East Coast v. West Coast Liberalism

Does Nicholas Kristof make his case?

So, I read the Nicolas Kristof piece that was mentioned in yesterday’s open forum, What Have We Liberals Done to the West Coast? I found it to be more than a bit odd. It makes a sweeping claim about West Coast v. East Coast liberalism and while it makes some legitimate points about housing in particular, it is an otherwise weird and unconvincing piece.

He sounds more like a weird combination of sympathetic bleeding-heart and Fox News commentator.

As Democrats make their case to voters around the country this fall, one challenge is that some of the bluest parts of the country — cities on the West Coast — are a mess.

Centrist voters can reasonably ask: Why put liberals in charge nationally when the places where they have greatest control are plagued by homelessness, crime and dysfunction?

So, I understand that homelessness is a major problem on the West Coast in particular. Over the last several years I saw it myself when I traveled to Portland in 2021 and to California in the spring of 2023 (from San Francisco down to Orange County). There was a significant presence of homelessness in downtown Portland and I will note that the rental car company was quite strident about concerns about automobile break-ins in San Francisco. I saw homeless encampments in various places as we traveled south. I didn’t see all that much of it, by the way, in San Diego on a separate trip in late 2023. Of course, I was hardly on sociological field studies but was instead on vacation or business trips, so am hardly making scientific claims.

By the same token, I hardly found the Bay Area to be a post-apocalyptic hellscape, and while I fully accept that there is crime, homelessness, and dysfunction in these cities, it isn’t like those things aren’t present in the East but nor is it the case that Los Angeles, for example, is emptying out.

Indeed, a core part of the problem in California specifically is that demand for housing is a major component of price. It has been that way for quite some time.

Kristof also plays the game of peppering in some wacky tales of political silliness, for example.

For example, as a gesture to support trans kids, Oregon took money from the tight education budget to put tampons in boys’ restrooms in elementary schools — including boys’ restrooms in kindergartens.

Ok, that sounds super dumb, but what does it have to do with homelessness, which really is his central issue? Nothing questionable or dumb ever happens anywhere else?

The column seems mostly predicated on this, from a HUD report he links and was discussed in the Open Forum yesterday:

The two states with the highest rates of unsheltered homelessness are California and Oregon. The three states with the lowest rates of unsheltered homelessness are all blue ones in the Northeast: Vermont, New York and Maine.

He also adds in:

Liberal Massachusetts has some of the finest public schools in the country, while liberal Washington and Oregon have below-average high school graduation rates.

Oregon ranks dead last for youth mental health services, according to Mental Health America, while Washington, D.C., and Delaware rank best.

These are all legitimate issues to note. But he is just throwing things out without any systematic comparison being deployed. He also notes this:

Democratic states enjoy a life expectancy two years longer than Republican states. Per capita G.D.P. in Democratic states is 29 percent higher than in G.O.P. states, and child poverty is lower. Education is generally better in blue states, with more kids graduating from high school and college. The gulf in well-being between blue states and red states is growing wider, not narrower.

So my rejoinder to Republican critiques is: Yes, governance is flawed in some blue parts of America, but overall, liberal places have enjoyed faster economic growth and higher living standards than conservative places. That doesn’t look like failure.

So the problem isn’t with liberalism. It’s with West Coast liberalism.

But guess what when you look at life expectancy, via his link, we find the following (emphases mine):

The top 10 states, in order, are: Hawaii, Washington, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, Utah and Connecticut.

So my point is simply to point out that he is cherry-picking so as to make his case that there is some kind of clearly obvious West Coast liberalism problem, but I don’t think that stands up to scrutiny (or, as a minimum, I don’t think he makes his case). By the way, and along those lines, while New York does a far better job of sheltering their homeless, they have more homeless per capita than California, according to that same HUD report. Indeed, New York and Vermont are in the top category. A massive failure of East Coast liberalism? Or, maybe this is all just a silly dichotomy and not an especially good set of analytical categories?

By the way, Hawaii does a poor job of sheltering their homeless as well (third worse behind CA and OR as per the above graphic), but yet they have the best life expectancy? What does it mean?!?!?

