Rather than making a futile attempt to rationalize any of Trump’s horrifying, irrational views, our time is better spent in political analysis that points to clarity and action. For, like most bourgeois politicians, Trump likes to point a finger of blame for this or that issue at other individuals, including victims, instead of at the system that puts profits before meeting human needs.
One case in point is Trump’s Sept. 17 statement on the homeless situation in California, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco. He said: “We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening.” He described the homeless situation there as “disgusting,” “disgraceful” and “a disgrace to our country” and threatened: “We’ll be doing something about it.” (USA Today, Sept. 17) Trump also stated that homeless people are making the police “sick.” (Washington Post, Sept. 17)
Trump made some of these demonizing comments en route to California to host several fundraisers where tens of millions of dollars were raised for his reelection campaign. Trump was targeting local Democratic administrations in Los Angeles and San Francisco as responsible for “the homeless crisis” in hopes of giving his reelection campaign a shot in the arm. He lost the vote in those two cities in 2016.
Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, vigorously responded: “The president’s remarks are abhorrent. He’s apparently more concerned with the doorways and streets than with the people who are homeless and sleeping on them.” (Washington Post, Sept. 17)
During 2018, the homeless population in Los Angeles increased overall by 16 percent. According to Karen Lincoln, an associate professor of social work at the University of Southern California, while only 9 percent of the population of Los Angeles is African American, about 40 percent of the city’s homeless population is Black. She noted that the Latinx population is similarly disproportionately homeless. (Citylab, Sept. 11)
According to a report released July 11, the number of people without homes in San Francisco has increased over 30 percent since 2017. (tinyurl.com/y4wxq57r/) A 2018 Department of Housing and Urban Development report revealed that a household of four in the city, even with an income of over $117,000, is considered “low income.” Only 17 percent of San Francisco’s population can afford to purchase a “median-priced” home — starting at $1.7 million.
Why this “sudden” homeless crisis in these cities? One definite answer can be found in the unregulated boom in housing costs — fueled by gentrification. San Francisco now has more billionaires per capita than any other city in the world. (Fox News, Aug. 20) As the epicenter of high-tech-dominated Silicon Valley, with mega-corporations like Google and Twitter, landlords and property owners are having a field day, setting high prices and reaping record profits.
Let’s be clear. There is a glut — overproduction — in the housing market overall in the U.S. Large numbers of empty condominiums and abandoned apartments and houses are proof positive that housing is available — but also that housing under capitalism is set up to make a profit, no matter how many people are forced to live on the streets. A large majority suffer from mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction, along with police abuse.
Trump, who became a billionaire with investments in luxury hotels and other real estate, is a hypocrite because he knows this to be true.
Yes, homelessness is a disgrace — it is a disgrace of capitalism! Because housing should be affordable and available to all. Housing is a human right!
This is a slightly edited version of a talk given during the “What Road to…