The intelligent and hilarious HBO comedian John Oliver last night aired a 25-minute segment on homelessness. In it, he attributed homelessness to poverty, high rents, and NIMBY neighborhood activists who block new housing developments. Oliver showed interviews with homeless people who say they would like to work full-time but are unable to do so because they have to live in homeless shelters.
Unfortunately, Oliver’s segment repeated many myths that are easy to debunk. The vast majority of people we call “homeless” are suffering from untreated mental illness and/or addiction and it led them to lose their job, housing, and family ties.
We already do a great job of helping mothers and others who don’t suffer from addiction or untreated mental illness to benefit from subsidized housing. The problem is we don’t mandate the psychiatric and addiction care that many “homeless” require.
And the best-available, peer-reviewed science shows that “Housing First” agenda Oliver promotes fails on its own terms, worsens addiction, and is one of the main reasons homelessness has grown so much worse.
It’s true that we need more housing and voluntary addiction and psychiatric care, including what is called “permanent supportive housing” for people suffering from mental illness. In my new book, San Fransicko, I advocate for universal psychiatric care, drug treatment on demand, and building of more shelter space for the homeless. And Oliver is right that the U.S. lacks the social safety net that European and other developed nations have.
But Oliver badly misdescribes the problem. For example, he notes that some cities lack sufficient homeless shelter. But he doesn’t acknowledge that it has been “Housing First” homelessness advocates who caused the lack of shelter by demanding that funding be diverted to apartments often costing $750,000 each.
And Oliver promotes policies that have made addiction, mental illness, and homelessness worse. He claims homelessness causes addiction when it is far more often the other way around. And Oliver completely ignores the overwhelming body of scientific research showing that using housing as a reward for abstinence, rather than giving it away as a right, is essential to reducing homelessness by reducing addiction.
Oliver was wrong to encourage more of the same policies that caused homelessness to increase in the U.S. over the last decade, and wrong to suggest that anyone who disagreed with him were racist and NIMBY “dicks” who cause violence against homeless people. Oliver closes his segment by ridiculing a white woman who expresses concern about subsidized housing bringing the homeless into her neighborhood.
Why is that? Why does such an intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate journalist repeat easily-debunked myths about homelessness?
Part of it is just ignorance. Oliver appears to have relied entirely on Housing First advocates and not read anything that questions their narrative. As I document in San Fransicko, homeless advocates are not just small service providers but major academics at top universities including Columbia University and University of California, San Francisco. Those “Housing First” advocates have received hundreds of millions in grants from Marc Benioff, John Arnold, George Soros, and other donors to promote the notion that Housing First works.
Another part of it is ideological. Housing First advocates believe that housing, not shelter, is a right, and that governments have a moral obligation to provide it. They have spent 20 years trying to prove that giving away housing, unconditionally, to addicts and the mentally ill works. But the studies show that it fails to address addiction and thus even keep people in apartments at higher rates than other methods. The only thing proven to work is to make housing a reward for good behavior, mostly abstinence but also things like taking one’s psychiatric medicines, and going to work.
The dominant view among progressives of homelessness, drugs, and mental illness stems from victim ideology, which was born in the 1960s. Starting in the late 1960s, progressives attacked any effort to hold people who receive welfare or subsidized accountable as “blaming the victim.” Today, many progressives even view drug dealers as victims.
Victim ideology categorizes people as victims or oppressors, and argues that nothing should be demanded of people categorized as victims. This is terrible for the mentally ill, who often need to be coerced into taking their medicines, so they don’t end up breaking the law, hurting people or themselves, and winding up in prison. And this is terrible for addicts, who need to be arrested, when breaking laws related to their addiction, such as public drug use, shoplifting, and public defecation.
In the end, Oliver’s 25 minute segment on homelessness is a perfect encapsulation of victim ideology and why it is so wrong on both the facts and on ethics. On the facts, Oliver misdescribes a homeless woman, who is likely suffering from mental illness and/or drug addiction, as merely down on her luck. And Oliver mixes together apparently sober and sane homeless families, temporarily down on their luck, with people are on the street because of addiction and untreated mental illness. Doing so is wrong, analytically, but also wrong, morally, since most addicts and the mentally ill need something very different from just a subsidized apartment unit.
If we are to solve homelessness rather than make it worse, we need intelligent and thoughtful comedians and influencers like Oliver to do their homework, rather than to repeat myths. I researched and wrote San Fransicko, in part, to make it easier for people to get the facts, rather than repeat what we were told, and to see that there’s a better way to help the homeless, whether addicted to drugs, mentally ill, or not.
The good news is that the conversation around drugs and homelessness is changing rapidly because the situation on the ground has grown so much worse. Environmental Progress and the California Peace Coalition are at the very beginning of our efforts to educate journalists, policymakers, and the public. And San Fransicko was published just three weeks ago.
As time passes, many Americans will see the consequence of treating what is fundamentally a problem of untreated mental illness and addiction as a problem of poverty, high rents, and NIMBYs. And some of them, perhaps even progressive comedians like John Oliver, will come to find humor, and humility, from the fact that so many of us got it so wrong, for so long.
POLL: Voters have increasing doubts about Biden health, mental fitness
A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows just 44 percent of voters approve of Biden’s job performance, and 46 percent say he’s “mentally fit.”
