Wednesday, June 19, 2019
A NATION UNRAVELS - IS SUICIDE THE ANSWER TO THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN DREAM?
"It is significant that what the Financial Times described as a “tsunami of money”—estimated to reach $1 trillion for the year—has failed to prevent what could be the worst year for stock markets since the global financial crisis."
"A decade ago, as the financial crisis raged, America’s banks were in ruins. Lehman Brothers, the storied 158-year-old investment house, collapsed into bankruptcy in mid-September 2008. Six months earlier, Bear Stearns, its competitor, had required a government-engineered rescue to avert the same outcome. By October, two of the nation’s largest commercial banks, Citigroup and Bank of America, needed their own government-tailored bailouts to escape failure. Smaller but still-sizable banks, such as Washington Mutual and IndyMac, died."
The GOP said the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" would reduce deficits and supercharge the economy (and stocks and wages). The White House says things are working as planned, but one year on--the numbers mostly suggest otherwise.
A recently published series of articles by the New York Times has exposed the brutal exploitation of New York City taxi drivers due to predatory lending practices. This, compounded by growing competition from ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, has led to extreme economic stress, nearly a thousand bankruptcies, and at least eight suicides by taxi, limousine, and ride-hailing drivers last year alone.
Much as with the housing mortgage bubble a decade ago, banks and other private lenders used shady and deceptive practices to lure drivers into taking out enormous loans to purchase taxi medallions. Ownership of these city-regulated medallions allows an individual to drive their own cab rather than work as an employee of a corporate fleet, which own large numbers of medallions, and have long been known for corruption and the exploitation of drivers.
In earlier decades purchase of a medallion, the value of which had historically grown at a modest rate, was seen as a sound investment. Through hard work a driver could achieve a relatively decent standard of living.
In recent times, however, the introduction of predatory lending practices by a growing number of companies specializing in “medallion loans” targeting individual cabbies resulted in a boom-and-bust cycle, which has devastated many of the city’s largely immigrant taxi drivers. This was compounded by an influx of other lenders seeking new investment “opportunities” after the 2008 crash drove them out of the real estate market. Some fleet owners intentionally bid up medallion prices in order to inflate the value of their own holdings. Among those who participated in such schemes was Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney. He and his wife owned more than 30 medallions.
These practices greatly inflated the price of medallions, creating a huge bubble which, when it burst, left individual drivers who had purchased the highly over-valued medallions with unsustainable debt. The Times found that from 2002 to 2014 the price of a medallion increased by a factor of five, from $200,000 to over $1 million. Over the same period taxi drivers’ incomes have been stagnant or declined. New York taxi drivers, on average, saw a $10,000 reduction in their yearly earnings between 2013 and 2016, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
As prices rose, lenders encouraged borrowers to refinance based on the premise that the trend would continue upward forever, much as with the pre-2008 housing bubble, with no consideration of the borrower’s underlying financial status. Many drivers now owe hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The city itself benefited financially from the inflated prices, using the sale of new medallions as a revenue stream, realizing upward of $855 million from sales and taxes under the administrations of Mayor de Blasio and his predecessor Michael Bloomberg; a thousand new medallions were sold under Bloomberg’s administration. At the same time, government oversight of lending practices was loosened. Meanwhile, reports raising warning flags were ignored as the wealthy profited.
The bubble burst in late 2014, in part under the increasing competitive pressure from ride-hailing services (Uber launched in New York City in 2001). Since then, the price of medallions tumbled to below its 2002 level, leaving the approximately 4,000 drivers who purchased them with mountainous debt and an enormously diminished asset. Nearly a thousand have so far declared bankruptcy, and many more may soon follow.
This was, in effect, a Ponzi scheme in which the lenders deliberately inflated prices. They lured unsuspecting drivers, many of them immigrants with limited English-language skills, with the prospect of being their own boss. However, victims were not warned of the debt-trap they were entering.
According to the Times, “The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.” Lenders snowed borrowers under with a blizzard of added charges. “Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs—origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases.”
Loans also included a “balloon” clause whereby the interest rate would increase to as high as 24 percent if the loan wasn’t repaid in three years.
Lenders profited at both ends. First, by sucking profits from drivers’ debt payments, then, as prices collapsed, by purchasing hundreds of medallions at cut-rate prices from bankrupt drivers while sending debt collectors to extract whatever other assets the drivers might have.
Similar practices spread to cities across the country.
