Evan Rowe is an adjunct professor at Broward College.
Fort Lauderdale has garnered some national headlines -- we made the New York Times today -- with the recent anti-homeless laws that the City Commission enacted that basically serve as an attempt to remove the undesirables from downtown.
But there is no way to deal with the homeless problem without first dealing with the problem of concentrated power. The problem with poverty is that it is inversely related to concentrated wealth.
You cannot produce sizable working poor and homeless people unless you tolerate an arrogant rich minority to live with entirely too much power at everyone else's expense. The homeless population is predicated on the power of the few being enhanced over the many. And it is in fact the majority of the working population, along with the homeless population, that exists to support this class.
So, to have the city hyperobsessing over homelessness rather than dealing with the arrogant minority as the cause is absurd but also common in a political system in which the majority has almost no control over the political system in any meaningful way.
The bottom line is that we have a superrich political and economic class, and that will always produce homelessness.
There is no fix to it other than social services that are legit and well-funded and not the kind that rely on private charity. I'm talking about funding that provides homes, medicine to those with mental illness, and ample high-paying jobs for those who need them.
The estimates on mental illness and homeless veterans are staggeringly high. But since the choice is between having a political program that allows the entitled posh minority to maintain ridiculous levels of power over everyone else and dealing with the homeless in a real way, the political class chooses to support what James Madison referred to as the "minority of the opulent" and to try to go with an aggressive and draconian plan to go after the weakest and most disorganized people they can find, because they do not have the political capacity to attack anything with meaning and power.
So they cannot create a sane income floor power for the limited parts of the homeless population that would enter the labor markets on terms that are sane, humane, and provide decent and quality work for decent pay, and they cannot deal with the mentally ill because the state infrastructure does not seem to have the capacity to keep people with reasonable shelter and medicine.
And since they cannot improve the standard of living for the many, the homeless are simply the bottom floor of an already completely stressed working class that has worked each year to allow massive concentrations of power to expand even more. This is why the stock market is at an all-time high and the labor situation is at a 62 percent participation rate, with much of that being mostly low-wage service employment.
You cannot have massive poverty without first creating concentrated wealth in a few hands. And you cannot deal with the former without dealing with the latter. An economy, when it all boils down, is just a giant collective relationship of power. The top often produces the bottom and, as George Carlin once joked, uses it to scare the middle and keep it in line. But the middle has imploded into increasingly lower incomes for the majority and has increasingly tolerated the problem people at the top to accrue and concentrate their power.
The homeless issue is one that the politicians will not solve in a meaningful way (i.e., with massive tax hikes on the posh classes, their commercial interests, their mansions, and boats, etc.), so they have opted for the draconian option and basically fallen into a political trap because they are staring so locally at the issue and didn't consider what it was going to look like if you are arresting people for feeding the homeless and why that is probably a public relations no-no.
Even if the new ordinances were to reduce the homeless in South Florida by pushing the homeless population elsewhere, it's just passing the buck to some other space. People always have tremendous difficulty understanding the broader world when they use their own experiences and perspectives. Having a big-picture view of the world requires data, not personal experiences and ridiculous judgments like "some people want to be homeless", as lawyer, commissioner, and member of the high class and real estate sector Dean Trantalis has used to defend the ordinance.
Anyone who is not attacking where power is and instead substitutes attacking where it is not is just mowing the weeds, not solving a problem. Only a serious attempt at dealing with the real problems of the top class will produce meaningful results for the general population and, by extension, the homeless population.
But it is the top class that is responsible for producing the homeless population, and so it must be the top class that should deal with them. The idea that they should be able to remotely produce the homeless population and at the same time hide from it makes no sense.
If you want to accept the consequences of producing concentrated opulence as a side effect of producing homelessness and precarious labor, then we as a society deserve to be able to put those consequences in the face of the high classes and not allow them to sweep it under the rug or force a situation where poor people in proximity with one another are at one anothers' necks.
And of course, George Carlin had an idea of his own on how to solve the homeless problem:
It is always important to remember that property is a privilege, not a right. And the terms on which society allows one to control concentrated amounts of property are always subject to political questioning. How to deal with the people who are forcing not just the homeless but so many of us who teeter on that edge of precarity is a far more important issue to a far greater percentage of the city population. Dealing with the power addicts in real estate, finance, and other beneficiaries of upward redistribution of power is of the utmost importance. The homeless problem, on the other hand, can much more easily be solved after a reduction of power occurs at the top.
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