"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

While Everybody's Freaking Out About Lewandowski

Lewandowski was not really just a "distraction," but neither is he germane to the function of government nor the punishment of Trump (that ship has sailed; the election, for better or worse, has already started.  Even trying to impeach Trump will just give him ammunition, nothing more.).  What's more important is Trump ranting about homelessness, because there's more to it than Trump seeking empty and futile vengeance on California.  There's a report, and it has a lot to say.  But we'll settle for the executive summary, which could almost be a Trump twitter thread.

First, it's not the free market that raises house prices, it's the regulation of the market (ya know, like zoning laws and rent regulations!):

The first cause we consider is the overregulation of housing markets, which raises homelessness by increasing the price of a home....We estimate that if the 11 metropolitan areas with significantly supply-constrained housing markets were deregulated, overall homelessness in the United States would fall by 13 percent.

Among other things, square that with what the President has said about homelessness:

The homeless are living in "our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to building," Trump told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One with him to a string of fundraisers in California. "People in those buildings pay tremendous taxes where they went to those locations because of the prestige.”

That "prestige" is purchased by, among other things, government regulation.  And yet, the solution to homelessness IS government regulation:

Second, more tolerable conditions for sleeping on the streets (outside of shelter or housing) increases homelessness. We show that warmer places are more likely to have higher rates of unsheltered homelessness, but rates are nonetheless low in some warm places. For example, Florida and Arizona have unsheltered homeless populations lower than what would be expected given the temperatures, home prices and poverty rates in their communities. Meanwhile, the unsheltered homeless population is over twice as large as expected—given the temperatures, home prices and poverty rates in their communities—in States including Hawaii, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State. Policies such as the extent of policing of street activities may play a role in these differences.

Those states are, of course, all notoriously "Democratic."  AZ and FL are presumably Republican.  Is it a coincidence they are grouped together this way?  Yeah, I don't think so, either.  And in a classic inversion of causal reasoning:

A larger supply of substitutes to permanent housing through shelter provision also increases homelessness. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. are each subject to right-to-shelter laws that guarantee shelter availability of a given quality. These places each have rates of sheltered homelessness at least 2.7 times as high as the rate in every other city, and this difference cannot be explained by their weather, home prices, and poverty rates. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. also have substantially higher rates of overall homelessness than almost every other city, suggesting that most people being sheltered would not otherwise sleep on the street. While shelter is an absolutely necessary safety net of last resort for some people, right-to-shelter policies may not be a cost-effective approach to ensuring people are housed.

Just to explain that, shelter policies lead to homelessness that would be solved with less government regulation of housing leading to fewer "prestige" locations, but solving homelessness also means more government regulation of persons, because buildings matter, people don't.  Besides, who would 'otherwise sleep on the street'?  Are people choosing the street because of government regulations?  And please note the "reasoning" in this entire report is carefully tailored to a preferred outcome, not to a careful analysis of data and the problems indicated by that data, or solutions possible despite the data.  Basically, in this report, the data is the problem, and every state that doesn't have a New York City or Boston in it (Arizona has the 5th largest city in the country, Phoenix.  Florida doesn't get on any list until No. 40, Miami; but again, Republican).  As the report notes, 42% of the homeless live in 11 metropolitan areas.  Oddly enough, the report name-checks New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  That goes from No. 1 and No. 2 in population, to No. 15, skipping over Chicago and Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth to get there.  Why is that, except San Francisco is more recognizable than any of the Texas cities, although it is much smaller than any of them?  Or is it because California, v. (again) presumably Republican Texas?

Methinks this report has a certain bias in the executive summary.  But we haven't gotten to the interesting part yet:

To reverse the failed policies of the past, the Trump Administration is addressing the root causes of homelessness. President Trump signed an executive order that will seek to remove regulatory barriers in the housing market, which would reduce the price of homes and reduce homelessness. Individual risk factors that shift the demand for homes inward are being addressed as well, through successful efforts to stem the drug crisis, improve the Federal response to mental illness, improve the chances of people exiting prison, and increase incomes for people at the bottom of the distribution. The administration has also consistently supported the police in promoting safe cities. Finally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has improved Federal homeless assistance programs by providing flexibility for communities to utilize service participation requirements and more strongly encouraging self-sufficiency. These reforms may more successfully reduce homelessness and address the underlying problems that people experiencing homelessness face.

I'm kinda  curious about that.  What EO is going to revoke zoning laws in Austin, Texas, for example (I lived there for almost 2 decades; the primary politics of the city was around zoning and development controls).  Stemming the "drug crisis" is a joke.  Again, from personal experience, I once spent some time talking to a former narcotics officer ("Narc" was the term then, but it's an anachronism now).  He told me his experience had convinced him that people who wanted to get high would use Sterno (another anachronism!) if that's all they could get.  Besides, the major drug crisis today seems to be opioids which were sold legally, if irresponsibly.  Is the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma now considered "stem[ming] the drug crisis"?

"Improve the Federal response to mental illness."  What does that mean, take guns away from shooters who have proven they are dangerous by shooting a lot of people?  Again, reflecting on the experience of Texas, Beto O'Rourke is not exaggerating to say the primary mental health provider in the second most populous state in the Union is the 254 county jails of Texas.  Remember Sandra Bland, and how well we cared for her?  And Trump will what, declare a Medicaid-type program that all 50 states must comply with?  Wasn't that the problem with Obamacare?

As for "supporting the police in promoting safe cities," is that what Trump was doing when he described Baltimore in the worst terms he could use and still get those words on television?  Besides, what does that mean when the problem of enforcement is going to be one for local police forces, which last I looked, were governed by the laws and elected officials of states and cities, not the EO's of the POTUS.  And of course, that final sentence of the paragraph:  "may" is doing a lot of work there, most of it trying to deflect from the fact that this report really has noting to offer except smoke and mirrors and blank ideology.

Or maybe it's more important that the Dems were punched by a punk in a televised hearing almost no one in America watched or to this moment, knows that much about.


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