America is not based on hard work. Get it out of your head that this society is set up to be fair. Fair would be everyone with a roof over their head.
By Lee Camp
Special to Consortium News
Congress’s inability to actually represent the real-live human beings of America, combined with an economic system that rewards lack of empathy and an excess of greed, has brought us to a dark time when an oncoming tsunami of financial ruin, destitution and evictions towers over our heads, blocking out the sunlight.
The impending evictions may soon kick 28 million people/families out of their homes. To put that in perspective, only ten million people lost their homes during the 2008 economic crisis, and that was considered by anyone paying attention to be the craziest thing to ever happen.
What we’re facing now could be three times crazier, getting to Charlie Sheen levels. (I almost wrote “Kanye West levels” but everything he does is in hopes of being mentioned in the media, and I’m not falling for it. …Shit. This parenthetical has betrayed me!)
To talk about the impending homelessness tsunami, we have to first get past the fact that our government could totally bail people out and keep them in their homes. Not only have they already bailed out big banks and Wall Street to the tune of $4.25 Trillion, but on top of that the Pentagon has over $21 Trillion of unaccounted-for adjustments on their books over the past 20 years. This is to say – there’s plenty of money.
Money is an idea, a concept, an imaginary metaphysical belief, and it’s high time we faced the fact that the U.S. government has an unlimited imagination. As philosopher Alan Watts once put it: Money is not a thing, it’s a measurement. Saying there’s not enough money to do something is like a builder saying there’s not enough inches to build a house. He has the wood, nails and hammers. He’s just out of inches.
The U.S. government could easily give every American $2,000 a month for the foreseeable future, which would keep almost everybody in their homes and apartments. In fact, Canada has opted to give $2,000 a month to those who lost work because of the pandemic.
But ignore the fact that there’s enough money. That’s not what we’re here to discuss.
There are also enough empty homes. As of 2018, there were nearly 1.5 million vacant homes in the country. Compare that to the estimated 553,742 people homeless on any given night. So even before the pandemic, there were three empty houses for every homeless person. Three. That’s not even accounting for empty apartments, yachts, sheds, extra bedrooms, garages, condos, cubbyholes, attic spaces, basements, barns, pool houses, and walk-in refrigerators.
If those vacant locations were used to house the houseless, those of us lucky enough to have our own abodes wouldn’t hardly notice a difference except that homelessness would have vanished. It would be something we talk about in a “remember when” fashion like VHS tapes, game shows about grocery shopping, and dating that didn’t involve blood tests and an Instagram audit.
No more people on the street, no more fear that a little bad luck would result in you or your family under a bridge giving a guy your underwear in exchange for a sandwich. All that utter madness would cease to exist.
And the impending number of evictions—28 million—isn’t even accounting for how many people stay in horrible relationships because they can’t afford a place of their own, both horrible marriages and other living arrangements. (Like a 25 year-old who has to live with his mom who cleans her feet on the couch every night while watching Wheel of Fortune and eating soup that smells of rotting raccoon carcass. Call me crazy, but in our post-scarcity world, that 25 year-old should be given an apartment.)
But let’s back up even further and question the brain parasites we were given from our social engineering. Why should someone be homeless just because they don’t have enough money? Some would say indignantly, “Because they didn’t work hard enough, so they deserve to be homeless. That’s called ‘work ethic’ – and it’s what this country’s founded on! George Washington something something Ford Motor Company. Meh!”
Okay, that’s a great point except—No, it’s not. How hard someone works doesn’t hardly matter in our society. Think for a moment about all the filthy rich trust-fund kids who sit around on their asses all day smoking weed out of the skull of an exotic lemur. Yet they’re still rich. How many trophy wives or trophy husbands lounge by the pool eternally caressing their junk in the sunshine? They don’t work hard. How many superfluous “board members” get paid hundreds of thousands to sit on a board and attend one conference call a month?
Plus, consider people that actually do work for their fortunes—like a CEO—do you honestly believe they work a thousand times harder than a janitor or a dishwasher or a coal miner? Of course not. What’s the hardest job in the world? Probably ripping asbestos out of a dilapidated sewage treatment plant in Phoenix, Arizona in 110-degree heat with improper safety equipment.
