Desperation Hidden in Plain Sight: Coastal Edition

We’ve regularly featured “How Is Your Economy?” queries to readers to get a more granular view of how different regions and industries in the US (and selectively abroad) are faring. A short thread in Links yesterday has me wondering if I’ve been asking the wrong question all these years. Asking about overall conditions can direct commentary away from reports on signs of desperation, unless there’s a lot of local distress.

In fact, with seemingly ever-rising inequality and in the US, escalating (and in the case of healthcare, obscenely escalating) costs of essentials versus decades of stagnant real wages translates into more poverty and economic insecurity. A couple of years of somewhat improved average hourly wages does not change this overall picture.

It’s way too easy to cite supporting data point from memory. Deaths of despair and ever more widespread addiction. Homeless encampments and feces on sidewalks in San Francisco. WalMart parking lots as a sometimes safe haven for those living in cars. Hepatitis A among the homeless in Los Angeles. New York City with a Gini coefficient as high as China’s. A 70% increase in the past ten years in the number of homeless students in public schools.

It’s easy to pretend that these problems exist mainly in flyover, but as the examples above show, they are often in affluent areas where exploding housing costs have squeezed and often displaced those of modest means.

And out of embarrassment, reluctance to confront our powerlessness or potential culpability, or being already besieged by our own difficulties, many of us either ignore or only partly register the distress of others. Lambert and I have often commented on how the Acela classes seem able to block out the evidence just outside the train window that a lot is not well in America. There are always homeless in New York City; I usually give some of them small bills, yet that feels like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound, or like trying to assuage my guilt over my inability to make a difference, even though I know intellectually these problems need to be addressed on a collective level, not via charity. And then there are cases like Torso Man, a legless beggar on a square board with wheels who I usually encountered on the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue, where I’d have to contain my reflexive horror at his condition when giving him money…and worse, knowing that he’d probably value some conversation, but having no idea how to go about doing that (with the benefit of hindsight, offering to pick him up some food might have been the best approach, but I always ran into him when time pressed).

Forgive the long-winded introduction to some sightings from the Pacific Northwest yesterday. Hopefully readers will volunteer whether they see similar examples of desperation in their environs. Some picks from Links yesterday:

Krystyn Walentka
January 26, 2020 at 10:34 am

Consider this “On The Ground Reporting”:

I drove down I-5 from Olympia, WA past Eugene, OR yesterday. I have never seen this in my travels before, but the rest stops were full of people suffering form the economy. Young women holding signs “Pregnant, Low on gas, Anything helps!”, so many dilapidated campers and cars packed full of belongings. And at a rest stop between Portland and Eugene I pulled into a spot to find a woman attempting to find some privacy to shoot up whatever it was to ease her pain. (Yes, I fond another spot to park.)

Before the internet bubble was the wealth bubble, and that is where these people who say “The economy is great!” are living.

January 26, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Another article shared with me this morning. Right in our legislature’s back yard. Tensions Rise In Olympia As People With Few Options Park RVs Outside Washington Capitol

January 26, 2020 at 11:39 am

Recall the Okies of the 1930s. All the Okies had to stop their pain was alcohol. Seems there were two main items that moved all those thousands to do what you report seeing: economic, getting booted off land they used to share crop along with collapses in price of crops, and environmental, as in Dust Bowl.

Some quick reads, offering parallels:

I wonder if among the members of this new diaspora there is the same sense of decency captured in the Hobo Ethical Code,, and whether there is any organizing of the afflicted along the same lines — the hobos of yesteryear created a legally constituted union to avoid vagrancy laws.

January 26, 2020 at 11:54 am

I remember doing an all-night drive from Seattle through Oregon down to Jacksonville (near Medford) for a gig several years ago, and the signs of meth use were quite obvious whenever we stopped for gas or a break. So this doesn’t surprise me a whole lot — rural America is in crisis in many places, and it seems to be getting worse every year.

January 26, 2020 at 5:56 pm

I-5 between Eugene and Portland (rarely OIympia) is very familiar stomping grounds, and I’ve stopped at all the rest stops – but Krystyn’s post makes me see it with fresh eyes. I didn’t realize it looked so bad, though there are always people begging at the rest areas.

The homelessness problem here is severe, partly because conditions are relatively favorable (though I’m glad Krystyn is heading south). It reflects a continuing Westward migration, high rents, and Fiery Hunt is probably right about “Trim-a-grants”, migratory ag labor.

“Hobos” in their various modern forms mean the Great Recession never really ended. I’m wondering when that will catch up with us. I suppose Trump’s election and the resulting TDS are among the signs.

Fiery Hunt claimed that the desperation that Krystyn saw wasn’t due to the overall economic conditions but the legalization of marijuana, which allegedly produced “Trim-a-grants” chasing harvests for unstable cash wages, with many becoming addicts. No one disputed or confirmed his thesis. But either way, would you see anyone doing this on anything other than a seasonal basis (like high school or college kids between terms) unless they were desperate?

Admittedly, Oregon and Washington, even the better off part west of the Cascades, is more agricultural than many might think. But Krystyn (confirmed by Oregoncharles) saw wretched conditions near Portland and Eugene, a university town. Not the image most Americans have of the West Coast states.

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  1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Just my opinion, but I believe that you of all people should not feel guilty for the crimes & greed of others that are responsible for the situation & I state that even without taking into account the amazing work you, Lambert & the rest of your team do to uncover those responsible with the why of this mess, that is much needed in order to change things for the better which is truly what those many unfortunates need.

    1. rd

      Much of the system has been designed to crush people. Parking tickets are a good example. Surprisingly enough, a single parking ticket can be enough to doom someone to poverty if they don’t pay it on time. Seven states have now eliminated driver license suspensions if you don’t pay a parking ticket because a driving license suspension has almost a 50% job loss associated with it.

      The way the cycle works is you get a parking ticket and don’t pay it. The fines increase so they can quickly exceed $1,000. You don’t show up to a court date because you moved and didn’t update your home address. The judge can now suspend your license. You now can’t get to work, so you lose your job. If you drive without a valid license and get pulled over, then you can even end up in jail, which is virtually guaranteed job loss.

      So now the need to collect that $35 parking ticket fee may have created a homeless person. There are a multitude of “small” items like this that add up to a mountain.

      1. maps

        Not sure about other states, but in California being caught driving on a suspended license results in a mandatory 30 day impound of the vehicle

        1. Liberal Mole

          My friend on disability (cancer survivor, chronic migraine sufferer, arthritis, MS, in constant pain) had her car disabled (thieves stole her tires, tools, and battery) then had her car towed. She can’t afford to pay the impound or fix the car, and now has to figure out how to get around without a car in a bad neighborhood. In the meantime the impound is raising her fine several hundred every day and will eventually send the bill to collection. Our society truly is EVIL to the poor.

          1. smoker

            Yes, the impounding of stolen vehicles is criminal. I forked out $225 dollars last year for a loved one’s, found stolen old vehicle in Silicon Valley/Santa Clara County, California, despite picking it up within forty five minutes of being informed that it was found. I’m betting the police could have left it parked in the residential neighborhood where it was found, given that they knew we would be retrieving it very quickly. San Francisco is the only city I’m aware of in California which somewhat at least alleviates those criminal fines of car theft victims. And the theft victims are usually the impoverished who own the most popularly stolen cars, OLD Ones.

            Don’t count on California to pass a State Law banning those fines totally though, they’ll let local Reps decide how evil they want to be. When I told my local State Rep about it (and the horrid way the police handled it), they never once brought up sponsoring a law for this neck of the Silicon Valley woods, they could care less – more punitive fees in the coffer brutalizing the vulnerable. I found myself wondering whether the impound contractors are also in the business of stealing cars on tow trucks in broad daylight from busy areas.

            1. flora

              People think state tax cuts mean everyone pays less. Not so. It means the money once brought in by taxes, possibly progressive taxes, has been shifted to money brought in by fines and fees, or increasing regressive state sales taxes, almost always levied on those least able to pay. See: Ferguson, Missouri for example.

              1. smoker

                Yep, and California has had the Nations Highest Average Regressive Sales Tax rate –just under 10 Percent currently, for how long now? – punishing millions of its own elderly and impoverished citizens for decades for not buying through Amazon, et al when they weren’t even online™ and couldn’t have afforded the access even if they wanted it. California also has stunningly onerous fees and penalties meted out by California’s countless City Councils – including fees for the impoverished in jail cells (many times on utterly bogus charges like being a little bit foggy from their Doctor prescribed psyche meds,) such as in Fremont California, a few minutes away from Silicon Valley! – which have been preventing the impoverished from getting back on their feet for decades.

                Because of the unique situation of gross overcrowding in California, facility upgrades for those convicted of crimes are more common than in other states. For example, the Fremont Police Department in California is now offering an option to pay a one-time fee of $45 plus $155 a night to those inmates serving short sentences on lesser charges, so that they can stay in a smaller facility and avoid the county jail.

                (I was going to repond to you yesterday, but my browser went bonkers and froze up after I posted my comment below, which of course really bummed me out.)

            2. smoker

              and believe me, the finer details are even more horrifying, but I’m petrified of revealing them because I already have and nothing was done about it, I rightfully fear vengeance against my loved one, or myself because it’s a very small WEB Whirled.

              I will say this, if your car is stolen and you had a LoJack tracking device installed, or bought it used and don’t know whether one is installed or not, it’s supposed to be common knowledge among all US police departments that the LoJack device operates even if the current owner didn’t install it. It doesn’t cost money to check it, the only cost is the initial installation cost, and the police can immediately check via the VIN number as to whether there’s an installed LoJack device and track down a signal from it; unlike what I was informed repeatedly by a huge Metro area police department – until repeatedly calling LoJack to verify and pushing back with the police.

      2. Wyoming

        Very good point.

        I am a volunteer patrol officer with my local police dept. In our town and I believe the entire state when someone gets pulled over and is driving on a suspended license the car is automatically towed/impounded. Getting it back from impound costs serious money.

        One of the most common ways to get pulled over is non-functioning brake lights or maybe not coming to a full stop at signs or traffic lights. Once this happens the officer is required to have dispatch check for warrants, license privileges, registration. It is amazing how often there are issues. Does the officer see drug paraphernalia in the car (very often) – things go down hill fast then. Is the driver impaired (occasionally) – bad news. Does the driver get disrespectful (sometimes) or act terrified (occasionally) – if so the drug K-9 dog is asked for and if it alarms on smelling the car – well that is not good news either.

        As I drive around town I see cars all the time with lights out, out of date plates and such. I don’t call the officers – I get the drivers attention and tell them what is wrong and to go fix it. If, however, I see someone doing something which endangers others I do call for assistance. I observe impaired and/or reckless drivers occasionally and they get arrested. I have stopped 2 wrong way drivers by getting in the lane in front of them and stopping (luckily neither of them ran into my patrol car). I carry a case of water in the car and give it out to panhandlers and homeless folks who are in need. I drive by the places where the homeless are located and see if they are all right or need help badly – they all need help of course. I help change peoples flat tires all the time (I have gotten in trouble for doing that) and have given a few rides to people who needed one bad (I would have gotten in big trouble if they knew that).

        It is a colossal mess out there. There are plenty of really bad evil people who will do you and others harm in a heartbeat. I have thought more than once when I got up close to someone that I had made a big error and was in trouble, but it turned out all right – some folks just seem very threatening at first contact – I do not carry any weapons btw. But I can easily see why some police/citizen interactions go off rails unexpectedly. There are huge numbers of folks on hard times who just cannot afford to deal with authorities but lack the knowledge (common sense) or ability of how to avoid such interactions – and it is not possible to know which of these groups you are dealing with many times. Things go south many times for no good reason. Well off people tend to like law enforcement as long as they get to ignore what ever laws they don’t like – and in the world we live in they tend to get their way…..

        1. maps

          Interestingly, as another way to punish the poor, if your license is suspended through failure to pay, you can not get a restricted license to go to work and such. But, if your license is suspended through a DUI, then you can get a restricted license. One can’t help but notice that anyone can get a DUI and not everyone can afford ticket costs

        2. TimH

          Sounds like you are a reasonable human being, but two points about your comment “Does the driver get disrespectful (sometimes) or act terrified (occasionally) – if so the drug K-9 dog is asked for” come to mind.

          Firstly, do you really call a K-9 on being disrespected?

          Secondly, the purpose of a traffic stop is just that. It can’t be delayed, such for calling a K-9, without reasonable suspicion. The signs of stress lead you to a cop-sense hunch, which isn’t up the standard. “Police cannot extend a traffic stop in order to have a dog sniff a vehicle for drugs unless they have independent reason for the delay, the Supreme Court declare…”

          1. Wyoming

            We are not talking about an attack K-9. A drug sniffing dog – they could not scare anyone.

            Normally no one actually gets nasty without some reason (not talking about mental issues or impairment issues). Cussing an officer or acting contemptuous usually happens due to the person experiencing some triggering stress – and they lose control, or maybe they are just trying to be distracting from something else (the lack of common sense I mentioned).

