Of course Trump is wrong about homelessness. Here he just makes up a narrative as he goes along which suits his purpose. His purpose is always to make himself look better by making others look worse in a zero-sum game of social status. This is how, in his mind at least, he constantly grows and maintains his alpha dog social status. Truth is simply irrelevant to his pursuit of maximum social status, as we see in Trump’s constant use of fuckery.
In this example with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, Trump’s solution is “I told them they can’t do that.” It isn’t clear whether he told the homeless people, politicians in these problematic cities, or just the people listening on Fox News to the interview. It’s as if his authoritarian fiat simply makes it so. He said it and it became real.
Of course we’ve heard this sort of thing before:
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
~ Genesis 1:3
by Jacqueline Homan edited by O Society October 22, 2019
TUCKER CARLSON: Some of our cities, but New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles – they’ve got a major problem with —
DONALD TRUMP: It’s very sad.
CARLSON: With filth. Why is that?
TRUMP: It’s a phenomena that started two years ago. It’s disgraceful. I’m going to may be and I’m looking at it very seriously, we’re doing some other things that you probably noticed like some of the very important things that we’re doing now. But we’re looking at it very seriously because you can’t do that.
You can’t have what’s happening — where police officers are getting sick just by walking the beat. I mean, they’re getting actually very sick, where people are getting sick, where the people living there living in hell, too.
Although some of them have mental problems where they don’t even know they’re living that way. In fact, perhaps they like living that way. They can’t do that. We cannot ruin our cities. And you have people that work in those cities. They work in office buildings and to get into the building, they have to walk through a scene that nobody would have believed possible three years ago.
And this is the liberal establishment. This is what I’m fighting. They — I don’t know if they’re afraid of votes. I don’t know if they really believe that this should be taking place. But it’s a terrible thing that’s taking place. And we may be —
You know, I had a situation when I first became President, we had certain areas of Washington, D.C. where that was starting to happen, and I ended it very quickly. I said, “You can’t do that.”
When we have leaders of the world coming in to see the President of the United States and they’re riding down a highway, they can’t be looking at that. I really believe that it hurts our country.
They can’t be looking at scenes like you see in Los Angeles and San Francisco. San Francisco, I own property in San Francisco, so I don’t care except it was so beautiful. And now areas that you used to think as being, you know, really something very special, you take a look at what’s going on with San Francisco, it’s terrible.
So we’re looking at it very seriously. We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It’s inappropriate.
Now, we have to take the people and do something. We have to do something.
Yet he’s not the only one who buys these make believe stories. Most of those in the top 10% are just as clueless and too insulated by their privileges to care – until they lose everything and it happens to them.
Our growing homelessness and abject poverty crisis started when the War on the Poor was launched 40 years ago. And the fault lies 100% with comfortably off defenders of deeply entrenched neoliberal ideology that was promoted with a heavy overdose of propaganda by wealthy Libertarians, far-Right types, and social Darwinists of every flavor who peddled this dogshit to the public while calling it chocolate candy.
Neoliberalism operates within the capitalist framework and basically pushes for deregulation of industries and the privatization or outright elimination of social/public services. Neoliberalism is not within the purview of any particular political party. It is an economic framework and ideology that disregards human rights, and holds that the only human rights anyone deserves are those which each person can personally afford. It holds that poverty is due to individual poor choices, and not due to systemic injustices and failures. (You may know neoliberalism by other names such as corporatism or inverted totalitarianism – a term coined by Sheldon Wollin.)
Homelessness and the growth of deep poverty per global standards have been an ongoing and increasing systemic problem ever since neoliberalism took hold and began to infest every corner of society from every societal institution, every social and public policy, and every media outlet, collapsing the floor from underneath America’s poor with the full blessing and support from America’s middle and upper classes who never cared about struggling poor people and never wanted the poorest to have a chance. Why? Because Americans – especially those with the most privileges – have always been stunningly selfish and cruel. And stupid.
Politicians on the local, state and federal levels, along with the mainstream media, all played a huge role in “disappearing” the jobless/unemployable poor from the public square until unrelieved deep poverty (and the homelessness resulting from that) finally reached a point where it can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug by talking heads, politicians, academics, policymakers – including those who define the “official” unemployment statistics that continue to ignore and exclude people who’ve been involuntarily and permanently pushed out of the economy (largely due to age and disability discrimination by the employers).