Lenders have denied wrongdoing, despite the striking similarities with the predatory practices that led to the financial crisis of 2008. And the city, which regulates the taxi industry via its Taxi and Limousine Commission, also denies responsibility, despite the fact that a 2010 study prepared for the city warned of the growing bubble.
The New York State attorney general recently launched an investigation into lending practices in the industry. And the city has now announced its own inquiry. Little can be expected from such actions, undertaken by agencies that allowed these practices to go on unhindered for years.
Drivers for ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, also suffer extreme exploitation, as highlighted by the world-wide strike in early May. The strike was an international event with rideshare drivers participating in the United States, Australia, Great Britain, France, Nigeria, Kenya, Chile, Brazil, Panama, Costa Rica, Uruguay and other countries, emphasizing the shared experience of workers facing a common enemy.
Uber is deliberately lowering driver earnings in order to maximize the projected stock windfall for investors. The company announced a further 25 percent cut in driver compensation per mile last winter, with Uber now taking an average 33 percent in commission for each ride. Drivers in the US, who are treated as independent contractors, average a poverty wage of $10 to $12 per hour, with few if any benefits. One Uber driver in New York City told the World Socialist Web Site that he works 100 hours a week and averages less than $14 an hour in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
The similarity of conditions facing taxi, livery, and ride-hailing drivers is illustrated by the note posted on Facebook by Doug Schifter, 61, a limousine driver who committed suicide last year: “I worked 100-120 consecutive hours almost every week for the past fourteen-plus years. When the industry started in 1981, I averaged 40-50 hours. I cannot survive any longer with working 120 hours!” “This is SLAVERY NOW. … I don’t know how else to try to make a difference other than a public display of a most private affair.”
One cabbie, Roy Kim, 58, who hanged himself last November, had bought a medallion the year before and was more than half a million dollars in debt.
An Uber driver, Fausto Luna, also 58, who was deeply in debt, committed suicide last October by throwing himself in front of a subway train.
Reports indicate that Uber has been collaborating with car dealers and financiers to push their drivers into purchasing vehicles under exorbitant terms similar to the predatory lending practices to which taxi drivers have been subject. Meanwhile, the recent Initial Public Offerings (IPO) of Uber and Lyft raised billions of dollars for each company.
The bursting of the medallion price bubble was due to a convergence of a number of factors. The growth of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, which have taken significant market share, has been compounded by the city’s significant increase in the sale of medallions, putting more taxis on the street. The result is the pitting of one section of the working class against another, causing extreme economic and emotional stress.
Under these conditions, the unscrupulous lending policies, which astronomically inflated the price of medallions, was inevitably destined to cause a collapse. Just as with the housing bubble, prices could not continue rising forever, with devastating consequences for the working class. Just as in 2008, while the corporate gangsters will be rescued, the big business politicians will do nothing to alleviate the suffering of the victims of these crimes.
The fight by transportation workers against these appalling conditions requires the building of new organizations, independent of the pro-corporate trade unions and the two parties of the Wall Street banks, the Democrats and Republicans. The rational reorganization of the transportation industry calls for a socialist program oriented to the interests of workers and the traveling public, not the profiteering of the banks.
Doctors in the United States confront a high suicide rate as a result of stressful working conditions and excessively long work hours.
Director and chairman of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Dr. Edward Wilson, told CNBC that it is estimated that one doctor dies every day by suicide in the US due to “stress and rigorous work schedules.”
Doctors and health professionals within the US, according to Ellison, are “stressed to the breaking point” due to stifling work schedules and mounting pressures that stem from patient care.
Depression, the primary cause of suicidal ideation, affects an estimated 12 percent of male physicians and 19.5 percent of female physicians, but doctors are often hesitant to seek treatment due to the stigma associated with mental health problems.
As a result, doctors have the highest suicide rate among any profession in the country: 28 to 40 per 100,000 persons compared to 12.3 per 100,000 for the general population.
According to Ellison, recent data shows that 44 percent of physicians show signs of physical and emotional exhaustion, or “burnout,” which can lead to further mental health problems as doctors have difficulty adequately taking care for themselves, such as eating and sleeping properly.
Changes made to the way hospitals and medical centers operate in recent years may have improved the efficiency of the American healthcare system, but at the cost of longer and more exhaustive work schedules for doctors. Doctors are now spending less time with patients in traditional care settings and more time fulfilling extraneous tasks traditionally performed by adjunct staff and employees.