            Your point about reasonable suspicion being required to hold someone on a traffic stop for a long period of time is correct. But that time limit set by law for a routine traffic stop is easily within the time it takes to have a backup K-9 officer arrive on scene (our ‘city’ is not that big) and the officer with the K-9 just has to arrive and walk around the vehicle with the dog – then if the dog alerts then you now have reasonable suspicion of a crime and cause to detain (not arrest) and search the vehicle. If the dog does not alert then you just have to chalk it up to another interaction with a nasty shithead – an occupational hazard I suppose – and they get their ticket and go on about their day. In our city only 40% of traffic stops result in tickets – people just get a warning or are told to fix their car or stop running stop signs or whatever they did wrong. Of course, if it is the 3-4th time they have been stopped and warned they get a ticket.

            I have seen a significant number of drug busts happen this way. Tens of millions of dollars of drugs – enough fentanyl to literally kill tens of millions of people. Huge piles of meth, heroin, etc. And it all happened because the person stopped brought it on themselves. Officers talk all the time about how if someone who had ended up arrested had just acted like a normal person they would have got away scott free. Of course this also means that that exact thing happens all the time – someone stopped just acts calm and cool and walks away with the drugs.

            Nothing about law enforcement is simple or easy.

            1. TimH

              I once read a piece of advice for ‘kids with attitude’ when dealing with LEOs. It was put in the form of a question… is it really that difficult to lose that hard-ass demeanor for just two minutes of interaction, and so avoid escalation beyond the initial stop?

              1. Kfish

                Are you referring to the teenager, or the cop? Because only one of those has professional training on how to deescalate.

          2. Monty

            Good luck explaining that to the irate officer whilst he has a vein popping out of his temple and his hand on his piece.

            1. JBird4049

              Which is the point, I believe. The police in many, many communities, or the TSA, Border Patrol, and Customs is not about keeping us safe, but rather to make us subservient. For many in the policing industry, even stating correctly that you have rights means you are giving lip and being disrespectful with often dreadful, but still legal consequences, for daring to be a free person and not a serf.

              1. Trent

                I’ve come to the conclusion that the TSA is about jobs. I think this country has been in a depression since 2000

        3. rosemerry

          What really worries me is the fear so many people in the USA have of their fellow-Americans(often with good cause), and the unfairness of the punishments for what are often small “crimes”. I have never driven in the USA, but in Australia and many European countries and now live in France. In over 60 years (!) of driving I have never been stopped for the issues so any US drivers report, and when I was guilty of speeding or parking or seatbelt “crimes” the police have been courteous and fair. Many drivers in France, apparently, lose their permits and I do not know how many are caught and punished, but the likelihood of that is low if the person is careful. I suppose the large number of possible offences in many parts of the USA makes nearly anyone vulnerable who drives a less than perfect vehicle and is less than a rich, white, influential individual.

        4. LawnDart

          @ Wyoming: “There are plenty of really bad evil people who will do you and others harm in a heartbeat.”

          I totally agree!

          And from my decade working law enforcement, I can tell you first-hand that some of the worst of these carry a gun and badge, while working their ways behind the color of law.

      3. Tim

        Thank you for raising the parking issue. Of all the parasitical nips at our standard of living and freedoms as Americans, is that trademarked?, parking extortion is the most common thing encountered among those who cannot or will not ride public transit, which has its own set of problems, from non-existence, to scheduling to criminality on board.

        In California, thanks to A.I., unpaid parking tickets result in the inability to renew the registration of the car at the end of its year, which leads to the stops and impound described and has created a market for junkers that are driven for a year and then dumped, scrapped, handed off to others or sold.
        Lack of mandatory proof of insurance is another way that cars get towed.
        The paper cards are easily counterfeited BTW.

        “The Resistance.” Simply break every parking meter or payment collection machine at which one parks. Credit card slots are the vulnerable part. Any foreign object with contaminants works. Saves on up to Eight Dollars an hour in San Francisco at certain times of day. The only negative about getting rid of plastic grocery bags is that it’s more difficult to shroud the broken meter.

        Next in the march of A.I. “Pay your parking with your phone–scan this.”
        This means if you don’t have a smart phone, you can’t park. As San Francisco and New York made illegal the non-acceptance of cash in retail, a sop to protect poor vulnerable communities of color who cannot get credit cards?, will they then make paying for parking with cash a requirement?

      4. lordkoos

        Aside from the costs of a ticket, towing fees in Seattle are also very costly should you incur them — close to $200 for the tow and impound, and then another $14 for every 12 hours that you fail to pick up the vehicle. And I can say from personal experience that sometimes tows are used as a form of harassment.

        Then if you wish to contest anything, or ask for mercy, it means wasting an entire day at the courthouse.

      5. Yves Smith Post author

        This was actually a key plot point in Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full. A guy who works in a cold storage warehouse somehow has his car impounded. Through mishaps (public transportation, etc), he gets to the pound just at closing time and they refuse to take his money and give him the car. He jumps the fence, gets arrested, and wind up in prison. Wolfe documented that this type of thing happens in 1998. And the presentation made clear the warehouse worker had done nothing terribly wrong, he was a victim of cascading bad luck and merciless bureaucracies.

  2. notabanktoadie

    Fiery Hunt claimed that the desperation that Krystyn saw wasn’t due to the overall economic conditions but the legalization of marijuana, which allegedly produced “Trim-a-grants” chasing harvests for unstable cash wages, with many becoming addicts. Yves [bold added]

    The conclusion I draw from the Bible is that poverty is largely a result of economic injustice and that otherwise excessive alcohol and drug use is a (legitimate under the circumstances) means to cope with poverty.

    So attacks on drug and alcohol use, besides not abolishing the root cause which is injustice, are CRUEL too.

    1. vlade

      I guess that’s why you have so many cocaine addicts in the top 10%.. Can’t remember what is the slang for the bored South England housewives on coke (or other stuff).

      Drugs and alcohols are escapes, different people need to escape.

      1. notabanktoadie

        Good point. Injustice harms those who “profit” from it too.

        As for bored housewives, I suspect they are victims of the unjust system too – not that the use of stimulants or pain killers are bad per se.

        Anyway, per the Bible, drug and alcohol use should be minimum in a just economic system.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          The trouble with the bible is it seems to require as much insight to read as it did to write. Making assumptions based on it is often going where angels fear to tread.

          As to addiction, that comment of yesterday wasn’t worth replying to. It had no source or reasoning other than legalization – thin gruel indeed for a coherent argument – and with nothing to back it up was just as or more likely inspired by the old fear of reefer madness raising its oougly head as from any legitimate argument about addiction (which, btw, has still eluded all full understanding, scientific or otherwise).

          1. notabanktoadie

            The trouble with the bible is it seems to require as much insight to read as it did to write.

            It’s very simple indeed, the insight comes from reading it sufficiently (c.f. Proverbs 8, John 8:31-32, etc, etc, etc.), and comes from BOTH the Old and New Testaments. It’s taken me YEARS, btw, so I suggest people don’t delay starting.

            Making assumptions based on it is often going where angels fear to tread.

            Tell me something I don’t know since I’ve read the ENTIRE Bible, and per the Bible, a loose tongue is dangerous indeed. So I do tread cautiously and if I misspeak, I should appreciate correction from someone who understands it better.

            1. Brooklin Bridge

              It sounds like you’ve done well reading. I read and read but never seem to understand. Now my eyes make it harder than ever; perhaps a good thing.

              1. notabanktoadie

                Well, as you indicate below, living accordingly, at least as much your current faith allows, is necessary too (“Faith without works is dead, being alone”). The two work hand-in-hand …

            2. Tom Bradford

              Trouble with the Bible is that you can find in it pretty much anything you want to:

              “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” – Mark 4:25

              “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Mark 25:30

              “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2

              Seems pretty much to condone the existing state of affairs in the US.

              1. notabanktoadie

                Mark 4:24-25: “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” [bold added]

                The context here is not money or material wealth but how well one has listened to the Word of God, which the seed represents.

                Mathew 25:30 is a warning wrt money hoarding.

                John 15:2 regards abiding in Christ, not growing in material wealth.

                So the problem you illustrate isn’t the Bible but hasty judges of it.

            3. Plenue

              The second half of the ‘entire’ Bible is laughable fanfiction, written in bad Greek, concocted by frauds who, objectively, did not understand the source material they were bastardizing.

              Try telling an Orthodox Jew that he needs to read the ‘whole’ ‘Bible’ to really get it.

              Do we also need to read the Koran and the Book or Mormon as well? Those are as equally bad fanfiction as the New Testament.

          2. The Historian

            I agree with you. You can’t just read verses in the Bible and think you know what that book is trying to tell you – you have to read it in it’s entirety and then you realize that what those cherry-picking preachers are telling you about the book is dead wrong.

            The Bible in its entirety is a story of a people who constantly rejected those qualities of compassion and sharing and were punished for it over and over, and yet it doesn’t seem that they ever paid attention for long to what God was trying to tell them – power and greed were more important in the short run even though it always led to their destruction. Even Jesus’s teachings haven’t gotten through to most of them – Paul certainly thought power was more important than good works. It’s no wonder that God gave up.

            1. Brooklin Bridge

              I think your comment comes from real and deep insight, but forgive me if I suspect the origin is from living it as much as from reading about it. Granted, reading can provide illumination, but it is always indirect.

              1. The Historian

                Actually, I am an atheist although I do enjoy some of the philosophy that I find in the Bible.

                Reading Jewish theologians and Jewish historians concurrently with rereading the Bible gives you a clearer view about what that book is about.

                1. Tom Bradford

                  The Bible is a fascinating historical document that records the transition of a society from pastoral nomadism to an urban culture – somewhat late in the day.

                  The problem is that thanks to the influence of the Church in the Middle Ages taking it as “gospel” its social mores and structure have become so deeply ingrained in “the West” that they seem natural, to the point that societies free of them and which developed their own social mores had to be ‘converted’ to the ‘truth’, often violently.

                  The ‘truth’ of the Bible that seems so evident to many is merely the result of a self-enforcing
                  feed-back – its ‘truth’ seems obvious because they have become the norms of the society they grew up in and take as being fundamental.

                  Hence you can read the Bible as a scientist reads a physics textbook – as being an explanation of why the rules of nature are what they are. But in fact those ‘rules’ of society the Bible seems to underpin are what they are because of that book. Hence it needs to be read critically, and the question constantly asked – is that necessarily true?

                  1. Harvey

                    The book known as the Bible was a political document of the Romans written as a consensus with the same aims as all political manifestos, to keep someone in power.
                    It is no accident that the sanctioned organisation that grew out of it was known as the the Holy Roman Catholic Church. It perpetuated the Roman empire in another form, and still does today.
                    How many of the strictures, teachings, rules etc grew out of the Roman culture of the time?

          3. Oregoncharles

            B.B. – I think that’s a misinterpretation of Fiery Hunt’s comment. That’s a classic picture of migrant agricultural labor, with a particular modern twist. The same sort of thing goes back to at least the 60s, with questions about where and how they’re going to live, esp. in the off season. Farmers used to maintain dorms for migrants, which were often awful and became very controversial. Living in vans is actually an improvement.

            I doubt the migrants are such a large factor, but the theory is plausible. Legal marijuana is a huge, labor-intensive business that grew up very suddenly. I’ll believe there are still kinks to work out.

            1. Brooklin Bridge

              Thanks Oregon..

              Interesting you should bring it up. I was just going over Fiery Hunt’s comments and thinking that perhaps I’d gotten it wrong and was about to re-read his comment of the other day.

              My apologies to Fiery Hunt; I only wish I could put all the egg on my face over the years onto the table with home fries. Come to think of it, I’d need a freezer.

            2. Fiery Hunt

              Thanks OC, you’re right…and no worries BB!…as a long time pothead (not much anymore), the last thing I meant was that pot was the source of poverty and addiction. I was trying to point out the pot culture has changed (a lot….from getting high and listening to music to multimillion dollar operations complete with delivery services and billboards) and a lot of the trimigrants don’t actually have a way back into this society/economy.

              Not judging just watching the impacts of corporatization on it.

              1. Brooklin Bridge

                Thanks Fiery Hunt. Though it has little to do with your comment, I am always a little suspicious about use of addiction in connection to pot. I realize anything can be addictive but some things are simply harder to get there with, such as coffee. I was already a young adult in the heady days of marijuana use in the mid 60’s and only once over a decade saw saw some one with what I would consider a real addiction level usage problem. Granted, the remarkable hysteria of officialdom made it a little hard to get a base line on what was and wasn’t “problem” usage (to them, even thinking the word “marijuana” to yourself meant you had irretrievably gone over to the other side), but still, it seemed considerably harder to develop hard core addiction to pot than say alcohol, tobacco or opiates.

        2. rd

          One of the key items that jumped out at me in the book “Hidden Figures” (not really covered in the film) was that most of the women calculators in the 50s and early 60s were black because the white women went back home after WW II ended. The black women calculators had very good jobs compared to what their men could get and their community supported them staying at work. The white women were generally expected to get married, stay home, and raise kids so they left their mathematics jobs to do dishes and laundry.

          No wonder there were songs like “Mother’s Little Helper” coming out in that era.

          1. The Historian

            I haven’t read the book but according to my research, black women were never in the majority of human computers at NACA/NASA. There isn’t a lot of data out there about how many women were employed in the East Area (white) or the West Area (black) but apparently at one time in its history, there were 400 human computers, 80 of which were black.