Back to another of his stats while Oregon and Washington rank poorly with high school graduation rates, West Virginia has the highest rate in the country according to the stats he provided. With all due respect to the residents of West Virginia, I am going to need more data to determine that, in fact, high school graduation rates are the sine qua non of determining the quality of education in a given state. My state of Alabama has a graduation rate of 88% (one point better than the national average of 87%-yay, us?), but I don’t think that tells me much.

Here’s the deal: there is a long-term, ongoing housing crisis in California in particular. The cost of living is quite high and creates problems for any number of people, not just the unhoused. Yes, the place is rife with NIMBYism and a lot of liberals will not live up to their ideals in those places in these policy areas. Moreover, I do agree that as one goes northward in cases (e.g., San Francisco and Portland in particular) one can find a specific strain of progressivism that can lend itself to some fanciful politics.

But this piece, like a lot of conservative attacks on California in particular, is of a kind of argumentation that rankles me intellectually because it is a combination of cherry-picking (as noted above) and firm denial of empirical reality.

California, for all its flaws, in one of the most successful states in the union. This is just true and has been for decades. And note, while I did live there and have family there still, this is not some starry-eyed love-of-place motivated argument. I have a sincere affection for California (and think it a truly beautiful place), but I have no desire to live there. For one thing, it is too damn expensive to live there! I could not live my current lifestyle in California. And, moreover, and somewhat to my basic point, there are too many people in California for my taste.

But, of course, it is too expensive and too crowded, because people like living there and its economy is vibrant.

I always find these over-the-top (“plagued by homelessness, crime and dysfunction” and ” the problem isn’t with liberalism. It’s with West Coast liberalism”) critiques to be weird versions of Yoga Berra’s famous statement that “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Ultimately, the empiricist in me has a hard time looking at California and asserting it is a dumpster fire (and that is not to say, in the least, that there aren’t real problems worthy of discussing). And the comparativist in me requires a far better argument from data than he provides. If there really is a difference between West Coast and East Coast liberalism, do a better job of showing it systematically! I can say that just a minor dive into the data suggests to me that the data are far more mixed that Kristoff suggests.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. steve says:

    Wife and I have also recently visited the West Coast, SF, LA, Palm Springs. Saw some homeless people but it wasn’t the hell hole conservatives described but it was generally too crowded for my tastes having lived small town and semi-rural for a long time now. Those areas have been a major part of the US economic engine. At the city level, from my POV, many of the places out there do what I think are stupid things. That said, I dont care that much for a number of reasons.

    First, I could be wrong. They know their city better than I do and I think experimentation is probably good. You dont know what will work if you keep doing the same things. Second, if I am correct and it’s stupid it will change. Defunding the police per se was never that good of an idea and every place that did it quickly increased funding after a cut. However, doing policing differently is probably a good idea. Having specially trained mental health teams, as an example, to deal with mental health patients and de-escalate rather than tase or shoot them has worked in some places.

    Steve

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  2. CSK says:

    I’m not at all making light of the situation, but one of the reasons for the relatively low percentage of homelessness in New England, NY, and Wisconsin is that it gets pretty damn cold in those places for half the year.

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  3. Gustopher says:

    The two states with the highest rates of unsheltered homelessness are California and Oregon. The three states with the lowest rates of unsheltered homelessness are all blue ones in the Northeast: Vermont, New York and Maine.

    Fun Fact: the homeless counts are done in a single night during the last 10 days in January. The exact date differs by state.

    I weirdly cannot copy-and-paste from the report on my iPad, but it is page 6, right hand column. And the paragraph goes on to mention warming shelters only being open in severe weather.

    I’m not sure what value can be had in comparing the unsheltered homelessness rates (as opposed to sheltered homeless*) without a constant temperature.

    There are a lot of homeless folks who avoid the shelters because they are dangerous and/or don’t let them drink or do drugs (a lot of the homeless are addicted). Shelters are a last resort for many.

    In west coast weather, a tent is shelter. Just not a shelter. And going to a shelter means packing up your tent and losing your spot.

    ETA: When it is very cold, the homeless move into whatever “shelter” they can find, making the on-street population harder to count. (I’m beginning to remember a video I watched about this count… it’s literally a count, and hard to do, and very error prone)
    ——
    *: I was completely thrown by this yesterday, assuming the unsheltered was synonymous with homeless and not even registering the word as I read.