As a result, the suicide rate among physicians has exploded in recent decades. The suicide rate among male and female physicians is 1.41 and 2.27 times higher than that of the general male and female population, respectively.
For example, Dr. Benjamin Shaffer, a renowned surgeon from Washington D.C., hung himself in 2015 after taking his son to school. He had struggled his entire life with anxiety and a severe form of insomnia, which afforded him little time to sleep before operating on and treating patients.
Just days before he committed suicide and in the face of growing personal turmoil, his psychiatrist prescribed two new drugs which merely exacerbated his anxiety and insomnia and even led to paranoia. After he was told that he would need medication for the rest of his life, he concluded that he could never live a normal life again and decided to kill himself.
High suicide rates are also prevalent among medical students. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for medical students. They are three times more likely to kill themselves than their peers in the same age group. As many as 30 percent of medical students suffer from depression.
The work schedules for young doctors transitioning from medical school, customarily referred to as “residents,” are extremely onerous. Residents are expected to work up to 80 hours a week with single shifts that can last up to 28 hours.
These grueling schedules are largely the result of the centralized matching system for residency applicants in the hospital labor market and the monopoly held by a handful of hospital chains. Although employer-controlled labor markets are typically prohibited by anti-trust laws, the system remains the only avenue for residents to become fully licensed doctors.
Centralized matching, commonly referenced as “the match,” allows a handful of employers to select residency applicants without them having any legal right or ability to negotiate the terms of their contracts. This grants hospital conglomerates free rein to implement excessive hours and lower pay.
In 2002, a group of residency students filed a lawsuit against the for-profit selection system, deeming it an unlawful “contract” or “conspiracy” designed to undermine federal antitrust laws. After a federal district court initially ruled that “the match” may be illegal and give an unfair advantage to healthcare institutions, Congress passed legislation immunizing medical training programs from antitrust lawsuits.
Thus, residency programs give hospital employers access to a well-educated, but super-exploited and over-burdened workforce. As a 2017 article in The Atlantic noted, “while residency-program administrators no doubt take their educational obligations seriously, residents are also a cheap source of skilled labor that can fill gaps in coverage.” Resident salaries are generally equivalent to those of the hospital cleaning staff and about half of what nurse practitioners get paid even though residents typically work much longer hours.
The long hours residents are compelled to work causes tremendous physical and psychological stress. In response, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (AGGME) implemented a “duty-hour” reform policy in 2003, which lowered the maximum weekly hospital working hours from 120 to 80 and the length of single shifts from 48 to 28 hours.
However, this change did little to lessen the severity of residents’ schedules. Surveys show that the reforms led to virtually no changes in work and sleep hours.
A large reason behind the failure of the reforms is that hospitals have not increased the rate of new hires to keep up with the rising demands of healthcare operations. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of patients admitted to teaching hospitals rose 46 percent, but the number of residency spots only increased 13 percent.
SUICIDE IN AMERICA
joins editor to discuss a challenge facing aging populations in wealthy nations across the world: loneliness. Her essay in the , “Alone,” will be released online this Sunday.
“Americans are suffering from a bad case of loneliness,” Hymowitz writes. “Foundering social trust, collapsing heartland communities, an opioid epidemic, and rising numbers of ‘deaths of despair’ suggest a profound, collective discontent.”
Evidence of the loneliness epidemic is dramatic in other countries, too. Japan, for example, has seen a troubling rise in “lonely deaths.” The challenge, Hymowitz says, is to teach younger generations the importance of family and community before they make decisions that will further isolate them.
Welcome back to the 10 Blogs podcast. This is Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal. Joining me on the show today is Kay Hymowitz, the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a longtime contributing editor at the magazine. Her latest piece in City Journal is called “Alone: The decline of the family has unleashed an epidemic of loneliness.” That's the subtitle. It's one of the great pieces she's ever written in City Journal and I encourage you to find it on our website. Lastly, just one more announcement. We created a new email address for the show, so if listeners want to get in touch and drop a comment or share an idea, you can now email us at . That's . That's it for the introduction. We'll take a quick break and we'll be back with Kay Hymowitz.
Hello again everyone. This is Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal and joining us in the studio now is Kay Hymowitz. She's a contributing editor at City Journal and a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. You can follow her on Twitter @KayHymowitz. And she's the author of many books, most recently the , which came out in 2017. And prior to that, , which came out in 2011. We're here today though to talk about her latest piece in City Journal called Alone. Kay, thanks very much for joining us.