The Growing Permanent Underclass
The War on the Poor and the death of the middle class began over 40 years ago with the deregulation of the airline and trucking industries during Carter’s final term in 1978, immediately followed by the elimination of CETA in 1980.
CETA was the Great Society program that extended a helping hand up to socio-economically disadvantaged people by directly providing a toehold onto the middle class jobs ladder for poor women, minorities, anyone who was long-term unemployed, and anyone who was isolated and marginalized by generational poverty regardless of race or gender with federally subsidized employment. CETA moved poor marginalized and disadvantaged people up out of deep poverty and welfare dependancy by giving them a toehold onto the jobs ladder through federally subsidized employment with paid on-the-job training. And CETA jobs were NOT “make-work” jobs.
A lot of poor people from generational poverty who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten a chance for any jobs at all if forced to compete against more advantaged people for jobs with no helping hand up, made it up into the middle class because of CETA. They got middle class jobs like librarian, courthouse clerk/stenographer, and law enforcement (just to name a few) through CETA.
Budget cuts and freezes to programs like HUD Section 8 housing also were enacted during Reagan’s presidency. Cash benefits under welfare (then known as AFDC) have remained frozen at the same levels as they were in 1987 and have not been increased since then to keep up with the cost of living. Blanket denial policies for SSI applicants were implemented under Reagan. And today, our largest “public housing” stock is our prison system – courtesy of Bill Clinton.
And before Clinton left office, he began to “reform” social security disability similar to the way he “reformed” welfare, targeting the poorest disabled Americans with SSI benefit level cuts and increasingly punitive means testing bureaucratic hoops making it increasinly impossible to qualify for SSI. Welfare Reform wasn’t a “contract with America”, it was a contact on poor Americans.
The result: the majority of Americans with disabilities and chronic health problems that employers are unwilling to hire and accommodate in the workplace cannot get ANY help at all, nor are we able to compete against the fully-abled for jobs because the playing field has been irredeemably rigged.
Unions fell under attack, starting with Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers on strike. The Teamsters union, which represented the majority of truck drivers, had been dealt a death blow when the Federal Motor Carrier Act was passed in 1980, deregulating the trucking industry. This placed the onus of trucking safety rules and regulations entirely on the drivers instead of on the freight carriers and the freight carriers’ customers.
All of this meant lower pay and more financial risk in the form of increased civil and criminal legal liabilities and steep unaffordable US DOT fines for truck drivers who were employed by trucking companies.
Skilled trades unions fell next – just in time for women and minorities to finally get accepted into them. All workers irrespective of gender or race, whether they were union or not, took an additional hit from the rise of “right-to-work” and “at-will” employment laws which not only unraveled worker protections against wage theft, but also rendered equal opportunity employment laws against job discrimination utterly toothless.
All of this served to undermine working class people’s incomes and reduce the overall quality of life, sealing poor people’s fate by eliminating our life chances altogether – while blaming the poorest for not being able to make it no matter how hard we tried, or what we tried, or for how long we kept trying only to get nothing except kept down and poor with all our hopes and dreams crushed underfoot and ground into the dirt under privileged people’s fancy shoes.
Pell grants were slashed and bankruptcy protection for student loans, as well as interest rate caps on student loans, were removed via the Gramm-Rudman bill during the Bush I administration in 1991. This happened just when all the employers began requiring college degrees as the entry level qualification for white-collar jobs that don’t (and shouldn’t) require college degrees. As a result, the poor were frozen out of the “new economy” jobs that paid enough to live on.
Then the prisons were privatized, morphing into profit-seeking slave labor enterprises as laws that disproportionately hurt the poor and working class such as Three Strikes laws were passed by Neoliberal Democrats in Congress and the White House who wanted to prove to the upper-middle class suburban moderate Republican voters whom they were courting that they too were willing to “get tough on crime.”
Make no mistake about it, getting “tough on crime” really means getting tough on poor marginalized people.
Neoliberals pushed the traditional FDR-style Democrats out of the Democratic Party starting in the late 1970’s, gradually replacing them with “Third Way”/corporate Democrats like the Clintons who ushered in globalism by insourcing foreign “guest” workers with abuses of the H1-B and L-1 visa programs alongside the outsourcing of American jobs via trade agreements like NAFTA – hurting working class Americans and Mexicans alike as middle class manufacturing jobs went to the maquiladora zone where Mexican workers had none of the rights and workplace safety protections that the US workers had who previously held those same jobs.