Do you think those guys get paid the highest salary in the world because they work the hardest? No! They’re lucky if they get dental. They’re lucky if their lunch break is long enough for a sandwich and a piss.
America is not based on hard work. Get it out of your head that this society is at all set up to be fair. Fair would be everyone with a roof over their head. Fair would be every kid getting a solid education. Fair would be every person drinking delicious clean water. Fair is the opposite of whatever the hell we’re doing here.
But very little of this discussion exists in our culture. Instead the banks and landlords are preparing to kick 28 million families out. And it’s not like the bank will resell all those homes during the impending depression lathered in pandemic. Nope. Those homes will sit empty, just like the 10 million foreclosed homes during the 2008 Great Recession sat empty for months if not years. So the reason for kicking people out is simply to… um… make sure they’re homeless? How can that make sense?
If the goal is to have a good, functioning society, it’s completely illogical to kick people out of their shelters. The families will be devastated. The kids will be traumatized. Divorces will occur. Suicides. Addiction. Overdoses. None of that is good for society. None of that helps America even slightly. So the truly patriotic thing to do is demand housing for all.
What’s good for society is to have people comfortable in their homes, able to get educated and grow as humans. What ever happened to the pursuit of human growth for every individual?
Some may argue, “We can’t let people stay in their homes because we need to teach them personal responsibility.” That’s the argument every vomit-brained Fox News guest spits out reflexively. Yet it’s impossible to be responsible for something no one saw coming. Did anyone see this pandemic coming? Did anyone including the government prepare for it?
No. In fact we’ve bailed out whole industries, the airline industry for one. Billions of dollars just handed to them. How are the heads of the airlines any different from a homeowner who lost her job in the pandemic? There’s no difference. Shouldn’t the airline CEOs be the ones evicted—left out on the street sleeping in a box?
On top of all this—and this point is really going to blow a hole through your pants—it’s cheaper to keep people in their homes. For example, according to The Washington Post, “Utah was spending on average $20,000 on each chronically homeless person. So, to in part cut those costs — but also to ‘save lives,’ …the state started setting up each chronically homeless person with his or her own house.”
It worked. By 2015, they cut homelessness by 91 percent and saved the state money. However, since then, homelessness has gone back up. It’s tough to say why, but one director of a Utah food pantry said, “The mistake we made was stopping [the program].”
Yeah, that may have been the reason. Utah lawmakers found out how to end homelessness…. and then they stopped doing that! (Why in this country do we run screaming from every great idea like it’s a hive of angry bees that all want to talk to us about life insurance??)
So here, alas, are the solutions. Housing should be a human right. We have enough homes. We have enough materials. We have enough dollars and enough inches. It doesn’t need to be a goddamn mansion, but everyone should have a roof over their heads and four good walls. Hell, I’ll even compromise—two and a half good walls.
Even if we didn’t have enough homes, which we do, we can now 3D print a house in a matter of hours. (Although it must suck when the printer jams. All those houses stuck together in the tray.)
Point is, don’t tell me we don’t have enough houses and apartments for everyone. Paris Hilton’s dogs have a fucking $325,000 mansion! I’m not kidding. Just for the dogs. That’s, shall we say, mildly upsetting. (Let me guess – those dogs worked hard to get where they are.)
The next solution is to fight the impending evictions. Don’t let the authorities kick your friends and neighbors onto the street. We have a strong (suppressed) history in this country of fighting against landlords and the cruelty of evictions, such as the great Rent Strike War of 1932 in the Bronx, and the Chicago Eviction Riots of 1931.
Fighting back is not just an option, it’s an obligation. If you’re strong enough to resist the profit-centered social engineering we are fed every day of our lives, then you will soon realize housing should be a human right.
Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his stand-up comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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Dianne Marie Leonard –
So, you have not been paying rent since April? Shame on you.
Okay, so your SF Ass. David Chiu’s bill says you don’t have to, until 15 months after the state of emergency is lifted. How do you count 15 months from the time the state of emergency is lifted, when there’s no definite time it would be lifted? It could mean years and years from now – like forever.