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  4. gVOR10 says:

    KevinDrum did a nice job debunking this yesterday, with charts, of course. Having read Drum’s piece I went back to NYT and skimmed Kristof’s piece. First I was put off by Kristof’s statement he’d tried to run for Governor of Oregon but was denied by the AG who said Kristof wasn’t a resident. True. But the AG only said that because Kristof wasn’t a resident. Even skimming I was struck by the obsession with homelessness as the prime measure of state governance. But I was really depressed by the upvoted comments. A few pointed out it’s warm and housing costs are high in CA, but most just nodded in agreement with Kristof.

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  5. al Ameda says:

    I get the NYT at home and just finished Kristof’s piece. While I usually find myself in agreement with him, especially on Human Rights issues, this one felt like yet another tiresome big apology to the Right for making them hate us out here on the West Coast.

    Even Nicholas Kristof now contributing to the effort to ‘normalize’ Trump.

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  6. Chip Daniels says:

    When someone identifies “liberalism” as the cause of dysfunction the unstated conclusion is that “conservatism” would produce different, better, results.
    So of course one would want to look at conservative cities like, um…OK, so that’s the problem.

    There really are no such things as “conservative cities”. The largest city with a Republican mayor is Fort worth, and even then, that city government doesn’t behave much differently than Los Angeles.

    And no one ever seems to identify what liberal policies are responsible for homelessness and more importantly, they never specify any sort of solution.

    It really just seems like the problems in big cities are problems for most big cities around the world, with some unique features like the political structures which make cheap housing difficult to produce.

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  7. wr says:

    @gVOR10: “But the AG only said that because Kristof wasn’t a resident.”

    I find it hard to take anything Kristof says about politics seriously knowing that he declared and commenced a campaign for governor of a state he hadn’t lived in for years without bothering to check the residency requirements. That betrays a level of arrogance that would seem unbelievable in anyone except a New York Times columnist.

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  8. Scott F. says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    It really just seems like the problems in big cities are problems for most big cities around the world, with some unique features like the political structures which make cheap housing difficult to produce.

    On top of that, conservatives are always claiming that liberals aren’t doing enough for small towns and rural areas which have different problems – problems that are typical for their size and location.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    When someone identifies “liberalism” as the cause of dysfunction the unstated conclusion is that “conservatism” would produce different, better, results.

    This is part of the problem. The opposite of failed progressive policies is not conservative policies, it’s fixing the progressive policies. Well, if needle giveaways don’t work, are you saying lock ’em all up? Huh? Huh? I am so tired of this binary mental trap.

    If you say, I don’t think our military strategy is Vietnam is working, you are not saying you want the Communists to win.

    If you say, I think we’ve done a poor job of protecting trans rights, you are not saying we should pass laws against trans people.

    In order for any system, any group, any individual to make progress they have got to listen to some criticism. But Jesus Christ, between one side and the other, no one is bothering to ask whether we are doing the best we can. What is our goal? Are we getting closer to it? If not, do you think just maybe we need some correction? It’s as if there are only two numbers: 1 and 10, pick one and stick to it no matter what! There is no 3 or 6, just all this, or all that, and if you insist there might just be a 4, you’re a traitor.

    This is politics for morons.

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  10. mattbernius says:

    @CSK:
    Came here to bring up cold weather too. That really shifts a lot of the dynamics.

    The challenge with homelessness is often a combination of safe housing (shelters are not necessarily safe) and more often than not mental health treatment (including lack of compliance).

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  11. CSK says:

    @mattbernius:
    As to why cities have more homeless: Beyond shelters and soup kitchens, there are abandoned/empty structures that can provide temporary shelter from the weather and a place to sleep at night.

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  12. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: So Michael… how do you propose to solve the problem of homelessness in this country?

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  13. DK says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    And no one ever seems to identify what liberal policies are responsible for homelessness and more importantly, they never specify any sort of solution.

    Countries that provide various levels of high housing density, guaranteed training/education, free-ish healthcare, and guaranteed income (by some metric) have reduced if not virtually eliminated these problems. So it seems to me the solution is more liberalism.

    Unfortunately our system is garbage in, garbage out. West Coast liberalism or Vermont liberalism or any other type of liberalism under an umbrella culture of oligarchy and cutthroat corporatism is little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Lusitania.

