? It’s a positive choice they make?

The sheer stupidity and blind ideological thinking is tiresome.

As study after study has shown there are two ways to get the homeless housed: Give them money or give them homes. For those with the most mental and physical problems, some social assistance is also needed. But if you want people housed, house them.

That requires housing which they can afford (or the government can afford) to pay for for them. That doesn’t mean luxury condos.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s been studied repeatedly. We know what works. The question, as always, is whether we care enough to bother.

I mean, rich people need more tax cuts and subsidies. You can have that or take care of poor people.

That’s the choice, and Trump is on the wrong side of it.

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  1. Mallam

    Deregulation of land use is absolutely not enough, but it is essential. It’s the land that’s expensive, and to make the most use out of the land we have to build. All “new” housing is “luxury” housing. People always talk about how expensive “new” and “luxury” housing is without acknowledging that existing housing is also expensive because there is so little of it, and rich homeowners insist on keeping their assets at higher prices because that’s where all of their equity is stocked.

    So, deregulate land use, give incentives to build apartments and multi-family housing, in the suburbs if necessary. Then just give people money. I’m not against rent controls but they’re discriminatory against immigrants and in some cases counterproductive. But if the coalition insists on them for the sake of building more multi-family housing, that’s the way to do it. California’s new slate of bills and Oregon’s recently passed laws are the way to go. New York, Boston, San Francisco just refuse to build more housing, and it’s a disgrace.

    You should also link to Bernie Sanders newly released housing plan, which looks fantastic.

  2. Dan Lynch

    Agree 100% with everything Ian said, and would only add that the homelessness issue is yet another example of the “just desserts” moral philosophy in action.

    One can argue that the entire edifice of conservatism is built on the belief in “just desserts,” that people get what they deserve. I.e., if people are homeless, it’s because they made bad choices. They chose to drink alcohol and take drugs, and they chose to be unemployed. They could choose to stop being an addict, and they could choose to get a job. Make better choices next time!

    The opposite view (I hate to call it “liberal” because that word means nothing these days) is that people are mostly shaped by their environment and by luck, not by their choices and free will. Who in the hell chooses to be mentally ill? More likely the mental illness is a result of some trauma or neglect that they had no control over. No one chooses to be an addict — addiction correlates strongly to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). The private sector does not want to hire these people, and you can’t survive on minimum wage jobs, anyway.

    By framing problems as individual problems, society is off the hook. No need to change government policy, no need to care about these people. They simply need to make better individual choices.

    Just desserts vs. environmental factors and luck. Nature vs. Nurture. Free will vs. being a victim of what life throws at you. These are the heart of the debates, and they come up again and again and again.

    The data is on the side of nature, not on the side of free will, but protestant religion is on the side of free will, and it’s what most Americans have been brainwashed to believe. Moral ideology matters.

    No matter how much data we put forth showing that giving housing to the homeless works, and may even save money, we won’t win the debate until we win the “just desserts” issue.

  3. KT Chong

    How Singapore Fixed Its Housing Problem:

    I know conservatives and Republicans in America love to (cluelessly or deceptively) use Singapore as a shining example of a libertarian utopia. Let’s pretend that Singapore does not have:

    1. A government-run universal healthcare system, with private insurance options, that has consistently being ranked as being the most efficient and one of the best in the world:

    2. A government-run public education system, with private schools that are generally considered as substandard and of lower quality for pupils who could not “cut it” in the public school system. Again, the public schools in Singapore are consider as being the best education system in the world – beating any and every private school system in the world:

    And, of course, the government-run pubic housing – which provide homes and housing to over 80 percent of Singaporeans.

    Another point that is gonna completely blow the minds of the conservatives, libertarians and Republicans in America: about 90% of the lands in Singapore are publicly owned. Let me repeat: the Singaporean government own 90% of the lands in the country. Private businesses and citizens can NOT buy lands and, therefore, are NOT allowed to own lands. When Singaporeans say that they “buy” and “own” home, what they actually have is a 99-year lease to their home. When someone sells his “home” to someone else, he is actually transferring the lease.