This, together with the Savings & Loan crisis and the collapse of family farms across the Midwest in the 1980’s, cuts and eliminations to social safety net programs, deregulation and privaization of utilities – causing unaffordable rate hikes, and a middle class jobs pie that’s been shrinking since the 1980’s, directly resulted in an ongoing increase in deep poverty, homelessness, human sex trafficking, and the student loan debt crisis we have today. It also caused growing resentment, desperation and rage to fester – evidenced by the alarming rise in mass shootings we’re seeing now.
Democrats didn’t worry about alienating their traditional “base” of working class and poor people by shipping out jobs while collapsing the floor from underneath the poorest Americans with Welfare Reform – putting everyone who was at least one rung above the chronically jobless poor on increasingly insecure economic ground while arrogantly saying “there’s nowhere else for those people to go.” Well, Donald Trump finally seized the day by giving “those people” somewhere else to go.
For the past 40 years, Americans trapped in the permanent underclass retreated in apathy, withdrawing from the “democratic” political processes of a society that didn’t care about us or even acknowledge the harsh realities of our existence – except to ridicule us, telling us if we were “too stupid/uneducated” to be able to compete against H1-B and L-1 foreign “guest” workers for good-paying tech jobs, and other types of immigrants for rapidly vanishing blue-collar middle class jobs, and if we weren’t prospering in the “new economy”, it was our own fault that we were poor and suffering and unable to make it.
Politically active privileged people in the top 10% initially said they didn’t want to hurt the “deserving” poor, but then they decided that no one who is poor is deserving.
And throughout all of this, the ranks of the socially excluded and economically discarded grew. But this growing underclass has been (and still is) deliberately ignored by everyone from those who compile the “official” unemployment statistics to politicians to the media to local officials who’ve criminalized the poor and tried to sweep (literally) the growing number of destitute homeless and jobless Americans out of sight.
Even most “progressive” social justice movements ignore the chronically unemployed poor and pander to middle class people’s concerns/issues. The result: a growing number of apathetic poor people who see no point in voting since no one is fighting for them.
The Role of Media As a Tool Of Neoliberalism In Disappearing the Poor and Ushering In the Police State
As neoliberalism was being ushered in, the media (along with those who create the “official” stats for unemployment) made it a point of disappearing the jobless poor who were not re-absorbed back into the workforce while painting a rosy economic picture that clearly established the middle and upper classes as the only “real” people who exist (or who deserve to).
The media also propagandized the public into accepting prostitution – one of the most brutal forms of violence against women and one the most harmful forms of exploitation as the only allowable “solution” to poor marginalized women’s poverty in pro-Welfare Reform America (instead of providing a generous safety net and eliminating job discrimination against poor women) – with movies like Pretty Woman.
The media also slowly propagandized the public into welcoming the growing police state, which serves only one purpose: to prevent massive uprisings from the poor by doing the elite’s dirty work of culling the poor, or, at the very least, locking poor people up in cages where they’re forced to do slave labor for private corporations as a solution to increasing crime resulting from increasing structural poverty and unemployment.
Remember the TV show 21 Jumpstreet ? It ran from 1987 to 1992. Remember the young heartthrob Johnny Depp as the moody Officer Tom Hanson who always did everything by the book, and the handsome cherubic Peter DeLuise with his impish grin as the affable Officer Doug Penhall who loved women, sports, and take-out food?
21 Jumpstreet portrayed the police as really cute sensitive guys who cared about justice and protecting abuse victims from bad guys while also being above any kind of corruption and abuse of authority in the course of doing their jobs.
Cops were also glorified in movies like Lethal Weapon and Tango & Cash. Who doesn’t remember enjoying seeing Kurt Russell in a wig, make-up and a mini-skirt when he snuck out the back door of an exotic dancer club as he and Sylvester Stallone set out to prove they were set up by the real bad guys?
And then there was the reality TV show Cops which portrayed poor people, especially young men of color, as dangerous criminals that the rest of society needed protection from – a stereotype of black males that is as old as the institution of slavery in the antebellum South.