            NACA/NASA had such a shortage of mathematicians that it was willing to hire anyone, so NACA/NASA even hired married women with children. The kicker was the civil service exam that had to be passed to prove competency in mathematics that eliminated a lot of people who wanted those jobs.


            The story behind “Hidden Figures” was that black women passed the civil service tests too and contributed greatly to the space race, while facing severe stress due to segregation, but were ignored by historians who could only see white.

            1. Oregoncharles

              O.T., but I think an interesting bit of history: “Human computers” have a long history, especially in optics. Apparently the first modern lenses, developed in Austria, were calculated by a gymnasium full of artillerists (who had to calculate trajectories), co-ordinated into a computer.

      2. jsn

        And once people are on them, it’s all to easy to “other” them

        It’s how class systems build their initial self justification.

        Those with power, whether they know it or not, dissposse everyone else, making them wretched and then call them lesser humans.

        1. Harvey

          With profound apologies to TS Elliot

          We are the hollow country
          We are the stuffed country
          Leaning on foreign money
          Fake “leaders” filled with greed and self promotion. Alas!
          Their offended voices, when
          We ask for a share,
          Are as crass and meaningless
          As fake news in fake times
          Or the tears of crocodiles
          Waiting for our end

          Money without morality, power without care,
          Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

      3. Henry Moon Pie

        “so many cocaine addicts in the top 10%”

        I think the meritocracy myth has driven the PMC mad. Witness the insanity of the Manhattan set scratching each other’s eyes out over getting their kids into the currently fashionable pre-pre-school. Imagine the lives of those children as they spend twenty years in institutions filled with nothing but front-row kids fulfilling their parents’ ambitions. It’s no wonder most of them turn out mean enough to qualify as Wall Streeters these days while some end up seeking Nirvana through a needle.

        When an idea is bad enough to corrupt the most fundamental of human relationship–parent/child–it’s time for that idea to dissolve into the mist.

        1. John Wright

          I believe the “getting their kids into the currently fashionable pre-pre-school.” illustrates that few people truly believe the meritocracy myth.

          If parents firmly believed in an USA efficient meritocracy (akin to efficient markets), and that nearly everyone succeeded on merit, they would not seek expensive pre-pre-school, exclusive elementary/high schools, private tutors, private coaches, and eventual admission to elite colleges for their children.

          I believe that was well illustrated by the recent college admissions scandal as parents were unwilling allow their children to use only their personal “merit” to qualify for admission to some colleges..

          I suspect USA citizens realize that the closest to a pure meritocracy in the USA is represented by professional sports such as football, baseball and basketball.

          This also may be part of the reason that sports is popular across all income classes.

          But that “industry” supports a very small segment of the population.

          1. jrs

            +1 “meritocracy” is myth for the dumb poor rubes who buy it, nothing more. I mean *sometimes* one can improve their circumstances some of course, but a meritocracy? Oh heck no.

            I concluded long ago when seeing how hard professional parents tried to get their kids into good school districts (and how do you do that, by being able to pay more for housing), that the whole thing was a scam that noone realy believes LEAST OF ALL the privileged! It does not even need to descend into pre-pre school absurdity, K-12 obsession with “good school districts” belies it.

            Yes people know what really takes merit, becoming good at music, that takes serious work, more than most high paid types will ever put in, but financial rewards, no of course it doesn’t follow. “Hard work” is again just more fodder for the rubes.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          IMHO Adderal is way way way more common than cocaine, outside say the entertainment and fashion biz.

          The appeal of cocaine is that it not only provides a sense of euphoria and power (so I am told) but is also an attention/performance enhancer. But it is short lived.

          Adderall is meth without the methyl to drive it deeper into your brain. It’s become the test/studying drug for kids and is most assuredly widely used among the PMC due to perceived or actual competitive pressure.

      4. Monty

        “bored South England housewives on coke” Top tip: Do not search for that on Google whilst at work!

        1. ambrit

          LOL!!! I, being a curious primate, did exactly that and, guess what? A link to this exact posting was in the first page of links!
          Thanks for the good laugh to make the day go bye.

    2. lordkoos

      I have a younger friend in her late 30s who worked for a pot farm in northern California one summer. She has around $30,000 in college loan debt, (liberal arts degree, has a hard time finding a decent job even though she is quite smart). Her regular wages are garnished to repay that, so she sometimes looks for work that pays cash under the table which is often the way at these grow operations. Besides meeting locals, she met a lot of young people from other countries (Europeans, Israelis, etc) who work seasonally trimming weed, as it’s an underground way to see the USA and pay for your travels without needing a work visa or permit. The idea that they are mostly pot addicts or homeless is kind of ridiculous, although I’m sure there are a number of young people that hobo around to do that work.

  3. jackiebass

    I live near a small city in central upstate NY on the PA border. Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t die from an overdose. The crime ridden poor area of the city is getting bigger and bigger. Every year it move about a block in every direction. At one time crime was almost non existent. Now we have robberies, shootings, and stabbings on a daily bases. When I moved here in the 60’s I felt comfortable to go anywhere in the city. Today there are parts of the city I wouldn’t venture into any time of the day or night. What is amazing is the mayor brags about how the city is getting better. Any project doesn’t address the real problem, poverty. Instead it makes a lot of money for a few connected people. There are a lot of jobs but unfortunately they are low paying part time jobs. If I wasn’t 78 years old, I would move out of the area. It’s sad to drive through once beautiful areas and see what they have become.

  4. vlade

    I cannot comment on the US, but London has definitely more homeless than before.

    Obviously, there’s the systemic problem, but there’s a lot of them. Even in good economic times, there was more than a few homeless, often people w/o any family and/or with some mental problem. Economy helps (a lot) but it doesn’t solve all.

    On a more tactical problem – in London, it’s actually age old – professional beggars. Believe it or not, there are Eastern European (usually Romania has this space locked, but also Bulgaria and Moldova is pretty “active” I believe) gangs of professional beggars. That makes it hard to help w/o feeling of being cheated.

    Offering food instead of money used to be a good way of figuring out really needy from professionals, but I believe they clued up to that.

    I gave up on this, and prefer to give to specific charities on it. Sometimes they try to address (the personal) cause, which for me is another reason to give to them.

    1. notabanktoadie

      Even in good economic times, there was more than a few homeless,

      A “good” economy is not necessarily a just economy; e.g. the retort “Get a job!” will ring increasingly hollow as unethically financed automation continues to eliminate those.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I used to live in Birmingham in the 1990’s and every few years I return just to wander around my old haunts. On my last trip (last year) I couldn’t help notice the increase in contrast – the city centre itself has cleaned up a lot, the light rail has clearly benefited businesses and previously quite run down areas were looking quite spruce with new shops and cafes, especially around the Cathedral and down Digbeth, although a depressing number are chains, not independents. But there was a shocking increase in the number of homeless – most of them quite obviously distressed (usually the professionals are quite easy to spot). They were also much more aggressive than they had been in the past.

      I almost never give to beggars, unless I’m quite sure who they are and are in need (I walk around my city daily so I get to know the faces). Its far too hard to know if you are really helping or getting scammed, or encouraging bad behaviour (especially the in-your-face ones). In Dublin there are organised East European gangs and also just some scammers – one regular near my office is well known to walk to his nearby Council flat after a few hours begging before going out to the pub later – he’s just unemployed and he begs for his beer money. I give to a homeless charity that I trust instead. There has, however, been a very noticeable increase in the number of junkies on the streets recently – in fact just yesterday I had a really unpleasant encounter with a group of them.

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        I have noticed that the homeless have significantly increased in Belfast over the last decade & many of them from what I have seen are very young & female who I imagine are very open to being preyed upon. According to a friend drug addiction is a big part of it the same as pretty much everywhere else & in every town or city I have visited there is always the old crumpled Roma woman selling the Big Issue.

        What has distressed me most about Dublin was the old ladies like the one on I came across a few years ago in Grafton street sitting to one side of an ATM with her small dog, followed about a year later by a similar scene in a colonnade opposite the facade of Trinity college.

        I know a guy who helps a Cupuchin monk named Father Kevin Crowley by cooking up batches of food in his own kitchen to help him out with around 900 meals a day. On Christmas Eve he was waiting for transport to deliver the 30 turkeys he had cooked, but due to a breakdown he had to pile them in his own car which had a lapsed NCT. Murphy’s law came into force & he was stopped by the Garda who took his car, but they delivered the turkeys & then him back to his house in Finglas. The guards were from Mountjoy which is perhaps fortunate as they always do a Christmas fundraiser for Father Crowley, but my friend ended up with a 250 Euro fine.

        1. ambrit

          The moral of this story seems to be that “the system” is designed to discourage solidarity and community in the public sphere.
          Are the Garda there known for strictness in enforcement all the time? To still fine the man for carrying out an act of charity that they themselves also do is almost the definition of cognitive dissonance. This story is almost a parody of Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

          1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

            I don’t have much information on how strict they are but for doing the same in NI they will take your car off you for good even if you were Kris Kringle. During my 12 years of living in the Republic I found that in my few dealings with them they were a mix of the usual good, bad or indifferent, but did hear some brutal stories mainly revolving around cells from lads at the factory who had as they say, drank too many jars, all of that mixed with tales of petty corruption. There are also some videos I have seen of Garda being physically violent towards the homeless & another factor could be that ” Dougie ” is a well known activist.

            I will be seeing him on Saturday so will ask him for more details as the info above was received via a phone call, which mainly explained the logistics of cooking 30 turkeys over about 2 weeks then carving them, adding gravy to the portions before stashing them in bags within a large chest freezer.

            Oh, & it was the female Guard who persuaded the male to take the turkey to it’s intended destination.

              1. JBird4049

                Anti-homeless architecture is a thing in California. Ugly, dehumanizing, and makes things worse for everyone. It almost seems like some want our cities to become museums or displays rather than places that people live in.

                1. Roland

                  In Vancouver, Canada, the new bus stop benches have metal ridges to prevent people from lying down on them.

                  In nearby Burnaby, the gazebos and washrooms in the large Central Park are fenced off during the winter so the homeless can’t use them.

      2. The Historian

        A quibble here: You say you almost never give to beggars, unless you are quire sure who they are because of scammers and encouraging bad behavior.

        Soo, do you not buy stocks and bonds? You must know there are a lot of scammers and bad behavior there. Would you punish the whole market because of the bad behavior of a few?
        Do you not use banks? Seems to me there are a lot of scammers and bad behavior there too. Would you consider not using banks because there might be a few scammers out there?

        Do you buy clothes? Seems to me that industry also has its scammers and bad behavior.
        What about food? And how about medicine? Are you going to stop using those products because you know, there are definitely some scammers out there?

        I could go on and on about this because there are scammers and bad behavior everywhere.

        But with the very poor, all of a sudden things become different? You must punish them all because of the bad behavior and scamming of a few?

        I think that poor-bashing has become so much a part of our society that we don’t even realize when we are doing it any more.

        I too cannot give to everyone, but I know I don’t walk in their shoes and I have no way of knowing who is a scammer and who is not, so when I have the money I give – without asking them to justify themselves to me any more than I ask the store manager to justify himself before I put money down at a grocery store since I have no way of knowing if he is scamming me either.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I think you missed the part where I wrote ‘I give to a homeless charity I trust instead’. I trust them to distribute the money I give in a rational, compassionate way to the help most deserving.

          1. The Historian

            Which is why I labeled my comment as a quibble. I am not saying you are a bad person and I’m glad you donate.

            But you are missing my point. We treat the poor differently than we do other people. If there is a huge fire or an earthquake or some other tragedy, we willingly give to help people. We don’t ask about the moral qualities of the people we are donating to.

            But things are different for the poor, aren’t they? And it runs so deep in our society, we don’t even realize that we are doing it. A poor person is only worthy of our donations and the basic humanity we willingly give to others in need only if they meet our definition of morality.

            1. aletheia33

              thank you for making this point.

              when things are falling apart as they clearly are now, and so many people are barely holding it together but still managing their multiple jobs and food, clothes, and healthcare for their children, i imagine it must be very frightening to cross paths with ravaged-looking people who maybe a year or two earlier were still holding it together and now have fallen over the edge.

              i believe it is a very strong tendency in humans to take care of one another and share resources in times of need. but capitalism and techno-seduction work strongly to unseat that tendency.

              i do hope that somehow, maybe as an outgrowth of sanders’s campaign and other such movements worldwide, that tendency may emerge with some new strength.

              what’s challenging me these days is the realization that even addicts and thieves deserve some kind of basic human respect–since i myself cannot be absolutely sure that i am truly any better than anyone else. i find this understanding very uncomfortable to cultivate and act on. however i am definitely learning something very important. and of course it does not mean volunteering to be ripped off.

              and so your reminder of the ”level” where the most virulent thievery and power addiction can be found is right on target.

    3. Steed

      London has a lot more homeless people and people begging for money I’ve noticed over the last decade. On two separate occasions over the last three month period in Central London ( Covent Garden to be specific, with it’s upmarket restaurants, shops, bars and pubs ), was out in the evening with friends outside a pub. In the space of three hours on a Friday night, I counted twenty two people approach our group and ask for money. Of these twenty two, to my eye, they were a mix of professional beggars and what looked like dishevelled, confused addicts. The second time more recently on a Saturday night standing outside the same pub, counted thirteen people ask for money over a ninety minute period ( I’m a smoker, so have to go outside ) and it was quite a cold and windy evening. Overwhelmingly, the beggars were young, I’d say max twenty five years old or a lot younger. The central London office I work at now has a permanent homeless/rough sleeping population near the front entrance of about fifteen to twenty people and some of them are women. From what I’ve noticed, these people don’t seem to actively beg, although I’ve seen numerous pedestrians give them money or food. These homeless people near the office appear to be trying their best to survive through winter. The winter here has been relatively mild so far, albeit quite wet.