    The strict restrictions on private ownership of lands and real estates is how Singaporean governments have been able to provide affordable housing to all – and virtually eliminate homelessness. Lands and real estates are the most limited resources. When you allowed private ownership of lands – and allowed them to pass on the private ownership to their children, the landowner class would always drive up the prices and rents of the real estates and housing, ultimately making living unaffordable to the masses. Private landownership is the basis of capitalism – and also the basis of ever-growing income inequality.

    It always irks me whenever I hear some ignorant conservatives, libertarians and Republicans use Singapore as a model of capitalism and libertarian utopian. Hey moron, look deeper. Sure, we have free market and capitalism, but in so many other ways we are socialist and even communist.

  4. Willy

    A lot of people heard about the “Seattle is Dying” series produced by the Sinclair owned local TV station. In that series blame was fully laid on weak, lax and liberal lawmakers who’ve disempowered business owners, police and other entities to where Seattle has become a haven for thousands of drug-addled tent dwellers. Just like in LA, Portland and other liberal west coast cities. Their answer to this problem was tough love.

    I suggest that large evangelical churches open up their spacious halls to the homeless.

    Instead of sending their youth to do missionary work in Africa (with stopovers in trendy Dubai, London and Amsterdam), they need to be picking up these homeless and doing them some conservative Christian tough love which as we all know, is always proven to work miracles.

  5. Charles Misfeldt

    Stop allowing a few thousand predators to siphon all the wealth from our economy. The impoverishment of those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder is the primary result of the hoard the wealth mentality of conservatism at the top.

  6. First they came for the homeless, but with boots on the ground, who’s next?

  7. KT Chong

    P.S. the remaining of the 20% Singaporeans – a lot of them buy homes in the neighboring Malaysia, (specifically in the Johor state in/around the Johor Bahru city, which is right next to Singapore and within commute distance.) Unfortunately for Malaysians, permanent private ownership of homes and real states is allowed in Malaysia. A lot of Singaporeans are buying homes – and just rent it out to Malaysians to collect passive incomes. Real estates in Malaysia have spiraled out of control due to Singaporeans, and homelessness has become a serious problem in Malaysia.

    In Singapore, people cannot just “buy” a home and just rent it out to collect money. You have to live in the home for at least five years before you are even allowed to transfer the lease, (i.e., mentioned in the first video in my last post,) so you can’t just “buy” a unit and just flip it to earn money. The government forces you to hold it for five years before you are even allowed to transfer the lease. This government policy has effectively eliminated/prevented the parasitic class of landlords and real estate flippers/speculators. So, Singapore has no “real estate bubble”, ever, – or “mortgage default swap” or whatever financial instruments that could turn the entire economy into a big casino betting on real estates.

  8. KT Chong

    So, all you conservatives, libertarians and Republicans out there… do you still love Singapore?

  9. Willy

    I’ll bookmark all the Singapore stuff. The problem with modern conservatism isn’t facts or viewpoint, it’s their infosources cherrypicking the facts and then their consumers using psychological defenses to avoid seeing “the rest of the story”.

  10. Bill Hicks

    I used to work for HUD about 30 years ago and visited my fair share of housing projects and Section 8 housing. The latter were regular apartments in which rent was subsidized based on income. It was a much better program that public housing complexes, which were usually total shitholes. Not for nothing were they known as “instant ghettos.”

    Of course, even back then there were long wait lists for Section 8 vouchers, and I gather that program along with HUD’s other programs have been badly mauled by budget cuts since then.

  11. Hugh

    Re evangelicals, Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

    As of Q2 2019, there were 17.044 million vacant housing units in the US.

    From HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), “On a Single Night in January 2018: 552,830 people experienced homelessness in the United States. Most stayed in sheltered locations (65% or 358,363 people), while 35 percent (194,467 people) stayed in unsheltered locations.”

    If you accept HUD’s numbers, a big if, with this population, there are 30 vacant houses in the US per homeless person.

  12. Mallam

    Hugh, there’s no reason to doubt the numbers. The difference is “where are these plentiful vacant houses located” and “is it relatively close to where people want to live and where jobs are?”

    We can’t just round up homeless and ship them around to various towns and communities. We need to build housing where people are and want to live. Period.

  13. Jack Parsons

    Oh man, anyone with their name on this needs to be hounded out of a Starbucks.

