Reagan's legacy: Homeless death


The headline on sfgate is about as brutal as you can get: "The coming homeless die-off." But the brief story points to an alarming set of statistics: The median age of homeless people on the streets of US cities is now 53. The life expectancy for homeless people is 64. You get the point.

But here's the key political element:

Social scientists say the median age has been steadily increasing for many years, supporting the “big bang” theory that many of today’s street people hit the gutter back in the 1980s era of recession and slashings of social programs.

Having lived through the Reagan Era, and worked with homeless people in the early 1980s at the Haight Ashbury Switchboard, I can tell you that makes perfect sense. Vast libraries of books have been written about the Reagan Era, but one of the things it represented was the end of major federal support for low-cost housing in cities -- and the end of any concept of linking welfare payments to the cost of housing.

There were a lot of people living on General Assistance and SSI in San Francisco in the late 1970s, and most of them had homes. That's because public assistance programs provided enough income to cover the rent on a cheap place. Between GA and food stamps, people who were, for whatever reason, unable to work wound up in crappy apartments and sometimes crappier SROs, but they weren't on the streets.

Yes: Some of those people had serious substance-abuse issues. Yes: SSI and GA checks were going, in part, for drugs and booze. But even ignroing the notion that it's much better for a drunk to have an SRO room than to be homeless, it's also cheaper. San Francisco spends a fortune on homeless services, and if the feds (and the City and County) had indexed public assistance to the cost of housing (which happened pre-Reagan) the toll on the local taxpayers would almost certainly be lower.

So Reagan's policies are now killing people on the streets of San Francisco. All these years later.




without the overwhelming approbation of the people. As I recall, he won one of his two election victories by winning 49 of the 50 States.

Moreover, successive Presidents, including Clinton and Obama, have maintained those policies, recognizing how popular Reagan and his policies were.

Sure, there are always losers when anything changes, but that doesn't mean there's a more perfect solution out there. Or at least not one that the voters are willing to pay more taxes for.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:35 am

An even more popular alternative might be to simply walk mentally ill people out into a field and shoot them; then you wouldn't have to spend all that money on food stamps. Is it that such policies are "popular" or simply that the voters have no fragment of a clue what's going on?

Posted by Dave on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

more in taxes to help someone they do not know and who, in the midns of many Americans, simply did not make intelligent decisions or make the appropriate sacrifices.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

"Reagan could never have gained power to do these things without the overwhelming approbation of the people. As I recall, he won one of his two election victories by winning 49 of the 50 States."

That's an especially naive and ignorant comment. Polls taken at the time showed that most of his policies were opposed by a majority of the electorate so his two wins had zero to do with the popularity of his policies.

If you knew anything about elections, you'd know that rarely does a politician's stands on big issues be the most important factor in whether the pol wins an election or re-election.

The following are all more important: the amt of $ the pol's re-election team has to spend relative to the opponent, the quality of the re-election campaign team and the opponent's team, how good are each in front of the camera, how well do the two connect with people, how good does each campaign team use the media, etc.

In all those factors - none of which had anything to do with policies - Reagan's team blew away both Carter and Mondale's.

Carter had a legitimate excuse of the Iranians holding US hostages - and the resulting blow-up in oil prices (Iran was a major oil supplier and that oil was turned off when the Islamic nutcases took control of Iran) and thus the subsequent inflation and weakness in the economy for his defeat while Mondale's effort was pathetic considering what he could have hit Reagan with but didn't.

Don't be so naive or if you're not, stop trying to BS all here.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

very popular policies. It helps to have a weak opponent, as Reagan did the second time around, but even so that just means that the opponent's policies were deemed to be weaker.

You can whine that Reagan's policies pushed the nation to the right, which they did. And that we have never really gone back from that, adding to reagan's significance. But you canot credibly argue that he was not popular - his ratings consistently remain high even after all this time.