It’s all right if you lose your job because somehow you get unemployment and other benefits. But your landlady does not get any bailouts because her mortgage is not federally backed and not covered by the CARES act. So it’s okay for the government to steal her livelihood and give it to you. No consideration of the Fifth Amendment; no consideration of the takings clause.
Your small landlord cannot close down her basement apartment because you’re staying in place. You damn know she’s paying for electricity, water and sewage, because they’re connected to upstairs where she lives. So your rent should cover utilities, but since your rent is free, so are your utilities. Don’t give me that.
Let’s say we do know the date Newsom will lift the state of emergency. Will you be able to pay from May 2020 plus 15 months of your back rents in a lump sum from the day the pandemic ends? Be honest! Will you be willing to pay your back rents of 15 months or more? Or do you expect to be forgiven? Shame on you.
You think I’m misrepresenting the mandate, but that’s exactly what’s going on right now. And worse, more tenants will not be able – or willing – to pay their accumulated back rents 15 months after the pandemic, that’s why they’ll just walk away and leave small mom-and-pop landlords holding the bag.
The mortgage deferment that banks offer lasts only for six months, after that, your landlady’s monthly payment doubles as she pays back missed mortgage. At least you know when the mortgage suspension ends. But the rent moratorium, proposed by Chiu and currently working its way into the senate has no end in sight.
There are also some banks offering loans to small landlords. That’s right. Small landlords will have go into debt, just so their government-protected tenant can continue to live rent-free.
So yes, all three branches of the California government are united in abusing the small landlord. The executive (the latest news is Newsom is extending the lockdown indefinitely); the judiciary (all eviction courts are closed until the pandemic is over) and the legislative – your Ass. Chiu, et al.
So enjoy the “cancel rent” pandemic which will be with us for a long, long time. And God have mercy on your soul.
No, that’s an obligation.
Harry, there is one serious flaw in your logic. The reason Trump opposes mail-in ballots is because the DNC is pushing it in a very heavy-handed way, and because it is so much easier to lose, dispose of, not count mail-in ballots from red states or districts. The DNC has experience in “fixing” elections. That was no. 1. But more importantly, both parties have NOT been complicit in how the response to the pandemic has been handled. Quite the contrary. Trump and republican governors have opposed the forced lockdowns, while all states with democratic governors have pushed hard, and continue to push hard, in favor of extended lockdowns. Now it is these lockdowns and the mass unemployment that are causing people to lose their homes, both renters and working class home owners. So why are you blaming Trump for the fact that he may end up benefitting from democratic voters ending up unable to vote in November, when it was the democratic governors who were forcing that situation causing it to begin with?
It makes perfect sense, in the mind of someone like a Steve Mnuchin, or anybody who works on Wall Street. What they want to create and sustain is demand. No different in the mind of an Obama or a Biden, they want to create a demand for a health insurance company policy, or pharmaceutical product, so that the richest people are guaranteed to perpetually have the highest paying customers possible. They obviously couldn’t care less if the least among us have no home or get sick and die. Otherwise, as you point out that there’s plenty of money, they would have supported more generous and helpful programs. In 2008, they had 180 Billion for AIG criminals, but no money for millions of homeless – read that again for emphasis. And I suppose another bonus, is that it’s harder for a homeless guy to vote for Sanders or Warren, and that helps Biden also.
No mularkey. As millions become homeless, the ruthless landlords will get what they want eventually – a higher demand for their product, and they can charge higher and higher prices, and those who can scrape up enough for the higher prices will become their next customers, and so on and so on.
Undoing the “Great American Brainwash” is a daunting challenge. Keep up your good work and Thanks.
Well, Lee, you’ve obviously swallowed Donnie Murdo’s Make America Great Again Koolaid. ‘Course, when he says it he means that the US should become even more like the fiddler crab (I imagine Donnie Murdo loves crab) which has one giant claw that is useless for everything except fighting. However, if you really want to Make America Great Again, you need to bring back Norman Rockwell. Or more properly, Franklin Roosevelt. The four freedoms that Roosevelt spoke of in his 1941 State of the Union address: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Those four freedoms we do not have and we won’t be great again until we get them.