    Takes heaps of cognitive dissonance to imply that outside of the West Coast, the rest of America is crime-and-drug-free and not facing the inevitable consequences of 40+ years of cutthroat Reaganism and me me me trickle down selfishness (+ America’s unique brand of classist racism). That many Americans would sooner be homeless on Santa Monica Blvd or struggling to pay rent in San Francisco than housed in some rural red state or cold winter shanty is not the liberal critique some think it is.

    Until our macro level policies on healthcare, housing, guns, and education change — and, no, not in a more conservative direction — homelessness, gun violence, and meth/opoid abuse will persist. And not just in blue cities, rumors to the contrary.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    The HUD report is frustrating. It is billed as the Annual Homeless Assessment Report To Congress, and taking that at face value, if this is what Congress is getting… ugh.

    The focus on sheltered vs unsheltered has a very strong bias on a temporary solution that is less important in warmer states.

    And while it briefly mentions that rural and suburban homelessness is increasing, it never puts that into per-capita terms (at least not that I saw). It goes into great detail on the racial makeup of homeless in major city, other urban, suburban and rural, and sheltered vs. unsheltered in 5ose categories, but it lacks the most useful facts: where are people becoming homeless.

    There is a breakdown of homeless people and where they are now:

    60% are in major cities and other rural areas.
    22% in suburban
    18% rural

    It uses a CoC (Center of Care) as the area. What is a CoC? It can be a city, county, state… whatever unit is used to provide shelters.

    If we look at census information, census.gov says that roughly 1 in 5 Americans live in rural areas, but that isn’t going to be the same CoC that is used in this report. That vaguely sort of suggests that homelessness may be roughly the same everywhere (per capita), but you have to do a bit of legwork, and compare CoCs to whatever the census is using.

    There is good, useful data in this report — major cities have a larger percentage of homeless that are unaccompanied youth, for instance — but there’s so much missing to put things into context. Unless all you want to do is build shelter beds.

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  15. Mimai says:

    Good post. Your point about cherry-picking tracks with my thinking.

    More generally, I dislike these “discussions” that pit red states vs. blue states on abc, red cities vs. blue cities on xyz, rural vs. urban areas on 123, etc. The implicit framing is socially damaging, as is the subsequent discussion.

    “Oh, you say red states are poor and suck on the public teat, well that’s only because those states have so many *&^#@ people in them.”

    “Oh, you say that urban areas have a housing crisis, well that’s because everyone is fleeing your godforsaken hellhole out in the sticks with no housing stock other than singlewides.”

    “We should secede!”
    “You should secede!”

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  16. Gustopher says:

    @CSK:

    As to why cities have more homeless: Beyond shelters and soup kitchens, there are abandoned/empty structures that can provide temporary shelter from the weather and a place to sleep at night.

    The homeless are much more visible in cities because of the density.

    In dense areas, housed people basically stack vertically — homes have a smaller land footprint, but go higher, whether people are in townhomes living side by side or apartments/condos living literally on top of one another. As density increases, the land under each person drops.

    But homeless people don’t stack. They take X square feet of sidewalk or park each, and that doesn’t really go down as you get more of them.

    If 2% of the population in a rural areas is homeless, they are spread out. In an urban area, that same 2% will be clustered. And all on ground level.

    And in the suburbs, they are living in their cars and are often even less visible because people will call the police if they see a person living in a car on their block, so the homeless try to hide.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    By some strange coincidence, a search for an old post this morning led me to one debunking Kristof way back in 2011. Seems like a well meaning fellow but his columns have been half assed for a very long time.

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  18. gVOR10 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    What is our goal? Are we getting closer to it? If not, do you think just maybe we need some correction? …

    This is politics for morons.

    First, this is my Fallacy of perfection. West coast liberals don’t have a perfect solution to homelessness therefore they’re bad.

    Second, I am frequently reminded, often by SCOTUS, of Karl Popper’s open v closed society. The closed society, mostly Plato’s Republic, but also the then current fascist regimes and Russian communism, know the answers AB into. The open society openly discusses and decides on answers. It adapts and evolves. Our conservatives believe (OK, some pretend to believe) all answers are in a 230+ year old document. A closed society.

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  19. dazedandconfused says:

    Pretty sure a study of that list of the places with highest homelessness would find a strong correlation between high-homeless rates and high housing prices, and thereby, apartment rents. Are high real estate values a conservative or liberal policy? Political pundits have a hard time seeing past their ideological noses at times.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Are high real estate values a conservative or liberal policy?

