Economy Nov 8, 2021 at 12:45 pm

We live in a society that needs the desperately poor to justify the obscenely rich.



But if we can't depend on ever growing homelessness in Seattle, a week after Mayor Harrell ran on that issue, and his continued non-solving of it, what else will they run on?

Remember, the worst parties are the ones held for the high donors. The fun ones are for the hoi polloi.


It would have been interesting, at least academic, had the Marxist review touched on any of the following contributing factors of homelessness:



Great analysis, Charles. To the trolls, what's the point in endlessly recapitulating your prefabricated talking points? False consciousness


@5 The "trolls" are just pointing out the obvious. We really don't have any idea how to help the majority of these people. All potential solutions have been tried and have failed. Variations of all the economic systems have been tried in other parts of the world and have failed. Not every problem has a solution.

Most of us are sympathetic to people suffering from mental illness and/or addiction disorders. Most of us want to live and raise our families in a clean and safe environment. That's normal. That is most important to us. And that's how we will vote. I don't have any answers and I don't think that anyone else does either.


Why don't we just skip to the actual Marxist solution instead of playing around the semantics. The government can just confiscate all property and tell you where you are going to live. There are many people in Seattle today that are living in spaces that far exceed their actual needs (think empty nesters with a 3-4 bedroom house). If we just maximize the space we already have we wouldn't even need to build more. Right comrades?


Echoing what #2 said. Socialism only works if everyone is 100% onboard. That way the person with the skills plus gumption and motivation to take advantage of those skills wouldn't mind paying the way of the freeloader (drug addict or otherwise). Tax me and give me healthcare, okay. Tax me and give that person willingly shooting poison into their veins healthcare, that doesn't seem fair. Or tax me on the value of my home, okay. Tax me on the value of my home and give someone else who made bad choices in their life my tax dollars, that isn't fair.
That is why our system works. It isn't perfect, no economic system is, but it works for the majority of people and that is the best that we can hope for. If you really want something, work for it. Good things will usually come of hard work. Not always, but usually.
Once your realize that life isn't fair, that it actually is really hard, the sooner you'll lower your expectations and start being happy for what you've got.


Appears as opposed to is/ought is a weasel word.

Is is a statement of fact.
Ought is a statement of what should be.
Appears is a hedge for someone who hasn't done enough of their own research by watching 3 hour Youtube videos on the subject.


@6: yeah we do, house them. It’s cheaper and more effective than other strategies. The problem is people like @8 who are upset by that idea and would rather pay more to punish homelessness, and continue it as a problem.


@10 has a completely distorted view of who human beings really are at their core. We're selfish, self-interested primates. You can cry all you want about the plight of the drug addicts, if it makes you feel better. I'd rather we spend the money on a police force that makes it so hard for drug addicts to live in tents on public property in this city that they simply go somewhere else. I don't care where, just not here. Perhaps this harsh treatment will spur some of them to get clean. If 10 out of the 42,000 homeless people get so sick of being swept out of their encampments that they decide to seek treatment, hey the system works.


@10. That has been tried in different ways and in different places. The results are inevitably grim, inhumane and dangerous (as is homelessness). And then the wrecking ball comes and we start over...


People sure have a lot of opinions about Marx without "appearing" to have ever read him.


@6 yes we do. As Erica pointed out, the difference between the number of "homeless people" and the amount of social housing built is a 1:1 relationship.

First, build more housing. Second, provide services to help people deal with problems.

Third, ignore the ultra-rich and their demands to not pay for anything.


Remember, if the ultra-rich can't morally judge the non-rich, what is the point of being rich, other than the soulless parties that represent the vacuousness of their empty souls?


@13 just like Smith. How many people who spout their love for Capitalism have actually READ all SEVEN books (pamphlets) on Capitalism?

All of them, not just the parts that let you feel good for being an anti-capitalist Mercantalist "independent".


@11 Not everyone is like you at the core. There are those who are kind at heart and genuinely want to help others. And, by the way, we've tried your solution and it doesn't work either.


@12: source? Cause it has empirically worked, in many places across the country.


@7, good point. If we are going to bandy about ideas like Marxism as solution, might as well discuss in concrete terms.