What are you complaining about? Don’t you know that tenants are living rent-free – and in most cases, utilities-free – in California? You didn’t know?
Governor Newsom declared the state of emergency and an eviction moratorium in late March. So as a tenant, it does not matter if you have $3 in your pocket or $3 million savings in the bank – you can live rent-free for as long as the pandemic lasts. And it’s going to last forever, are you kidding?
Never mind the small-scale landlord (the mom-and-pop landlord.) Never mind your 80-year-old widowed landlady who rents out her basement apartment to help pay the mortgage, tax, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. Those are your landlady’s problem, not yours.
So what if the government does not bail her out. She gets no money from the government because her mortgage is not federally-backed. Her house might go into foreclosure and only then should you worry of being evicted by the bank – you and your landlady both. But the pandemic will last forever, so that’s not going to happen.
Unlike other small businesses, your landlady’s basement apartment is forced to stay open for the duration of the pandemic because you are sheltering-in-place. Small groceries may be looted and burned down by the rioters once, but the grocer is not expected to keep his shelves well-stocked so you can loot him again. Small grocers can choose to shut down their business if they think they can no longer stay afloat.
But not so with small landlords. They are forced to stay open and be bled to death by their non-paying “customers” because they can’t be evicted. O, that’s right – free housing is a human right, what am I thinking?
When Governor Newsom mandated the eviction ban, it was supposed to end on May 31, but it didn’t. Instead, the Judicial Council extended the moratorium to “90 days after the pandemic is over.” And when will the pandemic be over? Nobody knows. You cannot count 90 days from a date nobody knows. So it might as well be forever.
When some small landlords complained: Court officials are not elected – they should not be legislating, the Assembly remedied that by passing a bill that would forbid landlords to collect rent. Yes – not just an eviction moratorium, but a rent moratorium. Wow! Isn’t that great? Housing is a human right, right?
Moreover, the Assembly passed a bill (now working its way through the senate) that would extend the forever eviction moratorium from 90 days to 15 months from the end of the state of emergency! That’s right – 15 months after the pandemic is over. My, that’s double forever, isn’t it?
So come to California and be a tenant. It’s free housing and utilities. And never mind the small landlord. The government takes care of her – she has been thrown under the bus.
No, actually, in California, rent and utilities are not “free”, forever or any other time. To assert that tenants are living rent- and utility-free is a misrepresentation. There is a rent *moratorium* here and an eviction *moratorium.* That means that, temporarily, people can’t be evicted for non-payment of rent. This is *not* a *cancellation* of rent. A cancellation would mean that you’d never have to pay the back rent. A moratorium means you would have to pay that back rent you owe, which might run into tens of thousands of dollars in a very short while, for people who would still be struggling financially. How that will work–when the California economy is still in free-fall, millions of people are out of work, a very serious pandemic going on, and probably many small businesses going under so there may not be jobs to return to even when the pandemic and depression subside (if they ever do)–is far from clear at this point. I know that most of the bailout money is going to large corporate landlords, not to small landlords. That much is true. However, there is also a mortgage moratorium, so banks are forbidden from foreclosing on small landlords for now. When these moratoria expire, my guess is that–absent any other remedies–everybody will start suing everybody else. Yes, that’s not an ideal situation–not even close. The reason I mention all this is that every time ideas of rent control, eviction control, fair housing laws, or any sort of laws beneficial to tenants, are raised, either in cities or in this state, I’ve seen screeds like the above, wailing about small mom-and-pop landlords, the widowed landlady, and so on. Just so you know, these small landlords are about as common as hens’ teeth here in the SF Bay Area. I’m not sure how that goes in the rest of Calif, but screaming about how the proverbial “small landlords” are being “thrown under the bus” is–at best–a willful misrepresentation of the true situation here. This has been going on for 50 years that I personally can remember. I’m sure I’m not the only tenant in California who is tired of these screeds, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only person–tenant, homeowner, or landlord–who is sick and tired of groups which serve the interests of huge landlords, spending millions of dollars to crush any attempts at mitigating high housing costs and baseless evictions–and using the few small landlords who still exist in the state to do their dirty work. If the above writer is a small landlord–you should be ashamed of allowing yourself to be used, repeatedly, like this. Do I think that small landlords deserve bailouts, mortgage assistance, and the like? Of course, I do. But misrepresenting the situations of landlords and tenants in California, and repeatedly opposing eviction controls, rent control, and other tenant protection laws *will not benefit small landlords* either in the short term or the long term.