  14. Hugh

    Houses are built where the people are. That is where they also stand vacant, and it is also where the homeless are.

  15. John

    Regarding Singapore: In the late 1990’s I sat next to an US engineer headed to Singapore whose specialty was extracting sand for recycling from old concrete. He told me that at that time the Singaporean government was in the process of rebuilding the housing stock for nicer, more spacious housing…mostly multifamily apartments…for their citizens. The govt decided recycling the sand from old teardown concrete was the cheapest source for sand.
    Mr. Market in the USA does not know how to do something like that. For minimal cost compared to building useless military tech that just gets blown up, everyone in the US could be decently housed in nice, well designed space. Homelessness is encouraged by the oligarchs to instill fear in the precariat. Just like the prison system.

  16. Eric Anderson

    There’s the Golden Rule.
    And then there’s the Iron Rule …
    “Do unto others before others do, what you imagine their worst motives to be, unto you.”

    The golden rule is for kids. The iron rule for adults.

    It is known … but goes unspoken.

  17. DMC

    Singapore is great as long as you conform. Step out of line and its the bastinado for you. Lee Kwan Yew was widely considered a Fascist. Its the State for all, all for the State.

  18. anon y'mouse

    no one in this country really intends to do anything about any of it. it is all political football screeching for headlines.

    if they intended to help us little people, they would be rebuilding our infrastructure and not encouraging the richer among us to simply invest in their own solar panels.

    if they intended to help us little people, they would be seizing (or seriously taxing the owners) of all of this vacant real estate and turning it into low-cost housing, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, and planning communities around transit centers.

    none of this has happened, yet everyone knew 40+ years ago what would occur. what does that say?

    they intend for us to die. and kill each other like crayfish in a bucket in the meantime.

  19. NoPolitician

    The problem here isn’t about housing. It’s about concentration of economic activity.

    Yes, San Francisco has a need for more housing *based on its economic activity*. That’s because it has aggregated so much economic activity that it is on overload. The way to solve that problem is to convert San Francisco into New York City, with high-rise apartment buildings instead of one or two-family rowhouses.

    The problem is, most people don’t want to live their entire lives renting a high-rise apartment in a heavy urban environment. They want to own a piece of land with a yard. That is why San Franciscans are blocking new housing – because they value their way of living. Plus, they “got theirs jack”, so they can have the best of both worlds – a white-hot economy *and* owning a piece of land with a yard.

    Why are we hell-bent on jamming more housing and infrastructure into white-hot markets while 80% of the developed communities in this country are built out yet rotting away due to a lack of economic activity?

    Why don’t we focus on policies that “share the wealth”? In fact, why don’t we work on “breaking up the wealth”?

    Starbucks and Amazon are part of why Seattle’s real estate market is so hot, and is also why so many other markets have been decimated. Why not create economic disincentives for a small number of mammoth corporations controlling and concentrating so much economic activity?

  20. Mark Pontin

    NoPolitician wrote: ‘The way to solve that problem is to convert San Francisco into New York City, with high-rise apartment buildings instead of one or two-family rowhouses.’

    You then point out one problem with a city of high-rises. There’s another.

    Someday — it could even be tomorrow — there’ll be another earthquake. I was there in SF during the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. and I look at things like that giant Workforce corporate tower downtown now with skepticism. Because the 1989 quake wasn’t even that bad; I remember a worse quake when I lived in Jamaica as a kid, and the force was enough to throw me out of bed and knock adults off their feet.

  21. Mark Pontin

    Ian wrote: ‘more condos which poor people couldn’t afford would be built. Developers don’t want to build for poor people in “world cities”, it’s just that simple. It’s a market failure.’

    It’s worse than that. Developers not only don’t want to build affordable housing, when they build expensive, superficially fancy apartment buildings and overprice them, they then don’t want to book the losses when they can’t fill them.

    They’ve been throwing up apartment buildings in the East Bay — Berkeley and Oakland — for the last seven years ago and ever since it began I’ve stuck my head in some of them out of morbid curiosity and asked what rents start at. Even a half-dozen years ago, asking prices for studio apartments began at, like, $3,200-3,800.