Just because you don't like what he did does not mean that most people didn't. I attribute much of the prosperity that I have achieved to the Reagan/Thatcher revolution of thirty years ago.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 8:22 am

The kernel of San Francisco's homeless crisis was the demolition of 3-4000 SRO units to make way for Moscone Center. It is a travesty that SPUR, which pimped for redevelopment, demolished a structure within spitting distance of Moscone to build their developer lobbyist palace that was subsidized by federal tax dollars.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:48 am

a state-of-the-art conference center (the high-spending American heart surgeons were here just last week) has helped more homeless than those crappy SRO's ever did.

Oh, and BTW, several SRO's have closed because the city kept piling more and more regulations onto them.

The real solution to SF homelessness is for SF to stop being a magnet for homeless people from elsewhere. Until that is fixed, the rest is futile.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 10:59 am

"The real solution to SF homelessness is for SF to stop being a magnet for homeless people from elsewhere. Until that is fixed, the rest is futile."

This. Of course, it is in the interest of the SF homeless/nonprofit/industrial complex for SF to continue to attract homeless people from all over the country. After all, what would they do without "clients"?

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:27 am

Greyhound ticket to San Francisco, knowing that they will receive a welter of services and care, and of course also getting such people off their books and onto ours.

SF's homeless policy should focus on how to stop this shameless horse-trading in homeless people. All SF taxpayers have to pay higher taxes because nobody is managing this exodus of the unwanted and uneconomic.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 8:33 am

Wait. Other cities are shipping their problem to us, and it's our fault? And you really believe that the officials in the cities performing "Greyhound therapy" on their homeless people actual give a shit what happens when those people get off the bus?

Are you allowed to cut your own meat?

Posted by swamped on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

We chose to provide unreasonably generous benefits and services for the homeless and, as a result, we get an unending flow of them here. This in turn means that the city isn't really trying to fix the city's homeless problem - we are trying to fix the nation's homeless problem by hanging out the welcome mat.

I have no idea whether those other cities care or not. I do know that our policy is self-defeating.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

Wait. Other cities are shipping their problem to us, and it's our fault? And you really believe that the officials in the cities performing "Greyhound therapy" on their homeless people actual give a shit what happens when those people get off the bus?

Are you allowed to cut your own meat?

Posted by swamped on Mar. 31, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

This is an urban legend. I'm homeless and my contacts in the community are pretty extensive. I've been homeless for almost a decade & I've never met a single person who was sent here from somewhere else. Years ago there was a program where SF would send certain classes of homeless back to their hometown, teenage runaways mainly, but I'm pretty sure that program was cut a long time ago.

Posted by pete moss on Apr. 07, 2013 @ 8:17 am

I did see an (obviously) homeless guy with a smart phone the other day though.

Stolen, perhaps?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2013 @ 8:52 am

Pete, you live in a camper, a traveling home. So while the bureaucrats might call you homeless, I would say you are simply living independently. Hats off to you for carrying this off, because it takes skill, resourcefulness, and a willingness to buck convention. But "homeless" is almost a meaningless term to describe the situation of independent residents like yourself.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Apr. 08, 2013 @ 10:54 am

to Rush Limbaugh, who was said to have coined it to make light of being homeless.

Now I favor "rolling homeless" to describe those with operable motor vehicles.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 08, 2013 @ 11:22 am

It's centuries old.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 7:19 am

Aw shucks. I'm still dying to find who you were back in the day, Sally? Jaye? Pam? Don't be a tease, head over to the sf mess group on FB and introduce yourself.

Posted by pete moss on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

The replacement costs of 3500 units at $350K to construct per unit would be $1.225 billion. Ain't no way that Moscone's revenues or spill over will generate that kind of cash for housing or services. Of course, the best way to prevent homelessness is to preserve affordable housing and not demolish it for conventions.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:34 am

Most of us would rather have gleaming convention centers, art museums, hotels and restaurants than a few cessy blocks of homeless people.

Consider yourself an outvoted, outdated minority.

Improving services for the homeless merely attracts more of them. There are an unlimited number of homeless people and we should not encourage them to come to SF with "services".