And that’s not even getting into the rise of hate radio misogynistic “shock jocks” like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh who vilified the poor, especially poor people who were members of traditionally discriminated groups. Their wealth and success was made possible by generous corporate sponsorships over the span of three decades. The majority of Americans lapped up their verbal sewage as if it were foie gras and clamored for the further immiseration of the poor through abusive social and economic policies as the poor were painted as lesser-thans that were undeserving of the most basic of human rights to food, shelter, and medical care per the UN’s UDHR.
Completely dehumanized and viewed as non-human vermin by society’s better off, local business owners and middle class workers thought nothing of demanding that their local officials brutally force the chronically poor/jobless and homeless out of the public square, out of sight, and into hiding.
Nobody cared about the poor and all the harm and indignities we’ve been forced to suffer for the past 40 years. Nobody wanted to hear about our problems, never mind help us – or at the very least, refrain from further hurting us. Nobody even acknowledged us as human beings whose lives and human rights matter.
News media touted a booming economy, but it was only booming for the middle/upper-middle classes and the rich. Meanwhile, the fact that there were 94 million working age Americans who are not earning an income (after the economic recovery) was buried by those who decide what news gets reported.
Increasing deaths from poverty due to utility shut-offs from unaffordable rates charged by deregulated and privatized utility companies while LIHEAP funding for the poor was slashed to the bone, increasing nutritional diseases/malnourishment, lack of healthcare (including access to life-saving medicines), and homelessness all went deliberately unreported in mainstream news media for many years.
In 2002, nearly 30,000 poor households in Wayne County, Michigan suffered gas and electric shut-offs due to inability to pay. Detroit Water & Sewer shut off running water to 40,000 poor residents.
As of 2007, only 14% of America’s poorest people who were deemed eligible for subsidized housing and were able to get it, but that required being put on a waiting list of an average wait time of 10 years. That same year, Pennsylvania Power & Light (PP&L) reported a 110% increase in utility shut-offs to the poor.
Poor people who died or whose family members died as a result of utility shut-offs due to unrelieved poverty were either dismissed by news media as being overly frugal in “choosing to conserve” home heating and power, or were outright vilified, victim-blamed and even criminalized for their suffering – which is what happened to Sylvia Young, a poor single mother of seven who lost three of her children in a deadly house fire in March of 2010 as the result of an unsafe space heater that was used in a desperate attempt to not freeze to death in a bitter cold Detroit winter.
The news media viciously smeared Ms. Young, saying that she left her kids unattended while she “went out to a party store.” What really happened was she went out, trudging on foot through deep snow with no winter boots all the way to the nearest store to buy a second space heater to prevent herself and her children from freezing to death while an electrical fire from the faulty old space heater broke out at the home.
As a result of the character assassination job the news media did on Ms. Young, the poor young mother suffered further injustice when the state took custody of her remaining children and filed criminal negligence charges against her because of how that fire was reported by the news. And this was after Ms. Young tried in vain to get help for herself and her children with utility bill assistance, only to not get any.
Private charities have not provided adequate help to the chronically poor and failed to house the homeless – they are not a suitable substitute for a legitimate government social safety net and other systemic policies to eradicate poverty.
Nobody acknowledged the problem of our growing poverty crisis until enough middle class people fell into poverty in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. Many lost everything – their jobs, their 401(K)s, their health insurance, their cars, and their homes – and were never able to recoup as age discrimination shut them out of jobs permanently once the economy began to recover. As a result, many joined the ranks of the burgeoning underclass, struggling to survive on the streets, in homeless shelters, in “tent cities”, on meager crumbs of occasional begrudgingly given charity.
Discussing poverty within the framework of unearned privilege and classism isn’t popular, it’s considered “divisive.” And in order for self-styled “liberals” to be true to their professed principles of social justice, they would have to take a very strong stand against the economic terrorism of unrelieved abject poverty and involuntary joblessness. But that’s not as much fun as publicly performing boutique activism rituals for the latest cause du jour so they can pat themselves on the back and praise each other for being socially conscious people.
The jobless poor and homeless had increased dramatically in number over the past 40 years, until finally becoming so large in number that the truth about extreme poverty across the US could no longer be swept under the rug as more and more middle class people became poor. Only then did poverty and homelessness start to matter – sort of.
Capitalism works like a Ponzi scheme. And for a growing number of people, it’s more like a no-pea shell game. If you don’t accept that, then there’s no point in discussing solutions for those trapped at the very bottom left unable to economically provide for themselves with no clear path out of crushing poverty.