    On one level, I’m gratified when I drive by most of these places and see from all the dark windows every night that they must be something like a third empty.

    On another level, I’m appalled. The buildings stay that empty, because the owners would rather deal with that than lower their asking prices and then be forced to book the losses.

    Meanwhile, I encounter professional high-school teachers and the like at the gymn at night, who go there to clean up because they can’t afford rent and they’re living in their cars.

    It’s a deranged society.

  22. KT Chong

    Lee KUAN Yew, not Lee KWAN Yew.

    Lee Kuan Yew was the best thing that has ever happened to Singapore. Without Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore would not be what it is today.

    So yes, Lee Kuan Yew was a dictator.

    However, the same could be said for FDR, and the US could use another FDR (Franklin D. Roosevelt) right now.

    Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang or Tulsi Gabbard could have the best intentions for the American people. However, if either progressive miraculously wins the 2020 election to become the President, he/she will not accomplish any of his/her noble agendas: unless he/she is willing to be a dictator like Lee Kuan Yew or FDR.

  23. someofparts

    Just a question. I’ve been reading about concerns at central banks this morning. In my dim way, I get the sense that inflated asset values follow from the extremely low-interest-rate policies of the banks.

    If policies that make housing affordable were to slow down escalating asset values, how would that change things if asset valuations are the main driver propping up the economy? What am I missing here?

    I wonder why there hasn’t been any noticeable push around the country to charter more credit unions or state banks. People that need affordable housing also need honest local-scale community banking.

  24. Ché Pasa

    Pretty much every city with a homeless problem has enough vacant housing to accommodate everyone living on the streets and then some. They don’t do it. Well, most don’t. The rationale being that if they actually housed the homeless, it would attract more and more (from somewhere) and that would be bad. Like the dreaded Open Borders or something. So. Temporary shelters and the streets, criminalization and jail, that’s it. There’s a long tradition of this in the US and much of the rest of the English speaking world.

    “Those homeless people deserve their fate. It should be accelerated in fact.”

    The other thing is that homeless services is a booming subsection of the nonprofit realm. If you could calculate all the money that goes to homeless services and figured out the cost of actually housing the homeless, you might be surprised. Some municipalities have crunched the numbers and found they were spending more on “services” that didn’t house the homeless than they would be if they funded housing instead. Funny how that works. Administrative bloat is everywhere.

    While the Trump regime’s rhetoric on homelessness is definitely cruel and cringeworthy and seems utterly focused on property values (who would that appeal to?) I’m interested in what they would actually do. What would happen if federal facilities (there are many) were opened as some kind of community housing for chronically homeless people? Would it be like prison — or something else? What would happen if public mental health care facilities were re-imagined and rebooted? Would they be like The Snake Pit, or something else?

    What would happen if, instead of destroying homeless encampments, their residents left to wander, they were somehow regularized, moved from city streets and underpasses to open land, provided with decent infrastructure at a minimum, materials for building shelter, even completed houses, health care of all kinds including addiction recovery, and allowed to BE?

    What if it takes cruel rhetoric to even begin to get some of these things considered and done.

    The last time I was in California a little over a year ago, after almost a decade away, I was shocked and appalled at the increase and spread of homelessness and the apparent inability or unwillingness of the public and nonprofit sector to do anything substantive about it except wring their hands. People on the streets do what they have to to survive, and it isn’t always pretty by any means. But the people who could be helping to make their lives easier and better do nothing, turn their backs, make endlessly complicated rules to mitigate the problem — rules that only make it worse — or fantasize that it isn’t that bad, not really, to live on the streets in California. Besides, the homeless are icky.

    All that seems to get done is expulsion. And talk.

    No less cruel, eh, than the White House rhetoric.

    So, what is to be done?

  25. S Brennan

    I agree with NoPolitician,

    The USA has since, at least, the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 been starving small affordable cities of the resources they need to attract new citizens and retain those who grew up their town. The real estate “boom” in urban areas is a direct result of the bipartisan acceptance of neoliberalism.

    “In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Alfred E. Kahn, a professor of economics at Cornell University, to be chair of the CAB….since 1938, the federal Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) had regulated all domestic interstate air transport routes as a public utility….One way that the CAB promoted air travel was generally attempting to hold fares down in the short-haul market, which would be subsidized by higher fares in the long-haul market….”