Voters have increasing doubts about the health and mental fitness of President Joe Biden, the oldest man ever sworn into the White House, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Only 40 percent of voters surveyed agreed with the statement that Biden “is in good health,” while 50 percent disagreed. That 10-percentage-point gap — outside the poll’s margin of error — represents a massive 29-point shift since October 2020, when Morning Consult last surveyed the question and found voters believed Biden was in good health by a 19-point margin.
Asked whether Biden is mentally fit, voters are almost evenly split, with 46 percent saying he is and 48 percent disagreeing. But that negative 2-point margin stands in stark contrast to Biden’s numbers lastOctober, when voters believed he was mentally fit by a 21-point margin.https://bea6cc9e18caeb2dfe24debcd71c41b2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The poll questions are part of a long battery of attributes about which voters were asked to rate Biden — the same battery employed multiple times during Donald Trump’s presidency, and asked about both candidates last fall, prior to the 2020 presidential election.
The new polling comes amid persistent questions about whether Biden — who turns 79 on Saturday — will run for reelection in threeyears and as Democrats have grown increasingly concerned with the party’s gerontocracy. Biden says he will run again, but some longtime allies have raised doubts. Even “Saturday Night Live” recently ribbed Biden over whether he was “lucid.”
The most intense scrutiny of Biden’s age and his verbal miscues had previouslybeen limited to conservative news outlets and social media, said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has surveyed for Biden.
“They’re running a very aggressive campaign on this, and it’s bleeding over into the mainstream a little,” Lake said. “By and large, the people who believe this are Trump supporters anyway or they’ve been exposed to the right-wing disinformation machine.”
To Lake’s point, the Morning Consult poll generally shows that Trump voters and Republicans generally believe Biden is neither physically nor mentally fit, and Biden voters believe the opposite. However, independents — by a margin of 23 points — don’t agree that Biden is mentally fit now.
Before last year’s election, independents and voters overall believed Biden was more physically and mentally fit than Trump, whose mismanagement of the pandemic damaged his campaign as the Biden campembraced social distancing and mostly eschewed large events.
But with Trump gone as a foil for now, Biden is more in the spotlight than ever, and his overall approval rating began collapsing with the bloody withdrawal from Afghanistan. The ravages of the coronavirus Delta variant, congressional squabbling and public perceptions about the economy also contributed to Biden’s troubles.
The new Morning Consult poll shows 44 percent give Biden a positive job approval rating and 53 percent disapprove. Biden’s approval rating is essentially unchanged over the past two weeks — it was 46 percent last week and 45 percent the week prior — since the passage of the infrastructure bill in Congress earlier this month.
A recent Harvard-Harris poll found that 53 percent of voters said they had doubts about Biden’s fitness and 47 percent did not. Asked if Biden is too old to be president, 58 percent said he was and 42 percent said he was fit enough.
PolitiFact Refuses to Correct Claim that Rittenhouse Illegally Possessed Gun After Judge Dismisses Charge
The “fact-checking” outlet Politifact is defending its August 2020 claim that Kyle Rittenhouse’s possession of an AR-15 was not “perfectly legal,” even though the gun charge against Rittenhouse was dismissed by Judge Bruce Schroeder.
On August 28, 2020 – just three days after Rittenhouse had used the rifle on the streets of Kenosha – Politifact Wisconsin tweeted, “A Facebook post says, ‘At 17 years old Kyle (Rittenhouse) was perfectly legal to be able to possess that rifle without parental supervision.’ That’s False.”
The tweet linked to a PolitiFact article, which said:
In an Aug. 27 post, one Facebook user said it was “perfectly legal” for Kyle Rittenhouse — who was arrested in Antioch, Ill., after fleeing Wisconsin — to brandish an assault-style rifle on the streets of Kenosha.
“Carrying a rifle across state lines is perfectly legal,” the poster said. “Based on the laws I can find of this area at 17 years old Kyle was perfectly legal to be able to possess that rifle without parental supervision.”
The PolitiFact article zeroed in on the phrase “perfectly legal” and opined, “Is that true? State law suggests not.”
Whether Rittenhouse violated Wisconsin law by possessing a firearm underage is the subject of ongoing litigation. But the Facebook post claimed that it was “perfectly legal” for the teenager to carry an assault-style rifle in Kenosha.
At best, that’s unproven. At worst, it’s inaccurate. Either way, we rate the post False.
On November 15, 2021, Breitbart News noted that Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed the firearms charge against Rittenhouse, siding with the Defense’s claim that the law is only applicable if Rittenhouse carried a Short Barrel Rifle (SBR).
The prosecution admitted that Rittenhouse was not carrying an SBR.
Despite the dismissal, PolitiFact is standing by its claim that it is “false” to say Rittenhouse’s possession was “perfectly legal.”
The day after Schroeder dismissed the gun charge PolitiFact added an editor’s note to its piece. The note pointed to Associated Press reporting, Wisconsin lawmakers’ intentions, and claims that PolitiFact knew all along that there was a possible exception for rifles.
The editor’s note ended by saying, “These subsequent events show the grey areas of local gun laws — hardly a case of something being ‘perfectly legal.’ Our fact-check remains unchanged.”