    High real estate values are often caused by a shortage of housing starts that results from zoning. In areas of Seattle that aren’t zoned for single family houses, you often see homes being bought by developers, torn down, and townhouses or rowhouses being put in, taking a lot that served one household and sticking in two-to-four. But most of Seattle is just zoned for single family homes, with a set-back from the property line on all sides.

    Is zoning a liberal or conservative policy?

    On the one hand, you can keep poor minorities out of a wealthy neighborhood through zoning, and you can keep the character of the neighborhood. So that sounds very conservative, even a bit small c conservative, by preserving neighborhoods.

    On the other hand, it’s a slap in the face to the libertarian wing that wants the freedom to have a pig farm and slaughterhouse on their land next that happens to be next to the school. (In reality, they would just sell to a developer who would divide the lot and put in townhomes)

    (The progressive approach seems to be that greedy developers are bad, that landlords are worse, and that building more housing is gentrification unless you are tearing down the single wealthiest neighborhood… so we need rent control. I don’t understand it, so I may be missing something.)

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  21. Modulo Myself says:

    Blaming San Francisco for not solving homelessness or having affordable housing is like blaming a big city for not solving the problem of addiction or not being able to make a private hospital network have more beds available for psychiatric care.

    America has major problems because the market doesn’t provide health care and housing, which are de facto public goods. You should be able to afford housing and health care if you have a job. I’m open to the idea that progressive policies like rent control and regulation restrict housing, but they also are responses to gentrification. And you should be able to afford to live in the place you grew up, even if the rent has skyrocketed so that only finance/tech workers can afford to live there. (And even then, have their parents guarantee a place.)

    Honestly, any discussion of housing in SF or LA that doesn’t reflection gentrification is pointless. Same goes with homelessness. Unless the federal government treats housing and health as a public good, there’s no solution. And if you mention a public good, the NIMBY acronym vanishes as soon as it’s not about regulation for developers. California is the state which gave us property tax revolt, which somehow never makes it’s way into critiques of progressives who allegedly run the place.

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  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    It’s not something I know enough about to have a useful opinion. Tiny homes? Open more space in LA for apartments? Cut the layers of bureaucracy to make it easier to build? Get some mental health care to the large number of people with serious mental illnesses? It feels like one of these things where here are layers of partial answers. But I suspect a very big part of this is meth and fentanyl, and I again have no useful opinion to offer. What I do know is that a solution or multiple solutions should follow the data without ideological cant. We could start by understanding that we have several different populations homeless. Unlike Gaza I don’t think this is insoluble, it’s a question of analysis, will and resources. Which is not to suggest it’s easy.

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  23. Mister Bluster says:

    @Modulo Myself:..And you should be able to afford to live in the place you grew up,..
    Growing up my family moved to seven different addresses in four towns in two states before I left my parent’s house at the age of 20. Should I be able to pick and choose any one of those places as the one that I should be able to afford to live in?

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  24. James Joyner says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Unless the federal government treats housing and health as a public good, there’s no solution.

    I don’t know much about housing policy beyond what I glean from Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein. But what societies treat housing as a public good? I can understand subsidizing housing for those who make low incomes—which we already do to some extent—but I don’t know of any country where housing is owned by the public and free for all to use.

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  25. Modulo Myself says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I just meant that people who have been living in a neighborhood since they were kids shouldn’t be forced out of that area because gentrification happened and their rent was raised to the market rate.

    @James Joyner:

    Public housing used to be built by the government. There are reasons this doesn’t happen now—a few good, most of them bad. But this option isn’t even on the table. The progressive failures of SF and LA do not include financing public housing being built. To be honest, this is a probably a sign that few actually believe that the cities are failures.

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  26. Chip Daniels says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I noted that critics like Kristof never seem to find column space to propose solutions.

    Part of it is that these sort of “Decline Narrative” stories aren’t intended to be an insightful look into how to make things better, but just a waxing of grievances with always the implication that those people in the cities are just bad somehow. Unlike the rural people who wear their ball caps frontwards and hitch up their drawers and say “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am” and “Hell yeah I’m American.”

    Another part of it is because any solution will involve a lot more government, a lot more money, a lot more taxes.