I'm happy to be here, Brian.
So let's just start off. What made you want to write about the topic of loneliness, and what is the state of loneliness in America?
Well, let me start by saying I didn't actually set out to write about loneliness. I knew it was a great topic, but I wasn't exactly sure how to approach it. And I stumbled across an article that inspired me by two social scientists, I think they're demographers. And they described something called a rise of kinlessness, that is a rise in the number of people who have no kin, older people who have no kin. And it was very eye opening and I began to see that the breakdown of the family that I've been studying for maybe 15 years now and that I had mostly talked about in relation to its impact on children was also having quite an impact on older people, particularly aging adults. And that some of the despair that we were hearing about, the deaths of despair, the opioid crisis and so on so forth, are actually disproportionately made up of divorced and single, well, of men, in particular. So I realized that we're looking at something big here in terms of the family breakdown and its ultimate impact is something that I hadn't quite foreseen or thought of.
It's probably worth rehearsing some of the numbers in terms of this breakdown in family. Divorce rates for married couples, I think, are probably double what they were back in the 50s.
They are indeed.
But in some ways the picture's even darker. You have a 40% of kids, I think, are born to unmarried mothers now. That's up from 5% in 1960. And strikingly the rate of women who don't give birth at all, I think, has doubled or is much higher. Yeah. And you could go on and on in this vein. This is obviously the core of your argument that's having a big impact on loneliness and kinlessness and this whole phenomenon. So say a bit more about that and what do you think is driving it?
Well, I think that a lot of what's happening is due to a change in our understanding of what the family is, what its purpose is. I talk a lot in the article about the beginnings of what I see is the unraveling of the family, or shall we say, a kind of assault on, on the traditional family. I want to clarify that as we go on. I see the beginnings of it in something that demographers call the Second Demographic Transition. We sometimes talk about the, in ordinary parlance, we talk about the 60s or the Sexual Revolution. But those were actually an American reflection of something that has, as I said, demographers have been studying. The second demographic transition they believe is partly the result of affluence as he, as the societies in the west in particular, but also over time Japan and others, as they got richer, families were not as essential to mere survival as they had one been. Now this was intensified this fact by the introduction of the birth control pill, obviously because you could control sexual reproduction without worrying about whether you're married or not. And what the theory is that this would introduce a different set of values, anti-authoritarian, and little bit of anti-tradition. Individualistic. As people began to see they could be freer to find other ways of living than to depend entirely on family or depend mostly on their families. And in fact, following the second demographic transition, um, there was a huge increase as you, just as you just pointed out in your numbers in the percentage of divorces, the percentage of non-marital births. And this by the way, is not just true in the United States, but in other developed countries. Not all of them, but many. And also of fatherlessness. So I think that these ideas that emerged with affluence and the second demographic transition made it possible for people to think very differently about how they were going to live. And I should say now, because I'll be talking about the downsides of this, what followed from the second demographic transition. But it did really give people a lot of freedom. And there's no question that there were many people for relieved from very miserable and even violent marriages. As a result of the second demographic transition. There were many different ways to think about letting the people, it was possible to not be married if you really didn't want to. Which I think has worked nicely for some individuals. And of course it opened up the door to gay marriage, for much more freedom for gays and lesbians. So there is a tremendous upside and I don't want to discount that. But what I try to do in this article or show that there's some real downsides that we haven't quite understood.
What are some of those downsides? Why is it a problem for society that people are increasingly alone? And what are some of the manifestations of that that are negative?
Right. So one of the things that I try to do in the article is to remind people that kinship, those close family relations, blood and marital relations, have been kind of the linchpin of societies practically since we came out of the caves. It is absolutely fundamental to every society. The relationship between kin and what it does is... Those relationships define certain kinds of obligations. We tend to be more protective of kin and to understand our roles better when in relation to kin. Everything else, all of our other relationships may be very important to us, but we're making those up pretty much as we go along. And the kinship... As we've sort of gotten rid of that basic building block, or we've sort of undermined it through the divorce revolution, the sexual revolution in the second demographic transition, we've undermined the way kin work. So one point I make is that there's been a huge rise in cohabitation and particularly among less educated and lower income people. Cohabitation has become a kind of substitute for marriage. And the hope among, social scientists and sociologists and economists was always that gradually people would realize that you could cohabit, but you really ought to stay together. That it would be a kind of it, that it would be a kind of marriage or marriage light. But in fact, that's not what's happened. What's happened is that the, the norm of cohabitation is much more transitory, impermanent, fragile, and unpredictable. And those couples who were cohabitating and do not go onto marry tend to break up much, much more quickly.