Lee, What a great statement of the relevant facts. Long before these issues started looming over us. the more astute of us were very concerned about the toxic conditions of our schools, homes, and workplaces. This is still present, growing, and loosing attention of regulatory agencies. To quote David Brower: “We can do better than this”.
I was with you until you ridiculed the elderly woman who has given her daughter a place to live. Stop shaming the elderly. You will be elderly too if you are lucky enough to live long. I agree everyone should have shelter and that money is a “measure” and not a thing. Pathologically wealthy people are hoarders who are playing a competitive game with other excessively wealthy people for the most “points” (dollars). When they realize they can buy everything but immortality, they get the idea the pharaohs had that if your name goes on, it is a kind of immortality. Then they want their name on buildings, foundations, libraries, schools, etc. How many of them donate anonymously ? Maybe they do but we don’t know about it because the donation is anonymous. ha ha
Everyone has a right to a place to live. But they also have a right to pay for it.
You completely missed the point… I don’t think you even read this. If you did, then you are incapable of following the logic… or you’re ignoring facts in favor of clutching your selfish and small-minded beliefs. So – to your mind, the elderly who can no longer work, children, and those who THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN who have been stripped of all they’ve worked for all their lives are just SOL??? You’re sick.
This is truth that needs to be heard by everyone, again and again. Evictions and destitution need not exist due to the pandemic-financial crisis. After it’s over the so-called ‘hand-outs’ can stop and the whole lot of ‘debt’ can be forgiven since it’s not owed to anyone. This is for economic salvation and consequently for the the sake of all.
No, that’s an obligation.
The author completely missed the concept that people are entitled to the fruits of their labor. In order for people to have the “right” to food, housing, healthcare, things produce by the labor of others, those producing them must be made slaves.
Faulty logic. Same comment I left for the previous troll applies here. You have swallowed the Capitalist indoctrination – hook, line, and sinker. YOU are a slave to the billionaire overlords… every worker with the aid of mechanization and technology produces more than they can use… only we produce lots of things we do not need: war planes, bombs, disposable everything, cheap trinkets, electronics that self-destruct within a few years so you must go buy another one, etc.. You’re a cog – work, buy, repeat to keep the money-making machine running and enriching the already obscenely rich. Wake up!
People losing their homes is not new. People losing their jobs and worrying they won’t be able to pay rent or mortgage plus food–so their families will end up on the streets–none of this is new. I grew up in the “prosperous” 50s and 60s, but I have very clear memories of my family being housing insecure, of wondering where our next meal was going to come from. My family didn’t live in a run-down apartment in some grindingly poor non-white neighborhood. We were respectable working class white folks, who went to church, and who attended public schools. My dad had white-collar office jobs, and my mom was a substitute teacher. Yet, when the companies dad worked for laid him off because jobs were being moved out of our state (and, yes, this did happen in the 50s and 60s, more than most people know), my parents often came close to not being able to pay the mortgage on their home. My siblings and I (all of us in our 60s now) experienced food deprivation and are physically stunted as a result. My parents were threatened by social workers and at least one doctor that, if we kids weren’t fed enough to grow properly, we would be removed to foster homes. Repeat: this was the 50s and 60s. So I know on a visceral level what housing instability, food deprivation, lack of medical care, and all of the brutal, vicious ways that this country crushes working people are like. As white people we had relative privilege. I’ve seen migrant farmworkers in my state (California) who live in holes in the ground. Nobody–nobody–should have to live in a hole in the ground. No kid should have to go to bed wondering if they’ll have a clean, safe place to live, or food to eat, the next day. That’s what a human right means.