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

They were not homeless, they lived in SRO rooms until those rooms were demolished by redevelopment policies that today most all in the SF mainstream agree were horribly misguided.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

You cannot possibly blame the current SF homeless problem on what happened 20/30 years ago. not least because half of those homeless people who lived in those SRO's are now dead.

And there is no city on the planet that prospers by retaining it's slums and ghetto's, and forsaking development and an expansion of the tax base.

Just like Tim, you spend all your time being nostalgic about what this city was like 30-40 years ago when, based on my visits here back in thatd ay, it was a far worse place then than now.

If you want to build SRO's, then go to the voters and see if they want to pay for them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

Marcos is making a point that is relevant, because first of all, many of those "homeless people who are all dead" are not. There is a huge population of elderly homeless. Most are veterans who came back from Vietnam with a heroin problem & no government assistance. The irony...You may visit SF, but I live next to the Tenderloin the most populated neighborhood of homeless people and services. Dislocating SROs for the Moscone Center is an example of a long history San Francisco has for dislocating diverse neighborhoods (The Fillmore, The Mission District) in order to comply with big business developers. Attracting tourists & investors does in fact generate income, but it does not attribute to the people who need assistance. Even today in Bayview and Hunters Point, they are developing and pushing minorities out. Other than income, what is achieved by these decisions? Do we want San Francisco to be full of white people in suits & ties? Diversity is vital and necessary for the city to maintain it's beauty and original charm. The point is: Reagans legacy DID perpetuate homelessness, because yes there's a budget for temporary services, but not enough for long term plannings (section housing, food stamps, etc...) Reagan favored wealthy middle class. That's undeniable and you can see it in SF, everywhere today.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 11:16 am

Lookit what they had planned for us in 1948:

For those who insist that the solution to the housing affordability crisis is to build more housing, they sure seem at ease arguing that reducing the amount of bottom-level housing has nothing to do with the affordability crisis.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 11:54 am

SF only has a lot of homeless because, historically, we provided better benefits to them, thereby attracting them from neighboring cities and even states.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

I think you've never actually lived among the mess that that created. Well I have, and sorry but poo, needles and used condoms in the streets, plus homeless/drunks/addicts also in the streets being more exposed to theft, violence and other types of human predation is neither what I want nor better nor cheaper than housing them.

Families also have to live in those areas too, ones who can't afford something in a better place. Nobody ever considers that part. Is it right that those kids grow up thinking this is normal? Is that an environment conducive to breaking a cycle of poverty? The answer to both questions is no.

This doesn't have to be a question of who deserves what, if having basic human compassion is a problem for you. Just ask yourself what kind of city you want to live in and the most cost effective way to achieve that. If you think the TL and Mission have no effect on you, you're kidding yourself.

I actually think the city needs to start trying to document exactly how out-of-towners get here and start billing (and/or suing) the cities and shelters that buy their bus tickets. I met a guy who said the drug treatment center gave him a ticket to SF the day he got out of treatment. These municipalities need to be made to take care of their own problems. $50k per person, that ought to get the point across.

Posted by Shannon on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

You might want to read what you wrote before hitting enter.

But if you are asking me whether I'd rather have a convention center full of lawyers, surgeons and business successes, or a few blocks of urine-stinking homeless people, then it's a no brainer.


Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

They weren't homeless until they were evicted and their homes demolished, homes that subsequent generations of lower income will never have access to, they'll just fall off of the edge. A City needs the full range of housing for its population just like it needs the full range of parks.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

than then. Most of those displaced have long ago died or moved away or been housed elsewhere. The real SF homeless problem is caused by the continuoing migration of homeless people to SF because we make too much provision for them, not too little.

It's insane to think we could ever build or maintain enough homes for every poor, homeless person who thinks he might like to live in SF.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 6:58 am

San Francisco would not be a magnet for Homeless if Reagan hadn't cut federal subsidies! This is the whole point of the article. Why do you think San Francisco became a magnet for Homeless? In the 70's there were no Homeless that came to San Francisco because the federal government provide assistance to all cities in America!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

The elimination of 3-4000 units of cheap SRO housing where Moscone is another factor that contributes to homelessness.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

that accrued from Moscone more than compensated for the cost of providing such services.