This is even true when they have children?
Oh yes, definitely. The children of cohabiting couples are having a very, very different upbringing than the children of married couples. Now, it's true. we do have higher rates of divorce than we used to, although it's stabilized. And one of the reasons it's stabilized is that so many people are not getting married anymore, they are cohabiting. The upshot is that there are an awful lot of children, as I've pointed out many times before growing up in very unstable environments, but then an awful lot of parents, particularly men, who are losing direct contact with their kids. Now most men, after a divorce or after a child out of marriage, try to maintain some contact. But that tends to, it's not always true, that tends to fade out over time. Remember a lot of the people who are cohabiting, having children as their cohabiting are young, and understandably if that relationship doesn't work out, that go on and seek out another one. Well, what often happens is that there is a new family that develops out of that second union and possibly even a third or forth. So the child is faced with a, and fathers too, are faced with this rolling cast of people, none of whom have quite the connection of the kin of the old fashioned can relationships so that those men are frequently on their own as they get older. And if I could just add a little personal observation here that some people might not agree with, men just don't make homes or, you know make even make friends quite the way that women do. And we do have some data on this as well.
Looking around the world, and you noted this earlier, we know that the US isn't the only country facing problems of loneliness. One of the most striking examples in your story is Japan, which was seen just an incredible rise in what they call "lonely deaths." Maybe you could describe a little bit the situation there and how Japan is dealing with it?
Japan is an interesting contrast. to the United States in some ways in other western countries because non marital childbearing, single motherhood is relatively rare, unlike here. And also divorce is, relatively rare. It's getting, it's getting more common. What's happening instead is that an awful lot of people are not having children, so therefore their fertility rates are very, very low.
Well below replacement rate, I believe?
Well below replacement. Ours are low, but this is lower. I read one a social Japanese social scientists who said that the basic concept of the family in Japan is dead. So there's an awful lot of elderly people on their own, living alone. And by the way, dependent on the state to support them because they don't have any family to speak of. Or their family has moved away, or is extremely busy with work. We know that the Japanese are workaholics. But they started to see this rise in lonely deaths, which, we're beginning to see here too. And it became such a phenomenon in Japan that the newspapers started to cover, local newspapers would start to cover these stories that were happening very frequently. And in addition, this was the part that kind of, caused me to sit up and wonder. There are businesses now, there are cleanup companies, to take care of apartments after a lonely death because what happens is that when somebody dies and they're alone and nobody's really watching out for them, they often die in their apartment. Nobody knows they're dead. Nobody finds them until the telltale smell of decaying body. And it makes a huge mess for building owners or landlords. So they've started these companies, these cleanup companies. And I believe I mentioned the name of one of them, which is kind of grim. It's called Next.
But these companies, there are a fair number of them and they've become an essential, essential part of Japanese life.
It's a very, very grim reality. I've been reading a book by Cal Newport called , and it's an argument against being immersed in social media and other forms of technologically driven distraction. He says, we need to set more time for our sanity sake to be alone or at least off of the Internet and this constant bombardment of, of connection with other people. In other words, he's saying technology is making us constantly exposed to other people in ways that can harm us. At least if it goes too far. How does social media and the constant judgment that people sometimes feel themselves under through social media if they're participating in it, how does that intersect with the argument that you're making?
Well social media, I'm thinking of Facebook in particular was supposed to bring us all together. Right? It was the social network. We were going to create all these new social networks and you know, I think some people have been able to use it that way. I have ordered up to make contact with old high school friends or whatever, but it has also added to a sense of anxiety as people post pictures of their happy family occasions. They can look like things are just so wonderful and peachy keen for everybody else while you're feeling down in the dumps. So what does that expression, "fomo," fear of missing out? You're missing parties that you might've been invited to... People are taking wonderful trips that you, you know, don't have anybody to travel with or whatever. So I think it can exacerbate loneliness in that way because you're constantly comparing yourself to other people at their peak moments because that's when people post their pictures. And there is something about, aside from the fomo, aside from that, the kinds of connections you make through social media don't seem to be the same as those should make in real life. I haven't seen wonderful research on this yet, but it seems to me an area ripe for exploration. It seems so clear somehow that you can be online, communicating, even playing games with people, from all over the world, and seemingly making new friends and still feel quite lonely and be lonely because you turn off the computer or walk into another room and you're alone.