    Periodically in a discussion about homelessness someone will grow frustrated and angrily declare that we should just “Git Tough” and lock them all up to which i respond “I wish a muthaf*cker would!”
    Because that would be the most wildly expensive solution possible.

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  27. anjin-san says:

    Some of my Texas in-laws were in town last week, and I took them on a driving tour of SF. They were very struck by how “normal” everything looked. No carnage in the streets, people walking around casually going about their business, not overrun by homeless folks.

    I tried hard to give an honest evaluation of the problems facing SF & CA. Homelessness is bad, partially because you are a lot less likely to die of exposure in CA than in much of the country. Also, extremely high housing costs – which leads us to ask why, if California is a “failed state,” does the market tell us that the real estate here is so valuable?

    Some neighborhoods in SF are pretty bad – the same as any other major city on the planet. Avoid the Tenderloin. That’s nothing new, I’ve been avoiding it since I was a teenager. Some neighborhoods that were sketchy to bad when I was young have become much safer.

    Property crime – especially car break-ins – is pretty bad. Conversely, SF has a fairly low incidence of violent crime for a major city.

    My brother-in-law’s takeaway? “This is not at all what I expected to see”.

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  28. Jay L Gischer says:

    The first time I saw tampons in a mens restroom, my first thought was, “Yikes, did I go in the wrong place?” It was a new venue. But since I was at a urinal, I decided, “No, that’s just a thing that’s welcoming to trans men and intersex persons”.

    Of course, the cost to do this is almost zero. It’s petty cash. And he’s complaining about the cost. Geez, you think he would consider things for a bit before writing about them. But then, it’s not as if I write responses to current events and discussions every day or something …

    Really, Nick, pull it together.

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  29. Jay L Gischer says:

    @anjin-san: I’m suspecting that an invitation to visit was issued to BIL with the expectation that something like that might happen.

    And if he finds out one thing he’s been told is not accurate, he might start to be skeptical of some of the other things the same sources are telling him.

    Good job!

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  30. anjin-san says:

    This article by Robert Gumpert & Rebecca Solnit is almost a decade old but still very relevant and worth reading:

    https://harpers.org/archive/2016/10/division-street/

    Here’s an excerpt:

    The young can’t remember (and many of their elders hardly recall) how few people were homeless before the 1980s. They don’t grasp that this problem doesn’t have to exist, that we could largely end it, as we could many other social problems, with little more radical a solution than a return to the buffered capitalism of forty years ago, when real wages were higher, responsibility for taxes more equitably distributed, and a far stronger safety net caught more of those who fell. Homelessness has been created by federal, state, and local policies — not just by defunding mental-health programs, which is too often cited as the cause. Perfectly sane people lose access to housing every day, though the resultant ordeal may undermine some of that sanity, as it might yours and mine.

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  31. anjin-san says:

    @Jay L Gischer: @Jay L Gischer:

    I’m suspecting that an invitation to visit was issued to BIL with the expectation that something like that might happen.

    No, just showing some guests the sights, like I have done quite a few times over the years.

    And if he finds out one thing he’s been told is not accurate, he might start to be skeptical of some of the other things the same sources are telling him.

    I don’t think so. He’s a very bright and reasonable guy. We all have filters on the information we receive that affect how we see things. Two of my closest friends – both very liberal – have moved to the midwest in the last five years. They both report that people living in coastal urban areas really do not understand life in much of the rest of the country at all.

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  32. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @anjin-san: In one of my recent conversations with my brother, he mentioned that when he’d come back from Vietnam (~’68), the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle had “these transient hotels where a person could stay the night for about a dollar, what happened to those places?” I explained that they’ve all been turned into “economies” (???) that sell for about $300k each (as opposed to the new constructions that sell for a million and up).

    We’ve done this to ourselves (and our neighbors, but “gotta watch out for number one,” right?). WTF is wrong with us?

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  33. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle had “these transient hotels where a person could stay the night for about a dollar, what happened to those places?”

    It’s hard to overstate the damage done by the combination of factors that eliminated this:

    Trailers for sale or rent
    Rooms to let, 50 cents
    No phone, no pool, no pets
    I ain’t got no cigarettes
    Ah, but, two hours of pushin’ broom
    Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
    I’m a man of means by no means
    King of the road

    — Roger Miller, 1965

    It’s not just the increased laissez-faire in the housing market — it’s also the disappearance of day labor as a thing.

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