      1. vlade

        Yes, during the winter you often notice places close to warm-air ducts from aircon being “colonised”. A classic is on the London Wall a bit east of Wood St. intersection.

        Those in my experience, almost never beg. In fact, I disctintly remember a weird lady like that, that I tried to give some money few years back, refusing it and screaming at me for daring to suggest she needed my money. Duh.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      Your comment started quite a lengthy thread with echoes throughout other comments. You seem to resurrect the old idea of the ‘deserving poor’ and start me looking for Filch and Mr. Jon Peachum behind every poor bastard sitting on the sidewalk with his hand out.

      First suppose most of our homeless beggars are really poor unemployed — possibly unemployable types who chose begging as a profession of last resort. Maybe they have a warm corner to sleep in and might get a bit to eat at night — so they’re not so bad off as the truly ‘deserving poor’. Perhaps their presence undermines and dilutes the population of ‘deserving poor’ and makes it difficult to distinguish the deserving from the professional beggars. And the professionals may receive special gimmicks and ploys from their employers to increase the chances professional beggars will gather the greatest part of the take that’s there. I would say the professional beggars definitely do harm to the beggars among the ‘deserving poor’, and they support criminals.

      But ask a different question: Who would prefer to sit on cardboard on the sidewalk in the cold with their hand out looking pathetic rather than work at a ‘real’ job? What kind of ‘real’ jobs are available to them that could make professional begging attractive? The criminals they support provide some kind of service not available elsewhere in the Market. And consider that helping these professional poor may be more beneficial in the long run than helping the deserving poor. Many of the deserving poor are not far from the illness that will put them on death’s door. The professionals have some better chances of survival. Viewed in this way giving to the professionals is not unlike a form of triage.

      What about the beggars — deserving of not — who use their money to buy booze or drugs instead of food? If I put myself in their place, I’m not sure which choices I might make. How can I judge whatever choice a beggar makes for spending the little I feel I can give them, or the little they receive from their criminal employers.

      Giving to worthy and worthwhile organizations working to help the poor is an alternative. However — am I being overly cynical wondering how many of the worthy and worthwhile organizations are ‘deserving’? Am I being overly cynical recalling George Bush the elder’s “thousand points of light”? I worry more about getting scammed by some of the worthy and worthwhile organizations working to help the poor. I’ve nearly stopped giving to organizations just because of the flood of junk mail I get from all the other worthy and worthwhile organizations who bought my address and show up in my mail with their hands out.

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        Here in Northern Ireland there are 2 charities i know of set up by locals that do outstanding work for the homeless & increasingly victims of Universal Credit, One in Belfast & the other in Bangor which is run by a Christian group. They both take in donations of all types of household effects which they give freely to those who need them, which is extremely useful for the homeless that can get themselves into some sort of accommodation, usually through the Northern Ireland housing executive. They also sell these goods to the general public to support themselves.

        I visited the depot as it is called in Bangor which apparently has been going for nearly 40 years & it is an extraordinary place that as far as I could tell is at least about a 100 mtrs long by 60 wide, which is stacked to the gills with what almost amounts to a museum of about 50 years of the contents of peoples houses. they don’t have any electricity & there are small sections where there are people working to repair things.

        Once I get sorted financially it will be these sort people I will support rather than the big names, & I did notice a great willow pattern dinner set & a couple of other bits that will fit nicely into my much smaller place I intend to find as soon as possible.

  5. Dan S

    I can tell you from the Pennsylvania perspective (lifelong resident and I travel across the state on occasion for work), if you don’t live in one of the state-supported bubbles, things are rough. What are state-supported bubbles you may ask? The major metropolitan areas supported directly or indirectly by big government, whether by large local govts or state or feds (military industrial and health). Take a look at the largest employers in PA: Good paying jobs for those in the Philly/Pittsburgh/Capital Region in education, government, military-industrial, pharma, finance. Low paying jobs for those in-between in Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc., if you’re lucky enough to have a job. The gas fracking bubble has largely peaked and most of the decent pay skilled jobs went to folks coming in from out of state anyway. Over the past years I’ve witnessed several hotel parking lots full gas/oil workers with plates from OK, TX, FL, LA, etc.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      for a long time, where i live(rural texas hill country), agriculture was the main employer…heavily subsidized by fedgov…to such an extent, in fact, that when the subsidies were withdrawn, the ag sector all but collapsed.(bill clinton is still blamed for this, out here)
      those ag-players who survived were mostly diversified in some manner.
      since then,(1998) the biggest employers in my county are, in order, the public school, the one city government(street/water/sewer/landfill/electrical) and county(mostly roads and road related). all 3 of these maintain themselves with subsidies from higher up the government food chain(the school relies on something like 50% from state of texas, 30% from USA and the rest from local sales taxes). and yet, at the same time as this state of affairs was emerging, the local people bought into the reagan/rush limberger trope that welfare(and by extension, government) is bad,lol.
      the remaining ag-people are heavily reliant on remaining subsidies…often in the millions…but they are few, and also tend to be anti-welfare types,lol.
      in a strange twist, my radical hairy self, advocating for local ag and a modicum of self sufficiency, is regarded by many of the higher up locals as SoShulism!…
      (Raphèl mai amècche zabì almi!!!–“confusion of tongues”–

      also, a few years after the collapse of ag, fracking began to ramp up…so locals drove to either the sand mines to our north, or to the fracking fields in south texas, then in the permian.
      this migratory labor has been propping up the local economy ever since. But that’s getting pretty shaky, of late. Sand mining fell apart last year, due to shenanigans(PE/LBG’s), and changes in the industry(a method of using less perfect frac sand, sourced closer to the permian)…and fracking in general has been threatening to fall into ruin for the last several years(something about never turning a profit in a supposedly capitalist, free market system….). the uncertainty, locally, is getting acute, and is reflected in the ad hoc symposia i find myself either eavesdropping on or participating in in the feedstore, produce aisle or the beer store.
      another feature of our local economy…again, made up of a bunch of reactionary anti-welfare types…is the utter reliance on medicare and social security. the population is 45% over 65….and of the rest, around 20% are on some form of welfare, whether disability or ssi, or just foodstamps and such.
      last i looked, unemployment(fwiw,lol) was 8-10%, and poverty level(again, whatever that means) was 13-17%.
      neither of those official numbers seem all that reliable, to me.
      the one person in the 2010 census data with income over $200K(and everyone knows who that was,lol) skewed all the numbers…and i’m certain that the influx of a few millionaires in the last decade will skew it even more.

      meanwhile, the incidence of suicide, overdose or whatever euphemism that the dispatch person on the scanner uses has been pretty steady, at more than a comfortable level, for 10 years, now….especially for such a sparsely populated place.
      we have only 2 actually homeless people that i am aware of…both on drugs and likely with emotional, if not psychological issues. but there’s numerous near-homeless, who are forever combining and recombining their living arrangements to take advantage of changing employment and access to welfare.
      this all…to my mind…is why trump won with people who are not the hard local core of gop.
      it’s also why, if given the remotest chance, bernie could easily win out here, in spite of the 20 years of abandonment by the DNC.

      1. Chris

        I’ve recently had discussions with people who think government run fire departments are a bad thing. I’ve heard people complain that we’re holding back the power of the free market to transform industries like infrastructure and public education. To a person these people describe themselves as economically conservative and socially liberal. They are the voters the DNC is trying so hard to court.

        I tried, really tried, to discuss with a few of them about how if they really want to push small business and more competitive environments government programs for daycare and healthcare would be great because it would free so many people from the benefits they rely on with their current employer. That having essentials handled in a way that won’t scare you means you have more resources to risk in new business ventures. None of them buy it. The gubmnt is evil. Drown it in a bath tub, etc. Not coincidentally most of these folks are government contractors for one defense related thing or another.

        We’re doomed. Just fold up shop right now and give in. Until there’s some huge calamity these folks won’t see how bad others have it or how collective action would make everyone’s lives better.

        1. Brian (another one they call)

          They tried to privatise our fire department last year. The people told the politicos to go pound sand and has made people more aware of politics.
          In my small PNW city, between Eugene and the CA border, we have a major problem with housing. Its unaffordable for most. This town has a huge percentage of people that came here because they inherited a house or followed a family member north/south or west. The town is run by a council that cares more about property values than about the citizens. But the problem is finally getting a solution or a conversation about a solution. We will perhaps build a homeless hotel or permanent building/s to house 250 people/families.
          One thing about the west is built in despair. Distances are extreme from a town to town. They were built based upon how far a stagecoach could go in a day for the most part. The freeway rest stops are a place people can go and not be bothered by someone wanting to roust them for being there. Only the Oregon state troopers patrol it and they busy with the general problem of the roads.
          Oregon threw a lot of people out of their homes after 2010. Our laws were written by the banks for their benefit. (not uncommon) In many states, one must have proof of ownership to foreclose on a home, not here. Walmart came many years back and in the dotcom bust, many dozens of small businesses were wiped out.
          Our congress person was involved deeply with VP Cheney and tried to reduce our native tribes to dust by destroying their livelihood by forcing most of the water to go to ranchers. It didn’t work and that made a lot of farmers mad. We have a very conservative district because we are lumped in with all of eastern Oregon. Yet, things are changing demographically. More and more people live here that don’t vote conservative.
          We are a large state with big distances between cities. This puts the interstate as their connection north and south. The rest stops are always crowded but certainly aren’t the only places were folks are reduced to begging to survive. I would have to say that if we didn’t have a native owned casino, who makes grants to organizations that protects the poor, we would have much worse on our hands. As the financial system implodes, we will have to make new provisions.

        2. jrs

          They won’t and maybe never will. But are they even needed? Those stick in the mud conservatives who will always hate the gubmit? Because it’s getting to the point especially with younger generations that we can win without them period.

        3. lordkoos

          I recall reading a story somewhere about how many fire departments in the US at one time were private services. This could result in a scenario where if your house was burning down and you had no money to pay the firemen, well, that was just too bad.

    2. Krystyn Walentka

      I have watched the decimation of my mother’s home town of Kulpmont, PA over the years. Right now it has an unemployment rate of 2.4% but a poverty rate of 22%. Drug use is rampant as well.

      So look at that, a low unemployment rate but plenty of poor! There is your disconnect. Maybe we should start measuring the economy my the poverty level and not the unemployment rate, yeah?

  6. timbers

    I may having something to add in a few months. My tenant (who has been a dream) here in Boston area got a job managing road paving/repairs in Oregon and is moving. He rents the basement in my split level ranch in Boston burbs in a nice area in Brockton (yes even Brockton has nice areas) – 3 rooms and full bath, no formal kitchen. After I renovate the bathroom when he leaves, it’s back to the circus called Craigslist to rent it again, I guess. Last time I did that 18 months ago we quite a eye opening experience of what’s our there including some desperation. No matter how I indicated only 1 person would be allowed to rent, families or an adult with child/children would inquire, and tenant before last asked if his “brother” could move in and he did – despite my telling him “no.” Looking back, I think it was his plan to have his brother move in from the get go, despite being told by me I would allow only 1 person. After his friend form Haiti also move in making in 3 people (my fault I said he could because I thought it was for only for the xmass holidays but it was to set him up for a job at a downtown Boston hotel where my tenant worked) he stayed for months until I cracked down on the rules. Eventually they gave notice and found another play.

    My experience last round, was that the rent was priced well and desirable for the right need, but sooooo many wanted it to be more than it was as in a fully detached unit so they have a family live there.

    1. Chris

      Yep. Nothing opened my eyes so much to how bad it really was for some people as when I had a property we needed to rent out. Dealing with tenants these days is a trip. Or a nightmare. I don’t know how different it is now compared to prior days but it just felt like I was dealing with so many people who had no options.

      1. Tim

        Timbers, We found that renting our little place is fine, as long as you look for tenants a long time in advance. We only rent to people whom we have known for a long time, or, their friends who are thus doubly vetted.
        People tell you who they are over time. Listen. Ask people questions about their lives, how they handle things, their likes and dislikes, as an acquaintance. See where they work. People who selflessly volunteer in the community for planting trees, caring for animals or cleaning up a creek, for example, are probably good tenants.

        If they abuse or mutilate their body, how will they treat their living quarters? Listen to their complaints about their current landlord. If every place they have lived has had a greedy A8hole landlord, nod your head in sympathy and forget them.

        This eliminates the unknown with well-paid to nearly homeless drifters with no connection to the community who might have no compunction about trashing their own reputation or skipping town owing money. Craigslist is great for buying selling and giving away stuff. In my opinion, if you are in a hurry to rent to strangers from Craigslist, you are a sitting duck.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          In Massachusetts, as I’m sure elsewhere, landlords have to be very careful about discrimination laws. Restricting the number of tenants to the legal limit based on number of legal bedrooms is one of the few things they can do. Looking at credit score (unfair and inaccurate as that system is) is just about the only other.