A lot's been written, especially since the election of Donald Trump, about the state of rust belt communities. The opioid crisis, which you mentioned earlier. How much in your view is the family breakdown you're describing having an impact on those communities? And is it part of what's causing the problem or is it an outgrowth of the breakdown in those communities? Economic breakdown.
Yeah, there's no question that family breakdown exacerbates and intensifies the loss of these communities, or rather the jobs, the factories that have left. If you lose your job and you lose your wife or husband because to opioids, or they've just left, then you've got real trouble. You don't have anybody to support you through difficult times. One of the things I argue in that piece is that the breakdown in the family has not affected educated and well off people anywhere near to the extent that it has... well, blacks, and also now the white working class that came a little bit later. And I think what we underestimated, we who lived through the second demographic transition and played a role in pushing it actually because I was in college in the 1960s when a lot of these ideas were being tested out and promulgated. If the educated classes, the more well to do classes, were able to figure out a way to maintain their families, what they didn't anticipate, or that none of us anticipated, was that it would be much harder for people who were living more on the edge, who had evictions to worry about or layoffs or a factory closing. You need, in those cases, a culture that really supports, a cultural environment, that really supports the idea of the family and of kinship as people... as people that are there for you in hard times.
Providing a network of support...
That's right. That's right. And in those communities instead, we saw a more and more of a collapse of the family. Now was it possible that, we could have, in a different cultural environment, it could have been different? Maybe, maybe. It's very hard to disentangle the cause and effect here, but there's no question that they go hand... the loss of the working class or the manufacturing jobs, has definitely been related to the breakdown of the family in the working class. Now I should mention that one of the things that's happened as a result, well, related again to the breakdown of the family in those communities, is this opioid crisis. Opioids, as you may know, is now killing more people than traffic accidents, than car accidents. And I was amazed to see in a recent study that the victims or the people who die of opioid death are much more likely to be single, unmarried or divorced men. And that speaks of exactly what I've been trying to describe. I think that women are better at creating their own social networks. This was something that the sociologist, Eric Klinenberg, who wrote a book called Going Solo, about people living alone. It's something he noticed as he started to interview people who were living alone. Even among the elderly women were more likely to want to live alone. They didn't want to remarry if there were widowed or divorced. But who kept fairly rich lives, they were still able to... they volunteered. They had friends, networks of friends that they could go out with, and that sort of thing. So, and if there were children, they were closer to the kids than a single father. So they had all those supports. Men seem to suffer much more loneliness than women. And you know, we can debate from here to eternity why that is. But there it is.
Well, to ask a final question, and it's how you conclude your piece: What might be necessary to start re-knitting the social fabric in a way that might address this problem. You mentioned Tom Wolfe's idea of a "Great Re-learning." Say a little bit about that?
Well first, I should say that there are a lot of government programs for seniors, a lot of, on the federal level and the city and local level. There are all kinds of ways that civil society jumps in. Seniors Helping Seniors is one group, Meals on Wheels, organizations like that. They are absolutely essential and beneficial and I don't want to knock them at all, but they don't begin to address the loss that a lot of people are feeling, or the loneliness. So one of the things that struck me in thinking about all this was how much joy and pleasure so many of my friends, and I should say I'm 70 years old, so many of my friends now with grandchildren, would mostly worry when their kids were growing up about their careers. They would focus so much on their education. Starting from early on, we were the beginning of helicopter parents, not quite as bad as today, but it did begin quite a while ago. But never talking about this other, what I consider to be the other big goal in life: to find a spouse, a kind and reliable and giving spouse who will make a good mother or father for your children. Because most people are going to want children. And society's depend on them wanting children. Those parents didn't talk to their kids about these things. And yet here I was going to weddings and watching these grandchildren being born and the parents were going nuts. I thought, well, why wouldn't they ever talk about the joy of this stage of life and of the connection that we now have with our children. And this is one lovely thing of the that has followed the second demographic transition is, I think, there's a much, much less of a generation gap between me and my kids then there was between me and my own parents because,
Yeah, I think that's true.