Plus having a world-class conference facility is far more economically important than having even more homeless people.

The real problem is that SF provides too much help, sucking more and more homeless in. The reagan cuts would have been fine except that SF tried to compensate for that, making it a magnet.

If you want the homeless to go, stop helping them, making other places more attractive to them.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

They weren't homeless when they were living in SRO's. Moscone exacerbated the homelessless that you whine about.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

The elimination of 3-4000 units of cheap SRO housing where Moscone is another factor that contributes to homelessness.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 14, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

So someone who left power thirty years ago is still responsible for our problems, despite two Democratic Presidents since then.

Personally, I blame Calvin Coolidge!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:25 am

It was Millard Fillmore who made everyone homeless. Tim needs to start writing for The Onion, whose stories his increasingly resemble.

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:57 am

in both houses much of that time.

Reagan was a terrible president in so many ways, not to mention this one, the singular vision of blaming everything on Reagan is a bit odd.

Posted by matlock on Mar. 28, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

That's a dishonest comment. A lot of those votes got 100% Republican votes and about 20% or less Democratic votes - or said another way: 80% or more opposition from Democrats. To blame the passing of those bills on the Democrats when 20% of them are voting for them - rather than the Republicans when 100% are voting for them - is absurd mathematically and in every other sense.

You're either ignorant of math, dishonest, or not aware that rarely have Democratic politicians voted as one block as if they were a group of mindless bots like the Republican politicians have for many decades (probably at least 100 years now). Your comment was an especially stupid one but that's what typically flows from your finger tips.

At least your consistent.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

The work of Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg is a classic study of Reagan Democrats. Greenberg analyzed white ethnic voters (largely unionized auto workers) in Macomb County, Michigan, just north of Detroit. The county voted 63 percent for John F. Kennedy in 1960, but 66 percent for Reagan in 1980. He concluded that "Reagan Democrats" no longer saw Democrats as champions of their working class aspirations, but instead saw them as working primarily for the benefit of others: the very poor, feminists, the unemployed, African Americans, Latinos, and other groups. In addition, Reagan Democrats enjoyed gains during the period of economic prosperity that coincided with the Reagan administration following the "malaise" of the Carter administration. They also supported Reagan's strong stance on national security and opposed the 1980s Democratic Party on such issues as pornography, crime, and high taxes.[1]

I would also suggest you look into Boll Weevil Democrats.

The world you you people have created for yourselves.

Posted by matlock on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 3:03 am

... to achieve the barest semblance of erudition.

Wiki of course discourages article writers from publishing their unsubstantiated opinions under the Wikipedia banner; but is it okay to substantiate such opinions with the unsubstantiated opinions of others?

1) ^ a b Greenberg (1996)
^ Greenberg, Stanley B. (November 11, 2008). "Goodbye, Reagan Democrats". The New York Times.

2) ^ [1]

3) ^ [2]

4) ^ George F. Will, "Suddenly, a fun candidate," Washington Post, January 4, 2012

5) ^ [3]"

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 7:03 am

Why would it shock you that a president who was in power for 8 yrs not all that long ago (if you're 45 and older) and changed things radically - changes that have been maintained or even more slanted in the direction he took things such as lowering of tax rates on the richest 0.1% - would still matter?

Did Reagan radically lower tax rates on the most rich? Yep
Does that still affect things big time today such that deficits have blown up like they first did under his admin when he did it? Yep
Did Reagan greatly increase corporate power and weaken labor and is that still a factor today? Yep
Were any of the people on the present US Supreme Court nominated by Reagan? Yep, Scalia and Kennedy - both of whom have played huge roles in the last few years in majorly consequential decisions like Citizens United.

I could go on and on showing how wrong your comment is but I'll stop now before I make you look too stupid.

Your idiocy is pretty funny when one remembers all your team does is bitch about FDR's policies and how they still matter greatly yet he was in office 80 years ago. So the policies of a 1930's president are still *really* relevant to your team but not the policies of a man who anyone older than 45 remembers his presidency well because they experienced it (and it's not a good memory for those who paid attention and who gave a shit about this country).