          These strict laws usually (not always) originate legitimately from past abuses, but can have dire consequences particularly for small mom and pop landlords that can’t average out the financial burden of statistically inevitable destructive tenants.

        2. jrs

          NO. NO to that society 1000 times. One should not need to be an exemplary person, volunteering in an animal shelter no less (when most people don’t do much work beyond what gives them a paycheck period), to get a roof over their head.

          If the market can’t deal with the housing crisis (and decades of failure point in that direction), the government needs to.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            What government has tended to do, wittingly or not, is to virtue signal to voters while dumping the result of poverty on landlords and as you correctly imply, the market, such as it is, or isn’t, deals with it badly.

            It has devastated many small landlords and made unscrupulous big ones all the more unscrupulous and bigger (though that is grossly over simplified).

            The homeowner just managing to make ends meet, can’t sustain a tenant who moves in and trashes the place even if such an event is rare. It only takes once and the costs can be horrendous. Lessor infractions, such as not paying rent, can be financially crippling over time and often the small landlord can’t afford to lawyer up the way the big ones can (and do).

  7. Deschain

    My family drove up to Bend Oregon from San Fran a couple years ago. Once we got off the 5, getting on the 97 between Redding and Medford, my wife and I were pretty stunned by what we saw. It was like a time machine back to the 1930s. People had clearly just given up – tremendous amounts of disrepair, junk in front yards etc. Commercial activity was near zero. It’s one thing to read about our problems on this blog and another to see it so viscerally.

    1. Off The Street

      I’ve traveled up and down the Pacific Coast states for over 50 years, and have seen the shocking growth of a two-tiered life. The PNW got hit really hard by the Carter-Volcker high interest rates and accompanying recession that started in 1979. The primary industry for so many areas was in timber and sawmills. Without demand for wood to build houses, the woods and mills became quiet.

      Some in that region have told me that many areas never recovered. Small towns with a small mill suffered high unemployment, and others with larger mills and higher pay also suffered. That led to any number of social ills from foreclosures, divorces, alcoholism, budget cuts, Main Street (if you could call that strip Main) business closures, school closures and other problems in that most-American neo-liberal parade of horribles. Mind you, that occurred prior to the impacts of meth or the widespread cultivation of new strains of weed that eased temporarily but didn’t erase the pains. They didn’t even learn to code, bro.

      Yves, Lambert and others have noted the Acela class not noticing what is outside their train windows. The trains along the Pacific corridor pass through some incredible scenery and also past way too much rural non-farm poverty. Then those trains slow down while passing through towns to present more widespread and shocking views of homeless encampments, accumulations of shattered lives, rusted cars, overgrown yards littered with who knows what and other evidence of manifest depression.

      1. Arizona Slim

        How can the Acela class not notice the miles of abandoned houses in Baltimore? They are right next to the tracks.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            That’s the truth! Forget looking out the passenger car window — try to open a conversation with the passenger you’re sitting next to on a crowded train. It’s as if everyone on the train came sealed in plastic wrapper you can’t tear through. Sometimes I wonder whether the people around me are really people.

        1. Chris

          Local DC/Maryland person here…

          There’s a lot of suffering in Baltimore but if you take the right paths you’ll never see it for long enough to have it bother you. And with cell phones and other tech everyone in the upper class has there’s plenty of ways to ignore reality. Had that experience the other day when I was flying for work. Someone came on the plane and asked for help and I was the only person who looked up and asked what they needed. Everyone else kept to their phones and ignored what was happening.

          The suffering is bleeding out of Baltimore too. There’s a lot of petty crime and other problems surging in the suburbs people commute from to places like DC and Baltimore. Lots of smash and grabs in the parking lots of areas where people go to run. People accosting the well to do on hiking trails. Lots of begging on street corners. In some cases I’ve seen beggars getting aggressive and attacking the vehicles of drivers while they’re stopped at a light because no one gave the beggar any money. Everyone is getting cameras for their cars and houses. Everyone is upgrading their locks.

          Not a happy trend :/

  8. Scott D

    When my Bay Area friends wonder how Trump was elected I tell them to drive from, say, Denver to Chicago, not on the freeways, but on the old US highways. Do not go through college towns. As you approach the small cities and towns you will see an abandoned factory that might have made washing machines or coolers or vacuums or something you would use every week or so. Then you see the worn down houses, the 20 year-old cars, and the stuff on lawns. As you get through the abandoned downtown there is a brand new Walgreen and/or CVS, then maybe a new hospital, then you’re back into the farmland and ranchland. You realize that the only new buildings in that whole city are the hospital, the CVS/Walgreens, and maybe the high school. An hour further East, you will see the same thing. Occasionally you will see a large new factory, most likely it’s a chicken/pork processing plant.

  9. Wukchumni

    We drive down to LA every couple months to see my mom @ her assisted living place, and have done so for the nearly 5 years she’s been a resident, so I get to see developments in time-lapse if you will, as opposed to somebody living there who glimpses them as things slowly build.

    This is a park we went to frequently when I was growing up, its less than a mile from where she lives now. This missive was from a few weeks ago:

    The Whittier City Council held an emergency meeting Monday night where officials decided to impose a curfew at Parnell Park in response to residents’ growing concerns over a homeless encampment.

    The meeting follows the overdose death of a woman at the encampment, as well as a shooting investigation at the park in recent days.

    The trend with the homeless has been essentially Location-Location-Location in terms of temp mortgages, er sidewalk subdivisions. All of the good spots are taken and a lot of the iffy ones, and now I see tale tell tents by the side of the freeway breathing in all that carbon monoxide, yikes!

    If there was a economic calamity that pushed those on the inside of a domicile out into homelessness, there really doesn’t seem to be much in the way of where to camp, so there’d be a weird turf battle perhaps?

    1. Carolinian

      We have homeless in my town but gotta say that it’s nothing like what I saw in a recent trip to Oregon and California. Undoubtedly the high cost of living in California at least plays a role, but there must be more to it. I, the tourist, have no insight into this.

      1. Wukchumni

        I have no way of knowing this, but if I was homeless somewhere during the winter when it was 11 degrees outside, i’d pour all my energy into getting some place warm, and that just happens to be the left coast, get here somehow. Easier said than done these days, doubtful somebody with no means is going to fly or take a train, or ride the rails. Maybe via bus?

        I’d expect something similar with Canada, more homeless in ‘tropical’ BC than back east.

      2. jrs

        I don’t know why there must be more to it. I mean sure there is mental illness, and sure the amount of out-of-town homeless in CA is probably more than the heavily massaged figures show. But every time rents go up, so does the homeless population, so there is a definite connection to high rents.

        1. RMO

          I don’t know if there are really more homeless on the relatively warm southwest coast of BC than the rest of Canada but I can tell you there are quite a lot in the area I live in – the largely suburban fringes of Vancouver. The small city I live on the border of in particular has quite a few as many of the other towns and cities seem to deal with homeless by putting them on a bus for here. My wife and I both give food or money to them when we can. None of them have been aggressive in our experience. There have been some fairly cruel laws passed recently in the areas around here making things harder for those who live in RV’s too.

  10. Gregorio

    Many of the “trimigants” are foreign tourists. It’s an easy way for them to earn some under the table cash to fund their travels. We spent two months traveling around the west coast and the southwest last summer in our camper and met many of them from Europe, Canada, and Australia. One couple was from the Czech Republic, who had been touring the country and were heading to California to earn some money before heading back to finish their advanced university degrees.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Yes, the trimmers come from all over…from the European or Australian pot tourists having a 6 month lark, to the ocassional Mexicans hoping to at least get a bundle to take home.

      But the native trimigrants (and I didn’t coin the term) are more like modern day hippies (still called hippies), following each other and the harvest up the Coast, like the hippies of old followed the Dead.

      Now, understand the pot culture homeless that I’m talking about is vastly different than the homeless camps of inner-Oakland where skyhigh rents and mental illness is more the norm…(in my experience the average age/race in a homeless camp in Oakland is over 45 and black). In the Central Valley, you’re looking at Mexican-mix and 35ish.

      The trimigrants are almost exclusively white and under 30.

      1. three eyed goddess

        The ‘trimigrant’ scene is over. With the legalization of cannabis and production being taken over by corporate agriculture, processing is being mechanized. My young friends who could make $10 – $15 thousand in a season managing small operations have found that source of income vanish. Seeking new skills, several have become massage therapists, one even manages a survivalist ranch in the Southwest now. These thirty-somethings are white, college-educated, and enjoy familial support. They would be begging on the street without it

        1. Fiery Hunt

          Absolutely right. The old pot economy has been devastated by the legalization. With the new licensing/tax requirements, the mom and pop grows that fed the “black market” pot trade in the 60’s, 70’s,80’s, 90’s up thru the early 2010’s are now suffering hugely because a) the price drops due to the supply increases from the factory farms and b) pot smokers can just go to a dispensary to get whatever they want on demand. (There are at least 7 dispensaries with 5 miles of my Oakland apartment). The dispensaries require supplies to be licensed by the state and most homegrowers can’t afford (or meet the requirements) for licensing so they’re locked out of the new supply chain. The number of old hippies who have made $150,000 to $200,000 a year for 20 years (on a home grow of a couple of acres) who are now trying to sell their property because they can’t afford it anymore is increasing a LOT. Check any real estate ads for Willits, CA.

          But there’s still a huge number of trimigrants. Pot is still the number one industry in Mendocino, Humboldt and surrounding counties. Look at Gueneville, Garberville, Anderson Valley, Ukiah, Willits, etc…They’re just not the well-to-do summer help that they used to be. Now they’re just lost kids on a dead-end existence. Lots of side addictions (besides pot and alcohol) mainly meth and heroin. Lake County, CA and Central Oregon are epidemic.

          BTW… the pot tourists or the college kids are known as Trustafarians– (Trust fund Rastafarians.)

          1. three eyed goddess

            Guerneville, Willits, Ukiah, Lake County CA, my stomping grounds. I’ve met a lot of ‘Trustafarians’ who are living in their cars too. In my town, long-time residents were able to augment their pitiful incomes by gambling online (which Obama ended) and selling from small grows in their backyards.
            Now a few come around every couple of months or so to borrow money at the end of the month so they can feed their dogs or such like.
            The young ones who have managed to cling to their places are selling meth, making black market cannabis dab or shatter – a little scary. One young guy on the next street nearly burned off his face and lost an eye and almost set the town on fire with the vacuum oven he was using to make dab.

            1. Tim

              “Lots of side addictions (besides pot and alcohol) mainly meth and heroin. Lake County, CA and Central Oregon are epidemic.”

              If they can’t make it there, they head south to San Francisco; known for a long list of homeless services that attract people from all over the west. Like the Okies, my people, went west, the homeless and street criminals are heading for San Francisco. The word is out among people who have their own internal media of information about the bonanza of services and the ability to do pretty much anything on public streets there which lures them. The new D.A. has promised to not prosecute quality of life crimes, so watch for S.F. to become the next Baltimore or Detroit when the tech drought hits.

          2. John Wright

            The new legalization is also affecting unrelated businesses in Sonoma County (north of Golden Gate bridge).

            Business rents are apparently rising due to the legal growing pot industry

            I know one person in auto repair had his business rent go up dramatically as he relocated to his country home.

            I bought some tools from a local business owner who was planning to leave the area because his building was worth 500K more because it was in the “grow zone”. He was planning to sell the building and move to Europe.

            Some people see this as a local bubble that won’t end well.

            1. Fiery Hunt

              Yep. Heard much the same. Same goes for warehouse space in the Bay Area (Oakland, Berkeley, SF, etc). Same with rural acreage. Actively being listed as grow land.

              And no one I know thinks it will end well.

            2. Trent

              Just “legitimate business” trying to hoover up every stream of income possible. One corporation to rule them all!

          3. Kurt Sperry

            “old hippies who have made $150,000 to $200,000 a year for 20 years (on a home grow of a couple of acres) who are now trying to sell their property because they can’t afford it anymore”

            This makes no sense to me at all. That’s way, way, way more money than I’ll make in my entire life, how can they not afford any dang thing they want?

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              If the cost of everything they had to pay for, including property taxes, was proportional to the $150,000 to $200,000 income they made; then when they lost the income, they lost the ability to pay all the California Costs which were as high as that income. That is just a guess, of course.

  11. Dirk77

    Oregon has a job guarantee program. You can’t pump your own gas for example; an attendant must do it. As a consequence my family there say not to give to beggars unless you understand their situation as they are either new to the state, or have drug or mental problems. And if new to the state they are invariably from CA or Seattle, with their exploding population problems. Immigration from those places and elsewhere has driven up rents a lot in Portland for example. Pushing people out who formerly could afford a place. A niece emigrated from Portland to out of the US for example. So I regard any homelessness in Oregon as a secondary effect to what is going on in CA and WA.

    1. Chris

      That’s a really good point. I would agree that a lot of what we’re seeing now are spillover effects from other areas. Oregon is absolutely suffering from the bust of the California dream and the rise of Amazon.

