What Hath Progressives Wrought?

There is a cat food dish on the front porch of our house, because our two cats are both outside and indoor critters. A dozen feet in front of the porch is the fence line, which has plenty of foliage, from bushes all the way up to two walnut trees. It was November of 2018 when I noticed that a feral cat had made his home under those bushes, because he was living close to the food we put outside.

It took a few weeks before I could even approach the feral cat, but he eventually got used to me, and while he didn’t let me pet him, he would stop running away when I went out to fill the dish. Then, one very cold December morning, I went out with a scoop of food to fill the dish, and he was so hungry that he started eating even as I was putting the food in the dish. On impulse, I reached down, grabbed him, brought him inside immediately, and plopped him down in a chair in front of the fireplace.

Ooooh, I like this,” the feral cat thought, and with that, Wild Thing just plain moved in. The moral of the story is simple: if you feed them, they will come!

Subscriptions to The Wall Street Journal are expensive, but many times you will find things in the Journal that the mostly liberal professional media will not publish, as Editorial Board member Allysia Finley does something really radical like tell readers the truth:

The Root Causes of San Francisco’s Disorder

Covid lockdowns hastened the city’s decline, but it won’t recover as long as it clings to progressive obsessions.

by Allysia Finley | Sunday, June 18, 2023 | 3:42 PM EDT

Author Shelby Steele and his son, Eli, were filming a documentary in San Francisco last week when someone broke into their rental car. “In the 10 minutes we were gone our SUV was broken into and nearly $15k of cameras stolen,” Eli tweeted. “Called 911 & they hung up twice.”

Welcome to another day ending in the letter Y in San Francisco.

For those of you stymied by the Journal’s paywall, you can read the article for free here, though the internal hyperlinks are not included.

“Many Twitter employees feel unsafe coming to work in downtown SF and have had their car windows smashed,” Elon Musk tweeted in response. “They also got such a null response from the police that they rarely even bother reporting crimes anymore, because nothing happens.”

It’s more accurate to say the police response depends on the identities of the victim and perpetrator. In January, Shannon Collier Gwin, a 71-year-old art-gallery owner, was arrested for spraying a hose at a homeless woman camped in front of his business. The woman often had been heard screaming in the middle of the night.

“I completely broke,” Mr. Gwin said in an apology. “I am not equipped or trained to deal with a citywide problem like this.”

There was a double episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Past Tense,” in which Captain Sisko, Lt Commander Jadzia Dax, and Dr Julian Bashir wound up time traveled back to San Francisco in 2024. Messrs Sisko and Bashir are found by a pair of police officers, who believe them to be vagrants and warn them to get off the streets. They are escorted to a “Sanctuary District”, a walled-off ghetto that is used to contain the poor, the sick, the mentally disabled, and anyone else who cannot support themselves. A Journal commenter named Brent Law suggested:

Take the empty buildings (hotels, offices, etc) and make SF one giant homeless shelter. Move all those crossing our border illegally as well as the country’s homeless into these makeshift homes. Fence the place in and then take a page from the Left’s playbook by declaring victory.

Not too far off from Deep Space Nine, huh?

Neither, it seems, are the city’s politicians. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Yet San Francisco’s leaders refuse to acknowledge how their own policies have caused the spiral of public disorder that’s driving away businesses and residents in droves.

And here is the lesson of Wild Thing: if a city makes it easier for the homeless and the junkies to survive, allowing them to camp out wherever they choose, providing food and shelter and other services, the derelicts will flock to that city. Because of the policies of the oh-so-compassionate left, rather than solving the problems of homelessness and drug abuse, they have enabled more of it, to the point at which they have grown and festered, and are driving decent people and good businesses — and the taxes they pay — out of what was once one of America’s greatest cities.

The political leaders of the City by the Bay recognize the problems, because they hit them in the face, every day. The part that they don’t get is that their policies are responsible. But that’s hardly surprising: we see the same thing from the liberal Democrat leaders in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, St Louis, Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles . . . and that list is not exclusive.

According to MediaFeed, Baltimore ranks 23rd and St Louis 14th — the only two US cities on the list — of the 25 highest murder rates in the world. Most of the other cities are in Venezuela, Brazil, and Mexico.

Add to this list the Westfield San Francisco Centre, whose owners last week handed their property to their lender. “A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area,” the mall’s owner said last month after the center’s Nordstrom store announced it is closing.

