The Homeless You Will Always Have With You, But Not Too Close
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
by
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Washington

Every morning I take the four morning newspapers that I have subscribed to into the kitchen and glance at their front pages as I eat. Occasionally I have a little trouble downing my matutinal feast as the front pages, especially of the New York Times and the Washington Post, are usually repulsive. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times generally cover the same stories as the Times and the Post, but their editors are more considerate of us readers. They realize that their newspapers are probably going to be read, at least at first, by readers while breakfasting.

Thus no corpses, no people bleeding to death, no catastrophic accidents, and please, no victims of starvation or other grisly events involving food. Those are invariably the subjects covered by our Newspapers of Conscience or whatever they are pleased to call themselves.

Last Sunday — the Lord’s Day! — was no different. The Times portrayed 64 victims of shootings on its front page. At least they were portrayed in a dignified manner. Just headshots, though why they appeared on the front page I have no idea. I plan to take the matter up with a friendly psychiatrist. The Post featured a homeless man reposing on his side, in baggy, dirty clothing, apparently asleep. The picture on the front page was snapshot size, though it was repeated on the front page of the “Outlook” and it took up almost the entire page. It took so much of the page that a girl’s well-turned ankles could be seen as she passed the recumbent man. He, for his part, was at least well cushioned by fat; so he was getting some restful sleep.

The picture highlighted yet another article about homelessness in California, and it was written by one Chris Herring, who is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. I hope he gets his Ph.D. before he too is homeless. He spent thousands of words saying nothing of much interest. His point is that both Democrats and Republicans are intent on the same policy towards the homeless, which by the way is not true.

He concludes that “While Democratic politicians criminalize homelessness, they at least see its root causes in stagnating wages and lack of government-funded affordable housing — diagnoses supported by research. Trump, on the other hand, blames high taxes, overregulation, poor public service delivery, mental illness, and drug addiction.” Whereupon our young Ph.D. lays the blame for “mass homelessness” on Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Why not Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter too?

Actually the president has it about right when he attributes mental health and drug addiction as the causes of homelessness, but why stop there? Why not go back to the Nixon years? It was about that time that the nationwide extirpation of vagrancy laws began. Now the homeless are completely out of control.

Up until the late 1960s you could not just flop down on a sidewalk to nap. If you did it would only be a matter of time before a cop would be nudging you with his billy club. Now of course we have free shelters where you can sleep and soup kitchens where you can dine. One has to rouse oneself when it is time for the hired help to clean up the shelter, but that is not so bad. One can, if he or she is in San Francisco or any of the other enlightened California cities, even make his or her toilet in the great outdoors, say a lamppost, say a park bench. I saw a Washingtonian do it here in this enlightened city just the other day. After making one’s toilette one is free in our great cities to then go out and hassle tourists or beg on the street until it is time to dine at the shelter or perhaps some upscale soup kitchen supplied by one of our do-good organizations.

As I have said, the homeless are now completely out of control. They are people who for whatever reason have refused to conform to minimum standards of self-restraint or decency. Every relaxation of standards they just took advantage of. Every amenity offered them they took advantage of.

Now state and local government is criminalizing homelessness. It is back to the ’60s, and I favor it. Yet I doubt the homeless will just disappear. They are too far gone.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
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R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief ofThe American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: The Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn’t Work: Social Democracy’s Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery. He makes frequent appearances on national television and is a nationally syndicated columnist, whose articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, National Review, Harper’s, Commentary, The (London) Spectator, Le Figaro (Paris), and elsewhere. He is also a contributing editor to the New York Sun.
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