    This has closed terminals and air services in small towns across America. I some rugged areas a 10-15 minute flight translates to a 3 hour drive.

    One of many “marketplace reforms” sponsored by big [D] that screwed rural America…and…”ironically” during the same time frame, [D]’s began their long decline in rural settings….go figure.

  26. Hugh

    Wonderful false equivalence you tried to slip in there, KT. FDR was a lot of things, good and bad, but the one thing he wasn’t was a dictator. He also led a continental size country at a time of both depression and world war. Not sure how that scales down to a technocratic dictator of a minor city-state.

    someofparts, the question is whose economy is being propped up. Bush-Obama during the GFC could have let housing values slide and directly bailed out homeowners for $5 trillion. You could throw in another couple trillion to help those with HELOCs (home equity loans). This government intervention could have forced the banks to take haircuts on their loans. This might have forced some of them into bankruptcy, but what would have really done them in was the opposite side action: the overvalued CDOs and the CDS bets. The CDS should have been nullified and bought back at something like cost plus interest. The CDO holders could have taken haircuts or lost a lot more in the underwriter’s bankruptcy. The rich heavily geared off inflated asset prices would have been hit hard. What did Bush-Obama do? They bailed out the banks and rich at a cost of something between $25-30 trillion. These huge amounts of money did not create inflation because they did not go into the real economy. They went into supporting housing prices. With all this money the rich and hedge funds could buy foreclosed houses and support prices where they wanted them. They went into a huge stock bubble. Very little went into capital investments in the domestic economy, and essentially none into workers wages. However, this financialized Potemkin economy needs constant infusions of new money to keep its fictions and returns going.

  27. KT Chong

    FDR was frequently being accused of being a dictator – especially by conservatives, libertarians and Republicans:




    As for whether Lee Kuan Yew was a dictator, remember: Lee Kuan Yew had been repeatedly being elected to be the Prime Minister of Singapore in free and open elections until his retired. He did not stage a coup, seize power, abolish elections, etc., did all the things a real dictators would do to stay in power. Singaporeans wanted him to be the Prime Minister-for-life, so Singaporeans kept voting for him to be the Prime Minister again, and again, and again.

    That was not unlike how the American people loved FDR and his policies so much that they repeatedly elected him again and again, effectively making FDR the President-for-life until he died. FDR won the presidency four times. He was a four-term president, which was an unprecedented and would never be repeated again.

    FYI: one of my main critiques of FDR (someone whom I admired and respect very much, more than any other US Presidents including Lincoln and Jefferson) is that he was NOT enough of a dictator – i.e., he was not a full-0n dictator. I wish FDR was an actual dictator – and he would crush and steamroll through anyone who opposed his policies – i.e., FDR actually wanted to implement a single-payer universal heatlhcare for Americans, but he failed because of conservative opposition.

    IMO, he should have gone full dictator at the height of his popularity, and used the dictatorial powers to force through a universal healthcare. IMO the American people, who have effectively made him the President-for-life, would have supported him. In fact, the people – and the media – actually urged FDR to be dictator to implement his “socialist” agendas, which unfortunately he resisted. American people – including many famous people – even sent letters to FDR, urging him to seize powers in order to mow down oppositions from conservatives and Republicans who kept blocking and obstructing his socialist agendas like universal healthcare. The rich and wealthy – working with Republicans – even tried to start a coup to overthrow FDR, (i.e., the Wall Street Putsch.) However, several army generals head by Smedley Butler (whom were approached by the elites and Republican conspirators) went to FDR and inform him of the secret coup plan. Before testifying at the Congress, some of the army generals actually urged FDR to use the opportunity to stage his own coup and eliminate his oppositions, but he resisted.

    If FDR had become a dictator, Americans would have universal healthcare now, there would be so many more mechanisms built into the system to prevent corporations and oligarchs from seizing powers from the government, and Republican presidents later (especially starting from Reagan) would not have been able to gradually dismantle his New Deal piece by piece for the half century.

    So oh boy am I glad that Lee Kuan Yew was more of a dictator than FDR was.

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