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        The automation of the deforestry industry didn’t help Oregon or Washington. All those ‘good timber jobs’ the hippies killed with their environmental tree-hugging were really obviated by mechanization. No more legions of bearded, plaid clad dudes in flannel. They have what amounts to a giant lawnmower now.
        The ‘tech’ jobs all this focus on STEM is supposed to give young people access to now just lets them compete with the children of a nascent middle class in parts of India or eastern europe to see how little money coding can be done for. Expect massive data breaches in ten years’ time.
        Oh- am I sounding a little too Zero Hedge? Sorry. But Epstein didn’t kill himself.

        1. Chris

          Not sure if you’ve posted here a lot or if you’re just venting. I think a little venting on this topic is good for the soul. We’re dealing with a lot of people who are well compensated to not understand this kind of problem in the US and other places.

          But the last bit of your comment makes me think you’re barking up the wrong tree. NC and Yves and Lambert and Jerri-Lynn are well aware of the deficiencies in the official narratives. And most of the Commentariat here are either skeptical of the promised STEM-vana or have lived through enough of it to see who is benefiting from an army of desperate people who know how to code and the inflexible poors we shout at to learn coding so that we don’t have to consider other means of supporting them. I’d wager very few people who frequent here seriously think Mr. Epstein killed himself without a lot of help.

          Where NC differs from ZH is that the discussion is better, more view points are high lighted, and they actually value evidence.

          There’s really no need to be rude or confrontational.

          Just my 0.02$ based on your post. Be well.

        2. Oregoncharles

          Oregon bet heavily on the tech industry to cover for the decline of “deforestry” – good one, that – and then discovered the hard way that tech is even more cyclical than timber. Consequently, our recessions are among the deepest in the country. The “economic development” offices should really be shut down. At the same time, property and rents in certain areas are driven up to where most people can’t afford them. In my apparently idyllic town, something like half of the people who work here have to live somewhere else; the traffic at rush hour is terrible, and that’s a recipe for smog – a big problem in the valley, because it’s a bowl.

          1. Oregoncharles

            That gif of the Seaside-Cannon Beach area? I used to live near there, for 10 years. Drove past it to Astoria at the holidays. Beautiful – but the forest behind Arch Cape was being clearcut 40 years ago.

            I’ve mentioned occasionally that forestry is an intense political issue here; thanks for a vivid example.

  12. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    I live right in that area and I can tell you, it’s no lie. It’s turned the eco-friendly, high tech, trendy, NY Times beloved Northwest into squalid, trash-strewn landscape inhabited by zombified semi-psychotics turned loose back in the days of Reagan and young people who came to Portland to ‘make it’ with nothing but a beat up old Camaro (that they now live in) and a (broken) dream.

  13. Joe Well

    In Greater Boston this weekend, the talk of the town was that the owners of the legendary Middle East restaurant and nightclub in Cambridge, who had bought their building for $7 million in 2014 have just put it on the market for $40 million.

    How can anyone afford housing when real estate appreciates like that?

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I wonder if and how much Boston will be affected by ocean rise and what the amazing scum that have taken over (or been taken over – brainwashed) will do about it to protect their ill gotten plunder stored in real estate? The atmosphere in Boston is like a disease; the city itself like an ark that will get the flood rather than float on it; everyone is bitten including people who forty years ago would have been outraged at the callousness of the transformation.

      1. Nat

        Yes, as the “most land-filled city in the world” (yes even counting land reclamation in places like Venice, even though that is not necessarily “fill”) Boston has some serious issues with coming ocean rise. Its not always so noticeable because tides in Boston Harbor vary by something like 9 feet (a little under 3 meters for people using sane units), so much of the time you don’t see how close to ocean flooding parts of the city are unless you are right at high-tide. But at the highest of tides there are already a number of points around Boston (not the wealthier sectors as is always the case) where you would be shocked how close the tide comes to flooding that which is not intended to be flooded. It just needs a little further, like say high-tide and a storm surge at which point places like the area of Quincy in Greater Boston turn into Venice (and Quincy’s “Sea Street” takes on an unfortunate and ironic new meaning.) This is especially unpleasant when it is below freezing out. But as everyone here knows what is Storm Surge + High Tide now will be just High Tide later.

        As for protecting their real-estate, the plans that have gotten far enough along to at least get public nods and rough estimates on costs (but nothing that anyone wants to pay for yet) have two major categories:

        1. Already the most filled city in the world, just push out the water-front another 40-60 feet with more fill and build a giant berm-park everywhere. Apparently this is good for something like another ten feet of sea level rise (assuming its proponents aren’t lying).

        2. A giant sea-wall, not a full on Dutch style dyke-thingy with locks, just a massive wall stretching out from the town of Hull through various harbor islands with a number of gaps in it. Even though it is open to ocean the smaller gaps are supposed to cut the tidal changes by more then half so that buys an additional 4 to 5 feet and reduces additional impact of storm surges. Expensive yes, but official costs estimates are at like $1.5 billion which adjusting for the usual corruption and the like will be like $10 to 15 billion, but that is still more affordable than one might initially think given how much area is being roped off and protected. This can work in conjunction with the berms above to give about 14 to 15 feet of play when done together.

        There are no plans after that currently, but if the sea wall is in place and more protection from even higher tides is needed, it can be converted over to a Dutch-style sea wall with locks. That possibility will be resisted until nothing else works as everyone knows that the Dutch have shown that doing that would turn the entire harbor into a permanent dead-zone – but if and when sea rise hits 15+ feet I predict people will start going for this if the sea wall is already in place as it will be a relatively cheap upgrade at that point.

        Beyond that, people will have no choice but to do something akin to the raising of Chicago or give up and move to Worcester, neither of which have been discussed yet, but given time and “tides” it will.

        Of course depending on where their investment is, some land lords may welcome the sea rise, because if you think Beacon Hill is expensive now, wait until it becomes its own posh little island.

  14. Janie

    Salem, the capitol, 50 miles south of Portland, has about 175,000 population and 1,800 homeless. The city government shuffles them from place to place regularly. Now that many have been ousted from various parks and riverside encampments, more are sleeping on downtown sidewalks. This has attracted attention and the city council is going to Do Something. Dithering has ensued.

    I am told by educator friends that all local schools have clothing closets as well as food pantries. Their discourses on homeless and couch-surfing students are eye-opening. When we asked if they would use our non-teenage style clothes , we were told that anything is welcomed when you have nothing. He said, “you don’t understand, They have NOTHING”. It was heartbreaking. Any of you remember anything remotely like this when you were in school?

    I’ve commented before on spending the better part of seven years RVing. We stayed in public, private and membership campgrounds, as well as overnights on long hauls in truck stops, Wal-Mart’s and rest stops. Other places, too, like casinos. We saw a two-tier population. There were big diesel pushers with mainly retired military and government employees and those in 30 year old mini Winnebagos; our mid-size rig was a rarity.

    We saw no drug use to speak of, but we saw so many in dire circumstances. Sometimes they were next to us for a few weeks. The couple with the toddler pulling an ancient camper with a Civic, hoping it would make it to the promised window-washing job. The woman who apologized for using sll the dryers in the laundry room – husband injured, not working, mrsa infection, had to wait for check for laundry money. The middle-age working couple with ancient rig whose son and granddaughter joined them, adding a tent, because the dil had gone back to drugs. The couple with two teenage girls who had had everything but lost their business in the bust – still had good cars and went to jobs each day but no affordable housing in San Diego. And on and on and on. Im sure it hasn’t improved since we quit traveling five years ago.

    Sorry if this is too long, but the encounters had a profound effect.

  15. rusti

    I went to high school in the Pacific Northwest and much of my extended family lives there still. When I come back to visit I’m always dismayed at how badly things have deteriorated. Theft was never a serious issue at the small-town hardware store where I worked for many years, but now the owner has had to change the store layout to make sure all angles are covered by security cameras and to make the entrances/exits more visible for staff. Occasionally when I visit to chat he has to step aside to keep an eye on or bounce known thieves.

    This summer I was physically assaulted on the street by a deranged guy who came up behind me and tried to bash my head with a skateboard, not in an attempt to steal anything but in a rage about something or other. It was fortunate that it wasn’t a knife and I escaped with just a small bit of bleeding on the back of my neck.

    It’s really a tragic state of affairs when there are hundreds of billions of dollars for war but shoestring budgets to assist those in desperation and poverty. I’m reading Max Hastings’ single-volume Vietnam history right now (I was born in the late 80s) and realizing that this part isn’t exactly a recent development, even if it appears to have become more brutal in my lifetime.

  16. Calypso Facto

    I lived in the PNW for most of 2005-2019 + most of 2000/1 – first Seattle, then Vashon, then Portland. If anything the anecdotes so far are leaving a lot out – nothing about the massive homeless problem within the cities, or the massive general grim desperation among the (non-Big Tech) wage/laboring classes in the cities.

    I try not to contribute here when I have nothing intelligent to add or when the topic is too emotional to contribute intelligently and unfortunately this is one of those topics. I was one of the supremely lucky ones who arrived from the outside “with a dream” as someone says above and managed, by the end, to make it out with more than I came in. I honestly only know of a handful of others who did as well or better out of the hundreds of people I knew well enough. I don’t mean that as a brag but to make it clear that the conditions there are dire for almost everyone who isn’t already wealthy.

    Before the crash there were still relatively affordable apartments and if you didn’t drive and were frugal you could make it – I spent my 20s in the gay ghetto of Capitol Hill in Seattle doing just that, but now that is all gone in the post-2011 AWS/Amazon dominated Seattle. Anyone who had money at that point engaged in real estate speculation since Amazon built up an entire neighborhood (South Lake Union) in the city core, and now Seattle is San Francisco 2. Anyone after that who had money to invest put it into Air BnB or other short term luxury apartments. Seattle is land-contrained – there is nowhere to build affordable housing in the city without regulating the real estate speculation. Rent control isn’t enough – they need to crack down on the institutional landlordism and short term luxury rental platforms, and then in addition to that provide rent control.

    I’ve said this before but I will say it again: if there were other avenues of investment (factories, productive businesses) other than real estate, this would not be such a problem. However the hollowing out of our manufacturing capabilities has left real estate the only investment with ‘safe returns’ and so everyone has been piling in. Everyone who was pushed out went somewhere. Some of those people didn’t have anywhere to go and were pushed down and out on to the street. It happened and continues to happen at a mass scale.

  17. Krystyn Walentka

    Yves, thanks for highlighting my observations. I tell my friends these stories and it is foreign to them and they are shocked, so the more people know the better. I think an attempt to increase empathy might help us all “feel the Bern”.

    I have been traveling the county since 2003, mostly out of necessity. It is not only harder for me to get by now, but I have to say this is the worst I have seen it on the road since then.

    Regarding the trimming link to what I saw. I lived at a retreat center north of Garberville, CA in 2008(?). Right in the middle of trimmer country. There was an influx of people during harvest but it was a totally seasonal event. Hard to say if it is the major cause of the issues, I saw several much older men living in their cars, one holding a sign saying “Disability ran out”. I do not think looking at single issues helps, it is systemic, and at the root of it, IMHO, is capitalism. But housing costs affect me the most and I feel this has to be true for the majority of people. I am not homeless because I want to be and I have zero addictions. I just cannot afford housing. This could have driven me to drug use but I was just lucky.

    I was telling a friend yesterday that I am headed to the desert to find purpose or learn to live without it. It is hard to get an idea on the deep psychological toll of poverty and homelessness. This is where spirituality has to come in somewhere. I am not talking woo woo stuff, just community, and an ideology directed at people rather than profit.

    I slept at a rest stop on I-5 about 100 miles north of Sacramento last night. Very quiet and I think I was the only one who was homeless. It is a heavy agricultural area and kind of in the middle of nowhere. Being in the Starbucks it looks like a retirement/agricultural mix. There is a group of older white men, dressed well enough, that look like they gather here frequently. So that reads; wealth, community, stability. All those things are deeply tied to economics.
    Continuing my trip down I-5 today….

    1. Janie

      Check out Escapees, SKPs. Inexpensive membership. Casinos usually let you dry camp. Camping World does also. BLM land is often free in So Cal snd So Az. Truck stops are noisy and have showers. Some towns in the Permian basin area of Texas have free for a few nights municipal campgrounds to keep tourists. Maybe Thousand Trails, but it’s a shadow of what it once was? Sorry if I’m telling you what you already know.

      Thanks for update and wishing you good luck.

    2. notabanktoadie

      I do not think looking at single issues helps, it is systemic, and at the root of it, IMHO, is capitalism.

      if by “capitalism” you mean government privileges for a private-credit-for-usury cartel AND unlimited private ownership of life’s necessities such as land, then I agree.

      Otherwise, let’s be careful not to throw out the good with the bad.

      1. Tim

        Institutions are run by people. Capitalism and the economy has been perverted because the kind of people who control them and the so called values they bring with them has changed.

        Identify them, shame them, boycott them in every way possible, work with your neighbors at the local level. If enough citizens do that, national problems will be at least partially resolved.