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

Tax rates when down across the board, as part of a genuine tax reform that also simplified the tax code by getting rid of many deduction (e.g. for sales tax).

And, as Laffer predicted, the tax revenues collected increased even though the tax rates declined, because there was less evasion and avoidance, and because people had more incentive to work hard and invest and succeed.

The problem I had with Reagan (and with every other Prez for that matter) is that, while he did the right thing on taxes, he did the wrong thing on spending. Instead of cutting public spending alongside with taxes, he increased government spending, and so his "smaller government" strategy, while popular, never really came to fruition.

But then every Prez becomes spineless when it comes to making real cuts, so I am not so sure we should single Reagan out for that failure, when he made such a difference in the lives of so many of us.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 8:29 am

Actually revenue per capita decreased and the deficit ballooned, and the Laffer Curve has been completely discredited as a serious economic theory. I call it the Laugher Curve.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 9:01 am

Just making stuff up as usual.

In 1982, taxes went *up* on the lowest workers as the Social Security witholding tax went from 12% to 15%: a 25% jump in the tax on workers' labor transactions and the largest single tax hike in U.S. History.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 9:11 am

The formula, as originally devised, was proving to be inadequate to meet future SS liabilities. It's not an investment fund at all, like most pension funds, but rather a current and future liability on the general fund. In fact, reagan is the only Prez in recent times to address the looming SS problem.

Kicking the can down the road is not a policy.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 9:17 am

The Lie that Social Security is going bankrupt -repeating it doesn't make it true.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 11:32 am

they are proving inadequate as there are more retired people supported by relatively less working people.

That said, SS isn't in as bad a mess as MediCare and MediCaid, so perhaps that was your point. Benefits will need to be cut.

Posted by anon on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 11:47 am

money coming in to pay the benefits. In fact, there's a surplus which the government spends, rather than invests.

The baby boom ageing will change all that, and it is widely predicted that SS contributions will very soon be elss than payouts, leading to problems down the line.

The solution? higher FICA taxes, lower benefits and a higher retirement age.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 11:59 am

It should be noted that over the past 50 years both the federal and state governments have mostly relied on increasing regressive payroll and sales taxes to fund operations, while reducing taxes on the asset holders such as landlords, property speculators, and big businesses. Assuming the government actually needed extra taxes to shore up the SS "fund" (a gross misnomer by any stretch), they could have used instead a 5% tax on rent income, or a 1% tax on big business gross receipts, or added a 10% tax on capital gains, or eliminated all of the billion-dollar tax subsidies given to the country's economic elites. Instead, they imposed an even higer regressive payroll tax on workers. Now, 30 years later, there's still nothing in the "fund" other than a bunch of paper IOUs.

Most US workers kept increasing their standard of living for 200 years until politicians started attacking them in the 1950's and '60's with high regressive sales and payroll taxes, and causing above average inflation. Those who had assets and lived on rent, interest, dividend, and capital gain income saw their standard of living increase, often dramatically, while those unfortunate to be born into families that didn't have rental real estate or extensive stock and bond portfolios have seen their standard of living continue to decline, often dramatically.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

premium to buy into a pool of insurance to provide you with disability and pension benefits in the future.

That is why the contributions are capped, because the insurance policy benefits are also capped. it's more like buying fire insurance than it is a tax.

So raising general taxes to cover future shortfalls in SS or MediCare is unfair, as there would be no corresponding increase in benefits.

More generally, sales and payroll taxes get hiked because they are the broadest-based taxes, and it is an established principle of "good" taxes that they be as nroadly based as possible.

Our deficits are too large to be met by taxing only capital or investment, or by taxing only the wealthy. The debt load is so vast that everyone has to pay taxes - most people making the minim wage have to pay some taxes.

If you want to go back 100 years to a time when only the rich paid tax, then you need to roll back spending to that era too, and get rid of all the FDR and JFK/LBJ welfare boondoggle.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2013 @ 12:22 pm