And there's a kind of companionship and friendship that I didn't see in my day so much. We have that, and it's a source of great comfort and pleasure. I think for most of the people that are able to experience it. So I note all that because I want readers to realize that this is something we don't talk about to our kids very much. And so we have another generation, growing up, who have never heard those words or any of those concepts from their parents or from anybody.
Well maybe it's a time for a different kind of conversation. In any case, don't forget to check out Kay's brilliant essay in City Journal, it's called Alone. It's in our latest issue you can find it on our website and we will link to it in the description. You can follow Kay on Twitter @KayHymowitz. You can also find City Journal on Twitter, @CityJournal and on Instagram @CityJournal_MI, and always, if you like what you've heard on the podcast, give us a nice rating on iTunes. Thanks for listening, and thanks, Kay Hymowitz, for joining us.
The Social Order
By latest count, some 109,089 men and women are of major cities in California, Oregon, and Washington. The homelessness crisis in these cities has generated and speculation about “root causes.” Progressive political activists allege that tech companies have inflated housing costs and forced middle-class people onto the streets. Declaring that “no two people living on Skid Row . . . ended up there for the same reasons,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, for his part, blames a housing shortage, stagnant wages, cuts to mental health services, domestic and sexual abuse, shortcomings in criminal justice, and a lack of resources for veterans. These factors may all have played a role, but the most pervasive cause of West Coast homelessness is clear: heroin, fentanyl, and synthetic opioids.
Homelessness is an addiction crisis disguised as a housing crisis. In Seattle, prosecutors and law enforcement recently that the majority of the region’s homeless population is hooked on opioids, including heroin and fentanyl. If this figure holds constant throughout the West Coast, then 11,000 homeless opioid addicts live in Washington, 7,000 live in Oregon, and 65,000 live in California (concentrated mostly in San Francisco and Los Angeles). For the unsheltered population inhabiting tents, cars, and RVs, the opioid-addiction percentages are even higher—the City of Seattle’s homeless-outreach team estimates that 80 percent of the unsheltered population has a disorder. Officers must clean up used needles in almost all the homeless encampments.
For drug cartels and low-level street dealers, the
business of supplying homeless addicts with
heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids is
extremely lucrative. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the user consumes $1,834 in drugs per month. Holding rates constant, we can project that the total business of supplying heroin and other opioids to the West Coast’s homeless population is more than $1.8 billion per year. In effect, Mexican cartels, Chinese fentanyl suppliers, and local criminal networks profit off the misery of the homeless and offload the consequences onto local governments struggling to get people off the streets.
West Coast cities are seeing a associated with homeless opioid addicts. In Seattle, police engaged in “predatory drug dealing” in homeless encampments (they were found in possession of $20,000 in cash, heroin, firearms, knives, machetes, and a sword). Police that “apartments were serving as a base of operations that supplied drugs to the streets, and facilitated the collection and resale of stolen property.” In other words, drug dealers were exploiting homeless addicts and using the city’s maze of illegal encampments as distribution centers. In my own Fremont neighborhood, where property crime has over the past two years, local business owners have formed a group to monitor a network of RVs that circulate around the area to deal heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamines. Dealers have become brazen—one recently hung up a on the side of his RV with the message: “Buy Drugs Here!”
What are local governments doing to address this problem? To a large extent, they have adopted a strategy of deflection, obfuscation, and denial. In her public relations campaign, Mayor Jenny Durkan insists that only one in three homeless people struggle with substance abuse, understating the figures of her own police department as well as the city attorney, who has claimed that the real numbers, just for opioid addiction, rise to 80 percent of the unsheltered.
The consequences of such denial have proved disastrous: no city on the West Coast has a solution for homeless opioid addicts. Los Angeles, which spent $619 million on homelessness last year, has adopted a strategy of palliative care—keeping addicts alive through distribution of the overdose drug naloxone—but fails to provide access to on-demand detox, rehabilitation, and recovery programs that might help people overcome their addictions. The city has been cursed, in this sense, with temperate weather, compounded by permissive policies toward public camping and drug consumption that have 20,687 homeless individuals from outside Los Angeles County.
No matter how much local governments pour into affordable-housing projects, homeless opioid addicts—nearly all —will never be able to afford the rent in expensive West Coast cities. The first step in solving these intractable issues is to address the real problem: addiction is the common denominator for most of the homeless and must be confronted honestly if we have any hope of solving it.
Posted by The Mexican Invasion & Occupation at 7:32 AM