        Also, keep in mind that our citizens worst standard of living is paradise compared to migrants who chose to escape poverty. At least Oregon codifies their rights:

  18. Alfred

    Three weeks ago I drove through northwestern Alabama, from Florence to Tuscaloosa via Sheffeld, Russellville, Phil Campbell, Jasper and — most memorably — Oakman. Beyond Sheffield I was seeing this part of the country for the first time. What struck me was the large number of abandoned buildings, both residential and commercial, probably dating from the 1940s through the 1970s yet in many cases already in states of advanced disrepair or even collapse. I got the sense not of an economy in decline, but rather of an economy that has ceased to exist altogether; a false sense, I know, but nevertheless a persistent one. Here and there, by way of contrast, were some school buildings of recent vintage, all of them improbably ostentatious. I could only guess at how they had been financed. Framing for me this literally moving experience was the indifference of lovely hills and woods, a landscape that once upon a time filled pioneers and entrepreneurs with notions of opportunity but that now appeared even at midday shadowy with foreboding. In the end Tuscaloosa came into view as an oasis disconnected in an unsettling way from its hinterland, prospering (I must suppose) on the basis of subsidies attracted by its university, rather than radiating a prosperity outward as institutions of higher education were once expected to do. On the outskirts of its downtown the shiny new Synovus Plaza building stands like a piece of fragile poetry, its columnar supports appearing impossibly thin and its glass envelope mirroring vast emptiness. One imagines with difficulty any structure more opposite in appearance or significance from the Queen City Pool complex nearby, an architectural splendor (re-purposed as a museum) that survives as concrete proof of what the New Deal could and did achieve against daunting odds. From all of this, and from another recent drive along the backroads from Eufaula to Montgomery via Union Springs, I learned that one does not see Alabama by passing through Mobile and Birmingham en route to Tennessee; one does not even see Birmingham without stopping to appreciate up-close the poignant, fenced-in ruins of Slossfield Community Center; one does not see America at all by sticking to the four-lanes.

    1. skk

      Nice writeup. The Dailywoo youtube channel features road trips thru empty towns of North Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and so on. As you say, many have simply ceased to exist because of a variety of reasons – but date from quite a few decades ago.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Your comment lead me to wonder how much desperation is hidden behind empty buildings, rundown neighborhoods, and hidden behind closed doors. I suspect the desperation we can plainly see in the homeless is just the tip of a large iceberg of desperation in our hinterlands and also in our cities.

  19. skk

    For 28 years I’ve been going to a Thai restaurant on Hollywood Blvd, LA, east of the 101 Fwy, NOT the Hollywood/Vine, (Grau)Mann’s Chinese Theatre side . In the last year I’ve noticed tents erected on the sidewalks – on the side-streets, not the Blvd itself. The area has never been salubrious but this is definitely a new phenomenon.
    Reminds me of the pavement dwellers and illegal hutments in Mumbai. Hollywood Blvd is not quite as extensive as Mumbai hutments, but I’m told it is pretty extensive , now, on Skid Row and south of the Fashion District in downtown LA.

  20. Hayek's Heelbiter

    I have often commented on how the Acela classes seem able to block out the evidence just outside the train window

    Shades of The Hunger Games! In how much else is the film/book prescient?

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Is the running man book [author?] more fitting and better than the movie. [I enjoyed the movie and found it entertaining … but realistic?]

            1. Jeremy Grimm

              Thanks! I’ll look for used copies of Running Man and the long walk. I liked the Hunger Games novels and the movies … but I think it might be well to remember this was Y.A. series of novels.

      2. sparkylab

        And “The Long Walk” – its in the same collection (The Bachman books). Written in 1979, The Hunger Games is just an updated version of it, IMO.

  21. Culp Creek Curmudgeon

    I’m a long time reader, but this is my first posting.

    I live in rural Oregon on the Row River in the Cascade foothills, about 16 miles east of I-5, 35 miles southeast of Eugene. I’d like to make a couple of comments.

    First, there is definitely rural homelessness, and it’s gotten much worse in the 15 years I been living out here. I regularly see folks living in RVs parked on the side of the road leading into town. The might stay there for a few day or a few months months. There’s one that I pass that put up Christmas decorations. There was one camp of quite a few people up river on an abandoned property that was shut down by Sheriff’s department. Most folks around are angry and scared of the homeless, with a certain amount of macho posturing although I’ve never heard of any actual violence done to anyone.

    Additionally, I see lots of RVs and campers at people’s homes. These are folks that have permission from friends or family to stay there. Our neighbor has three of these RVs. While these folks have a more legitimate place to stay, I know that it can cause tensions among the various people who live like this. I hear people complain that not everyone is paying their fair share of the utilities, for example. Just recently a friend asked me if someone they knew could park their RV at our place. I declined because I didn’t know the person, but I felt bad. They had a job but no place to live.

    Eugene has a fairly large number homeless people and a growing awareness that “something needs to be done,” but at this point nothing more than a patchwork approach has been attempted. The church I belong to in Eugene is host to three Conestoga huts, simple homes for one person in the shape of Conestoga wagons. Yesterday, driving home from Eugene I saw what seemed to be a grass fire spreading from a campsite.

    As for the trim-a-grant theory, I’m not convinced. I know a fair number of people in the marijuana growing business and most folks use trimmers that they know because it’s a skilled job. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some people who have moved here to process marijuana and stayed after the work was over, but homelessness long preceded the legalization of marijuana.

    1. Oregoncharles

      A friend works at the Eugene free clinic, primarily for the homeless (originally for hippies, who were intentionally migrant in many cases). He’s huge, so he gets to disarm the people waving knives around. \

      Yeah, lots of misery in Eugene; it’s a long-term political issue. The Eugene Weekly is a pretty good source: The free paper is better than the daily.

  22. Brooklin Bridge

    Constantly questioning oneself the way Yves has done in the intro (and seems to do fairly regularly) is as healthy as it gets, especially if you can do it without becoming your own deer in your own headlights.

    I believe the act of introspection, particularly when harnessed to trying to do better, is not just as important as the act, in this case of giving, but an inseparable part of it.

    And, not in the least to take away from giving to organizations, and also not to suggest putting yourself in danger, the act of going out and in person giving to others in need can be sacred, in spite of its somewhat absurd inefficiency, and is enhanced more than negated by all the attendant -inevitable- doubts such as, “is this just to slave my conscience?, Does this really help anyone?, Am I not just insulting these poor people?, Won’t they resent charity? and so on.

    1. Janie

      Time/money given to a small, well-run local charity is more efficient that feeding the layers of management in large philantrophies.

  23. smoker

    I can’t bear much to write about this right now, as I witness my small circle of closest loved ones, not unEducated™ spiraling into a horrid undeserved poverty and daily FEAR in their sixties and increasingly reading horrid mythologies being perpetrated by those who still have a safety ledge; but I will leave the following links and comments:

    092919 Nearly half of the U.S.’s homeless people live in one state: California – Four of the five American cities with the greatest incidences of unsheltered homelessness are in the Golden State:

    At the city level, four of the five cities with the highest rate of unsheltered homelessness are in California: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa and San Jose. Seattle joins the California municipalities in the top five.

    As to those mythologies, despite repeated comments by a few, most of the homeless noted above are homegrown and were forced out of their own communities into the streets, as can be seen in the point in time reports for those cities.

    And (overlord trigger alert), it’s not just the impoverished who’s teeth end up having problems, at least the impoverished have a more valid reason. (The photo came from this ghastly overlord gathering in the Malarial Swamp)

    There is no excuse for the exploding poverty and misery in the US, and I won’t vote for anyone who doesn’t have it at the very top of their agenda, Loud and Clear; right along with crippling the criminally outrageous and deadly Pentagon budget and destroying the Quasi Governmental Technocracy Oligarchy, which created much of California’s Poverty.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Hang tough, smoker.
      Lots of people in the same boat (which doesn’t matter unless it does).

      Take what comes and try to keep your back leg braced. Best you can do….for now.

      Best to you and yours.

  24. Oregoncharles

    ” A 70% increase in the past ten years in the number of homeless students in public schools.”
    Families. And this corresponds exactly to the vaunted Obama “recovery.” I’m wondering if it’s actually entirely fictional; certainly the vast increase in inequality (do we have a stronger word for it?) indicates that it applied only to the top few.

    What would a fake recovery look like? What, besides the number of homeless people – esp. children – would reveal it?

    Aside from a very high number of homeless people, associated with very high rents and maybe a migrant population, I don’t see the area as especially distressed – but i live in a very fortunate town. It’s possible that the distress Krystyn observed along I-5 is peculiar to the highway itself; one commenter thought so.

    OTOH: years ago, during a previous recession, I heard an OSU economist describe Oregon as a “low tax, low service” state – a picture at odds with its liberal reputation. I’ve no reason to think it’s changed recently, so this may be a big factor.

    I’m jumping the gun a little on Yves’ article, so I’ll go back and finish it; but this is my backyard, so I’m wondering.

  25. RubyDog

    I live near Seattle and volunteer at a local food bank, which is in the midst of an affluent suburb. I deliver groceries to homebound people in need. My route is located in an area where the median household annual income is >$180000. The people who run the food bank tell me the demand has skyrocketed in the past few years, and they anticipate more this year due to the new restrictions on SNAP benefits. So yes, hiding in plain sight, in the midst of “plenty”.

    1. Wukchumni

      My ‘prepper’ arrangement is pretty basic, we keep around $777 worth of mostly canned & dry food on hand in case of something wicked this way comes, a marauding volcano, a virus on the loose, or what have you. It starts out as an insurance policy, and as we eat very little of it (Spaghettios ain’t me babe) as the use-by date comes and goes, we donate the lions share of it to our food bank, and presto!, it becomes a gift instead, and I go out and buy another $777 worth, Jackpot!

      I’ve volunteered often @ our ‘banking’ establishment, and looking out at the cars in the parking lot of those in need, you’d never know they were despondent based upon their rides, often less than 3-4 years old.

      Another thing: Only families can partake of free food here, single people are SOL, as there’s just enough on hand to help the former, but not the latter.

  26. David in Santa Cruz

    I too have been a frequent driver on the I-5 corridor from central California through Oregon and Washington, where I own property 4 miles from the Canadian border. I can echo the comments above that it is a continuous chain of broken-down homeless and semi-homeless heroin/meth abusers. However, I don’t look to local causes or solutions to this tragedy.

    We live on a planet that is now swarming with 7.8 Billion human beings, in a globalized market for labor and other commodities. It is a race to the bottom. These people are just discarded “excess” human beings.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      There are 7.8 Billion souls in today’s world. The U.S. population was 180.67 million, 1 July 1960, and 330.07 million 1 December 2019. The world population was estimated to be 3,034,949,748 in 1960, and 7,794,798,739 in 2020. World urban population was estimated to be 34% in 1960 and 56% in 2019. In many of the urban areas in the U.S. the infrastructure — including roads, public transportation, sewer and water systems, and electric systems, to mention a few amenities of modern life — is fifty years old or older. Our infrastructure met the needs of the earlier concentrations of population when first built … but are feeling crowded yet? I cannot imagine and do not really want to imagine how life must be in some other parts of the world outside the U.S.

      In the U.S. as our rate of population growth slowed our Elite opened immigration to assure that no job went without a small army of qualified job seekers. The U.S. ‘trade’ policies lead to the wholesale export of U.S. jobs to places where living conditions and human desperation were far worse than here. We imported that desperation as we exported jobs and the production of goods.

      Small business in the U.S. was decimated, once, and then again, … and then again as businesses in the U.S. were allowed to consolidate and create monopolies in local areas and nationally. Once competition was eliminated each of many monopolies have extracted the highest rents they could from their captive populations. As jobs disappeared and pay went down — rents increased without constraints other than “whatever the Market will bear”. Previously public services and publicly held commons were passed into private hands, ‘monetized’, and exploited for ever growing rent extraction. Local and State governments, starved for tax revenues as taxes on Corporations and the well-to-do were reduced and in some cases converted to subsidies of various forms. The Federal government bailed out a class of parasites and fed money to speculators who have pumped up the stock markets, and housing markets. Various agencies of the Federal government have boosted their budgets and wrapped them in ‘National Security’ as what remains of the New Deal is dismantled piece-by-piece.

      What is surprising to me … is not the homelessness evident on our streets, or the desperation behind the doors of so many … but how well our media, lack of empathy, lack of insight, and lack of curiosity has made it invisible.

  27. Dollar Stores for Days

    Through frequent enough domestic rural travel, usually to indulge in perhaps the whitest and most elite of sports, alpine skiing, I have noticed that practically the ONLY new retail businesses are dollar stores, e.g. Dollar General etc. This is consistent from New Mexico to New York. Whereas two decades ago the drivers of rural retail seemed to be McDonalds and Wal-Mart, they now appear too expensive for their clientele and literal dollar stores are what’s left to drive our consumption-led economy.

    It’s saddening and maddening to see what this country has become. When the majority are too depressed and cynical to vote in our elite-rigged system, and the majority of the minority vote for more neo-liberal garbage or are blind to the Democrats’ true priorities, no one should be surprised when Trump rallies those left over to re-election.

    Tangent Q: Do readers believe Bernie would have a viable shot at winning where he to be shunned by the DNC (currently in progress) and went for it alone, as an independently and people-funded third party candidate?

    1. Oregoncharles

      Tangent answer: that would depend on how much of his independent organization would go with him. The barriers to ballot access mostly consist of requirements for very large numbers of signatures, often in short time frames (even shorter if you wait till after the conventions). But the organizations he has in most states could meet that requirement from their own numbers, overnight.