Nearly half of the mall’s retailers have closed since 2020 as San Francisco has lost some 7.5% of its population—a larger share than any other major city. Those leaving are by and large affluent. According to Internal Revenue Service data, about 14,700 San Francisco taxpayers with an average adjusted gross income of $415,000 moved to other states in 2020 and 2021. Tens of thousands more flocked to Bay Area exurbs.

It ought to be so simple that even a liberal could understand it: law-abiding people, taxpaying people, mostly want to go to and from work safely, and live where the streets aren’t littered with derelicts and drug addicts, human poop and used needles. But because the progressive mindset is to not clean up the streets and remove the homeless and the junkies, because, well, just because.

The Journal article continues, to note that the COVID-19 lockdowns exacerbated the problems in an unexpected way: once the people who could work remotely, a population which included some of the city’s better-paid workers, they had little desire to return to, or if they had stayed in ‘Frisco, remain in that jungle of junkies.

The lockdowns remained in force until May of 2021, 14 months rather than the fifteen days to flatten the curve, and many people found out that they could make just as much money, progress in their careers, much further away from the city’s crime, ridiculous housing costs, and higher taxes.

The city has long been grungy, but the blight and crime worsened during the pandemic as city officials reduced the jail population by about 40% by releasing hundreds of inmates—never mind that they were far more likely to die of drug overdoses on the streets than of Covid in their cells. Meantime, the city encouraged the homeless to isolate in hotels by offering them free booze and marijuana. “They’re doing San Francisco a great service by staying inside,” one city official said. “We’re saying, ‘We’re doing what we can to support you staying inside and not have to go out and get these things.’”

Yet they still went out and got “things.” At least 18 homeless people died of drug overdoses in one hotel alone. Hotel damage from vagrants has cost the city roughly $44.5 million in settlement payments, which the city is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse. Some hotels have fallen into such disrepair that even many of the city’s homeless are refusing offers to be put up there.

Let’s tell the truth here: everything they did, everything!, was the wrong thing to do. The Journal goes on to tell us that while other cities have mostly returned to pre-panicdemic hotel and other business levels, San Francisco has not . . . and some hotel and building owners have simply walked away from their mortgages, seeing little hope that things will ever recover.

Therein lies the root cause of San Francisco’s public disorder. The city won’t recover unless its leaders get over their neurotic obsession with eliminating wealth.

The author might have been a little bit hyperbolic with that one, because the political leaders aren’t trying, in their minds, to eliminate wealth, but are so deceived by their own biases that they think government largesse for the poor will make everyone wealthy, while ignoring the signs, all around them, that the wealthy will protect what they have rather than let the government make them poor, and that giving free stuff to the deliberately poor simply enables them to survive while destitute.

There is a Faustian bargain out there, that the reasonably well-to-do left just don’t understand. Reasonably hard-working themselves, providing decent lifestyles for their families and themselves, it is simply outside their paradigm that some people could choose to remain destitute as long as they could still survive rather than get off their asses and work. The well-to-do liberals can be comfortable in saying that marijuana isn’t harmful, without being able to wrap their pumpkin heads around the concept that alcohol and drugs can be addictive, and can rob the addicts of any real free will.

So, many who could take their money and flee have done just that. As nice as California’s climate can be — another magnet for the derelicts, not too hot and not too cold — there are plenty of other nice places to live. California has actually lost population, with nearly 700,000 more people moving out than moved in to the Pyrite State, even though The Los Angeles Times doesn’t see that as a problem. Of course, California is the nation’s capital of self-delusion.

The Deep Space Nine episodes describing the city’s ‘Sanctuary District’ are set next year. I can understand that, in 1994, when the episodes were written and produced, thirty years into the future was unknowable. California was, at the time, nearing the end of Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s first term — he would be re-elected in 1994 — following eight years under Governor George Deukmejian, another Republican, and the state was perceived as somewhat liberal, but not wild-eyed whacko leftist.

Who knows? Perhaps the writers of the episodes, Ira Behr and Robert Wolfe, figured that it was evil Republican, conservative policies which would lead to a semi-concentration camp existence for the poor, but the state has suffered the ills it has not under evil reich-wingers, but a super-majority of ‘progressive’ elected officials. The Fool’s Gold State won’t establish a ‘sanctuary district’ to house the destitute and the junkies — the Deep Space Nine episodes did not mention drug addicts, which would have been horribly, horribly politically incorrect, just the poor and unemployed — but the city’s and state’s policies are slowly turning all of San Francisco into its own sanctuary district, not by walling in the destitute, but by pushing out the hard-working and productive people.
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