What we need are planned organized communities.
We need community small farms, organic farmers markets, backyard family organic gardens. Every community should
have a worker/customer owned food co/op, and zoning environmentally built homes, not big expensive mansions.
If fact, big expensive mansions should be outlawed. If it isn’t a farm, it should not be big, and even farms should not be all that big.
What we need is a Socialist Society.
Human rights were codified in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948. Food, shelter and medical care are the most basic of these human rights, which apply even to America’s jobless poor. Americans decided otherwise, and in the 1990s, the Clinton administration stripped the US poor of those rights. While our policies remain in violation of international human rights law, this issue simply doesn’t resonate with the broader public.
Lee – yes, housing is an absolute human right, and decent at that. I do have some things to add to your discussion, however.
1. You write, allude to, mostly, if not entirely, about people being evicted from their homes/houses/condos because, obviously given the loss of employment across the country, they will no longer be able to pay their mortgages/the moratorium on mortgages will end (October, I think?) and that $600/week has ceased. BUT what of the greater number of poorer people who are renting?? Who for one reason or another did not, cannot get a mortgage to buy one of those empty houses/condos etc.? I would suggest that many more renters (i.e. tenants) will be evicted than mortgagees.
2. The hideous reality that fell out from the 2008 economic disaster (for those near/at the bottom of the mortgage ladder) is that not only are there so many such homes still empty (why for f***’s sake? hmm I wonder), those that have been (and continue to be) bought up are then touched up and either put up for sale at the recent ever-increasing prices or rented out at grotesquely ever-increasing rates. And no longer can one find a decent apartment for a rent price that does NOT rise every twelve to fifteen months and rise at a rate determined, not by any more or less reasonable regular rate but by some percentage calculation based on what the rate of rent rises are in a given area… But hey gotta keep those property companies, those newly minted “landlords” (created by the 2008 scam debacle) in their ever growing bank balances.
3. As for why not ensure the health, well being, and futures of the general population (i.e. ordinary folks) rather than the usual recipients of taxpayer (i.e. those ordinary folks IRS payments) benefice, gross largesse? Well, you know, Lee, ’tis all about cronyism, corruption, revolving doors, larger bank balances – the “meritocracy” (as they view themselves and their cronies) benefiting itself over and over. As you point out – THEY do not actually work hard. Nor, despite the propaganda, are they the most vulnerable to heart disease. NO the latter are those who can barely scrape together a living sufficient for shelter, sustenance and utilities, no matter how bloody hard they labor. (And they include the vast majority of the politicos in DC – all of whom are sustained generously by us – who seek life time sinecures in Congress and then in corporate-capitalist companies.)
4. And it is NOT party specific. Not at base. Not only the Red Faced Reps but also the Blue Faced Dems (Janus party) voted overwhelmingly for all the funding handed over, freely, uncontrolled, to the Pentagonal and thus to such as Raytheon and they do so every year with barely a whisper. Ditto both so-called sides of the aisle have voted recently and on earlier occasions to “bail” out their friends and comrades in those corporations, banks and on Wall Street… WE the hoi polloi really DO NOT count. Only when we show a determination to overthrow, to revolt (seriously) – then, like FDR, they come up with palliatives…Not real changes to the structure that would really and long-lastingly benefit the 90%, especially the lower 50%, of the population at the expense of the upper 10%. Gor Blimey, no.
Both parties are complicit in how the response to the pandemic has been handled. But this goes deeper. I agree with Lee, but wish, in addition, to consider a different point. Which one is losing in the polls? Every day, Trump comes up with another reason why he thinks the election will not be fair. He rails again mail-in ballots. Well, let’s just stop and think for a second now. While this has hit all income levels, the vast majority is still poor and middle class folks. Going overboard and allowing for 3 million to be previously upper-middle class or above, that leaves 26 million who will ot be able to vote for Biden. You can’t vote it you don’t have a mailing address. And, let’s not fool ourselves; very few of these people would be voting for Trump if able to stay in their homes