      And he’s already a celebrity of sorts, so the press couldn’t just ignore him – ironically, the same advantage Trump had, for different reasons. But I think we’ve already established he has no interest in doing that; he hasn’t said why. It would be the most effective way to blow up the present system – and in a 3-way race, someone could win with only 34% of the vote. The next barrier would be the Electoral College; if they deadlock – if no one has a majority of EC votes – it goes to the House of Representatives, the OLD one.

    2. cnchal

      > Tangent Q . . .

      No. By election time Bernie would be portrayed as Marx, Lenin and Stalin rolled into one, with a face redder than a beet.

  28. mbrmlg

    I’m a Silicon Valley native, am in Santa Cruz weekly, have family in Eugene and Seattle. I see the displaced & homeless. We have friends who are very worried for themselves, sleepless with worry about hanging on. We have just-20s in our home that came to live with us from rural Oregon, then CA, 6 years ago – parents died and were using drugs/alcohol. We have FASD in the group (fetal alcohol exposure in utero). Very tough to deal with as it imparts lifelong brain impairment (damage). Yes, we see the increase in desperation and gutting of services. It takes a VERY VERY sophisticated and dogged effort to obtain services (for help/disability) and somehow eke out a life. Most cannot do it and it’s a life of dependency on relatives or falling through cracks, homeless.

    Speaking of myself, being on my own in the 1970s, at 18 through my 20s, living on the edge barely able to afford rent/food/transportation, I also accumulated tickets, warrants (thousands of $) and a tax audit and student loans with accumulated interest. I was arrested for FTA, registration a couple of times, not really doing anything wrong at the time, and but for the grace of God and thankfully, intelligence to finally figure it out, I’d be living in my car or dead, I think. It took me a diligent 5-10 years with no mistakes to change my life. This wasn’t easy but I had things going in my favor. So so many don’t.

    The cycle of downward spiral is indeed one disaster away, and that disaster is small – my young relative had a car accident the other day (fainted while driving, liability insurance), and the towing/impound for ONE WEEKEND (it happened on Friday and car could only be released on Monday – was around $400. Car totaled, $65 offered by junker, and thankfully, we heard about a $1500 comp from the State for retired vehicles. She is now car-less, medically license-less, coping with a full college load, via camping at friend’s house (creative), and refuses to give up on her education. She also has the flu and dislocated her knee. Oh, and she and a sibling were genetically diagnosed with a disorder with an average mortality at 47, but they can’t get disability. This kid is trying very very hard. We are the backstop. Her two siblings including a developmentally delayed one, are also needing the backstop till we can figure out something. The question is when? How? What?

    The thing that keeps me up at night, other than never having freedom as a senior citizen and worrying about their likely homelessness if something isn’t figured out?… the legalization of supercharged pot. We now work in advocacy to educate about FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) that impairs a fetal brain and body in utero. Most of the time, Mom doesn’t even realize she’s pregnant yet or may rationalize that it’s really OK. Alcohol to fetuses is the roulette wheel of intellectual and physical disability. We KNOW that LEGAL alcohol & cigarettes have over 400 known impairments that affect fetuses – alcohol far more than meth, not that we are recommending it. Pot? WHO KNOWS. We’re discussing the lack of jobs, addictions and homelessness of those itinerant pot trimmers? We’ve got to get a CLUE. WE ARE BREEDING HUMAN IMPAIRMENT and selling it as entertainment. It’s very much like selling tobacco as a health treatment in the 1930s and 40s!

    Going far back to prohibition and before, the acceptance of drinking and knowing that there is NO SAFE AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL, (and research of any substance on fetuses is ethically wrong), what do we do with all the impaired people?

    Since FASD is invisible, and tends to look like “stupid idiots making bad choices”. We blame, punish and incarcerate humans in the school to prison pipeline because they cannot function properly because of unintentional brain damage. Do we sterilize the defective people? Remember Eugenics? I really do think that was due to alcohol related brain damage but blamed on immigrants, etc. It migrated to Germany and Hitler, but had lost credibility in the US by the time Hitler employed it.

    Our other choice is systematized incarceration . or just vault into the future and maybe kill off the misfits. Put them into permanent suspended status as in Minority Report.

    The only way is to be a more COMPASSIONATE, AWARE and EDUCATED society. We need to stop Global Tax Avoidance (lack of economic equity), invest directly in our society and realize we have a generations-long agenda to rebuild this country.

    1. Fastball

      I have a very elderly father depending on me who, in his younger days, couldn’t even be bothered with us kids. He abandoned us and paid little if any child support.

      Now he has squandered his former wealth and he cannot live on his SS. I work a stressful job, and when I get home, I have to clean up after his every need, despite the fact that while he can cook for himself he chooses not to clean, leaving the cleaning to me. So I live a life of good job, alcoholism, decent money, no prospects, dying and entitled father, nothing interesting in my life, total despair.

      I am suffering a death of despair by alcoholism right now. While I understand what you are saying I am right in the middle of it.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Hear ya, fastball. Hard to exit the roller coaster when it never stops.

        Drink too much everyday myself.

        It’s nice to not self-medicate once in a while. Take a day, any day, and just say “Not today.” If you want a drink, the next day, have at. But take one day and say nah
        The same shit’ll be there tomorrow.

        But maybe you’ll remember that you matter too..

        Not the first to go thru what you’re going through. Do what you can to survive.

        But know you’re not alone. For what that’s worth.

  29. Wukchumni

    F-35’s are practicing above for the first time in perhaps 3 months time, and while you couldn’t fit more than a few homeless into the cockpit, think of how the money for a pair of hangar queens could have been used instead to create the equivalent of CCC camps for the downtrodden, with the overhead?

  30. Waking Up

    If you want to see a visual of what happens when… “It’s easy to pretend that these problems exist mainly in flyover, but as the examples above show, they are often in affluent areas where exploding housing costs have squeezed and often displaced those of modest means.” Here is a documentary titled “Seattle is Dying”.

    Then remember decisions made by “lawmakers” resulting in the following:

  31. VietnamVet

    I didn’t see homeless next to the tracks under bridges in Seattle until the Reagan era in the mid-1980s. I haven’t taken Amtrak across the USA in over a decade. But the homeless are now living on K Street’s sidewalk in Washington DC. The neo-liberal counter revolt’s primary purpose was to cut taxes paid by professionals and wealthy for society’s good. They succeeded. But the collapse can’t be hidden anymore, especially in California. Even corporate media has noticed the rise in California homeless deaths camped next to railroad tracks;

  32. Fastball

    I have started giving money every time I’m asked. Often fair amounts of money. My region of the country is relatively prosperous — adjacent to Highlands Ranch, CO, one of the most prosperous regions of the country.

    Even we have homeless and desperate people as well. The other week a desperate woman came to me having an issue because her gas gauge froze and her car ran out of gas. Since all I had was a $20 bill, I gave it to her. I now make sure to ALWAYS carry money.

    Just remember the exact same thing could happen to anyone.

    I am not a healthy person or well at all (I can barely walk an eighth of mile before needing to sit down) so I am stymied as to what more I can do to help, but I stop at every sign for help and give money if it’s not dangerous to stop.

    I’m sure so many people on this post are stuck in the same vicious thought circle of “what-can-I-do-what-can-I-do-what-can-I-do” as I am in.

    Above I saw a comment that this crisis is not our fault, that we didn’t make it (I’m just a little worker as well) — but our lack of compassion — our pushing this away from our eyes — does have an effect. I’m not pointing fingers — I have had to relearn actual compassion instead of just advocating it.

    The government is failing but I have no right to turn away.

    For me, this is a change. Perhaps it will be more widespread as the crisis intensifies, as it surely will. Maybe even I will be homeless and needing help. Times ARE desperate.

    1. Waking Up

      For the past 40 years at least, the propaganda (in the U.S. and eventually globally) has always been about “individual responsibility”. The message was repeated in our media (entertainment, news, movies, etc), our churches (prosperity gospel for example), educational institutions (such as higher ed placing an emphasis on profits over education resulting in our current student loan crisis), corporations (so they could claim no responsibility to “society” and therefore have no tax obligations), financial institutions (with all the fraudulent activities culminating in the biggest bank and financial bailout in history), tech industry (with their rampant libertarian, Ayn Rand view of the world), the 1% (who off-shored not only jobs but their money to the “tax havens” and made sure the government put the interests of the 1% above the remaining citizens of the country) and our government at the local, state and national level (where politicians have put campaigns and revolving door careers at a higher priority than the people they were supposed to represent in addition to the bipartisan endless drive for deregulation which just to name a few gives us the Boeing fiasco and the financial meltdown)…all of this has brought our culture and country down. ,

      Unless we as a nation can understand the importance of the “collective” and the word “society”, expect “desperation” to get much worse.

  33. sierra7

    One of the best articles in a long time with commensurate comments.
    As so many commenters state, it is a very complicated problem with apparently no “viable” politically correct solutions.
    Now retired in the Sierra foothills grew up in San Francisco and left the greater bay area in 1999. My own personal view is that when “globalization” was embraced the US was finished as a “middle-class” country. There was no way for any economic direction except down. Globalization was the wet dream of the organized labor destroyers of the western world. With AI (Artificial Intelligence) spiraling upward within our society there will be an escalating loss of decent jobs; common jobs will have no protection…they will be some of the first to go. Secretaries, para-legals, service center personnel, even some retail establishments we consider immune like “fresh foods” stores and so many others.
    With the losses of those jobs most Americans will not be able to “climb the middle class ladder” and so will end in desperate straits. No home-ownership; no decent rental properties ergo: the streets. The foreign people who inherit the good jobs lost here will migrate here and buy property and pursue the lifestyles that we considered ours by right.
    The “Mile Long” homeless camp in Santa Rosa; the utterly bewildering defecation of San Francisco, the homeliness encampments on the Penninsula; those ubiquitous homeless areas of Oakland; Santa Cruz, CA; Los Angeles; San Diego…..oh so many to count and think about. Not to mention those who are living in their cars; so many with jobs……homes lost in the GFC and jobs lost at the same time never able to recover.
    Most of our politicians will not acknowledge the misery dispersed across this nation because then they will have to admit to failed policies, from domestic to foreign.
    Just recently it was discovered that one (ONE!) homeless couple was hanging out in our local park. There was a “call” (Really!!) for the locals to, “Rise up”! To combat this influx of homelessness!
    For too many Americans it is still, “Out of sight, out of mind”. Too bad.
    The spread of this misery will increase and those who ignore the problem do so at their own (political) peril.
    Corrupt politics; different levels of “justice”; dishonest financial system; belief that “privatizations” is the answer for the country’s ills; tremendous loss of trust in our overall social system; loss of compassion with the idea that, “tough love” will solve the problems; embrasure of the idea that “free markets” will be the answer to our ‘dreams’; the increasing wall growing between the truly wealthy (billionaires) and new unaware “millionaire middle-class” with the former destroyed middle class will surely bring on a new revolution eventually.
    As long as we embrace this kind of capitalist system without rules and controls there is (nor will be) no solution to “homelessness” and in the present global climate will only increase in desperation.

  34. JBird4049

    Much of this “hidden”‘misery is there for anyone who is willing to look. It really is out in the open.

    When the homeless encampments are now dotted across the entire San Francisco Bay Area and into NorCal among the hills, pit stops, and semi hidden places along the major highways and roads most of the way to the Oregon border although just how far I personally don’t know anymore. But it the limits are more northernly every year. For south of the Peninsula and then south of Santa Clara, I can just read the various papers with their endless whining especially from readers.

    I used to be asked when I would move to a more affordable spot. Now I retort with where to? I never get any good response. There is nowhere to go especially as any place that has affordable housing has no jobs and anyplace with jobs, and California does have plenty, there is no affordable housing relative to the income earned. This is true throughout the whole state of California.

    So anyone tutt tutting about the difference between the deserving and undeserving poor or about how you should donate to the now thoroughly corrupt nonprofits (Although there are good organizations, but it requires research to avoid the crooks) is just fooling themselves. 60, 50, even 40 years ago you could have made a good, reasoned case for responsibility.

    Now, one really cannot and bullshitting about getting a poorly paying job, and anything less than 50k is, while avoiding the despair and drugs arising from endless struggle in the minefield of life is kinda insulting. Not to say absolutely useless. So what is the point of of such moralizing?

  35. Another Amateur Economist

    For a given per capita Gross Domestic Income, the number of homeless will be pretty much determined by the income distribution. The greater the inequality, the greater the number of homeless. Indeed, given the financial secrecy of the wealthy, a count of homeless, as difficult as it might seem, might give a more accurate measure of social inequality.

    Four points: It doesn’t matter how hard people might struggle to escape homelessness. It will not change the number of homeless. The distribution of income has little to do with how hard anybody, especially the poor, works.

    Second: So as inequality increases, so will the number of homeless. Unless inequality is addressed, there is nothing anybody can do about it.

    Third: For any per capita GDI, for any reasonable distribution of income, the majority of people are better off under the more egalitarian income distribution than they would be under the more inequitable distribution.
    Under the current distribution of income, probably between 85% and 90% of the people would be materially better off under an equal distribution of income. Given the same GDI per capita.

    Fourth: Recall “Monopoly(TM).” The winner was basically decided long before play ended. And the game did not end until everyone except the winner was bankrupt and homeless. So to paraphrase Warren Buffet: The rich have waged class war upon the rest of us. And they have won.

    And our corporate masters refuse to stop play while the rest of us still have anything left to call our own.


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