@18. This kind of thing is brand new to you, huh? Wow, why didn't someone think of it before now? We should call it the Great Alliance. There are lots of short term solutions but none that last. I am sure that Alliance means well and I wish them the best.


Somehow, the headline led me to believe that the article would explain how we need the poor to justify the rich. I'm still waiting.

@17 - I agree that @11's solution doesn't really work in the long run. However, being one of the few places that doesn't make it difficult to squat on public property and shoot heroin in public pretty much guarantees that those who want to do those things will come here. Maybe we should at least be no more welcoming than the rest of the country.


I think that it's more likely that we solve global warming than that we solve homelessness. And I'm the guy that's selling 10% of his stock every year (paying the taxes!) and using the proceeds to buy unincorporated land in Manitoba.


Is it required of every Stranger writer this week to quote the same sore-loser whine from NTK? Because Rich Smith already featured it in one of his bitter rebuttals to reality,


@3 - If that's the case, then certainly you support paying for social workers and rehab counselors to help them out of their situation? Or are you just trying to play a blame game to justify doing nothing?

And I'm wagering if hard times ever forced you to live in situations half as bad as theirs, you'd be hitting the pipe in no time.


@22 If you're truly an "old guy" (white or otherwise) you should know that homelessness has been solved before. The affordable housing shortage in the post-WWII period was at least as bad as now, but a decade after the war virtually everyone in the country had a roof over their head (yes, the racial inequities were awful -- G.I. loans and suburbia for whites, ghettoized public housing for people of color, etc.) but the widespread, visible homelessness of the Great Depression did not re-emerge until the early 1980s. It doesn't have to be this way.


Did someone accidentally upload their college thesis from 35 years ago as a news article?
That was like reading Marx put through a shedder and tossing the shreddings into a fan.

Among the many fallacies in the above economic word salad is not taking into account many of the homeless are non-capitalists or hyper-capitalists. A segment of the mentally ill and broken are unemployable and forever will be. In any society they would be a problem. In Communist countries they would probably be/and were imprisoned, no begging in the workers paradise. Hard core addicts are insatiable consumers whose addiction makes them hyper-capitalists who stay up for days at a time, often committing crimes against the beloved workers state, to feed the black hole of their addiction. To each according to their need for them, is an unending need that destroys themselves and their connection to wider society. They to would be/have been imprisoned in Communist countries. For the lumpenproletariat universal affordable housing = gulags.

That anyone could construe that the recent election results is because Seattle didn't go Marxist enough has lost the plot completely.


@2 What's your take on the laws of supply and demand when politicians like Harrell refuse to repeal zoning laws that prevent denser housing supply on 70% of the buildable land in Seattle? Multiplexes would be suitable in these areas and I would bet there's a demand for it.

@3 I would also add:
- Access to a combination of GED completion, higher ed, skills/trade/other job training
- Not being able to hold a stable job because of a list of social barriers associated with being poor and living on starvation wages (getting to work with a junker, childcare, etc.)
- Cost of housing

Those conveniently didn't come to mind though?

@3 I would also recommend that you listen to the Outsiders podcast produced by KNKX and the Seattle Times. It gives a really good, and in my opinion, a balanced view of homelessness from people actually experiencing it. Yes, a lot of unhoused people have had experiences with substance use disorders, but many had also already overcome those issues and were no longer using when they became homeless and went back to using after becoming unhoused to escape the cruelty they experience on the streets (yes, it's counter productive, but tell that to someone experiencing a crisis who is just looking for relief). Although, maybe demonizing them more than they already are will solve the homelessness problem!


@13, @16, and many others: I'm enjoying many of these posts, as I look at my bookshelf with well-thumbed copies of both Marx/Engels and Adam Smith.

Posts by certain others? Not so much.


I think it's clear that Seattle and other progressive cities need more policing of the homeless and a lot more shelters and a lot more homes. We shouldn't be facilitating drug use and overdoses, and we should be making housing a whole lot easier to afford.


Charles yes I largely agree with your criticism. The absurdly rich requires that public vitriol be focused on the poor and the powerless for them to get away with hoarding so much money. Money that could be used to help the underprivileged and destitute which was a goal of our society back in the great society days.

This election was about nimbyism and what I've been calling fascism lite. After all of course we need more cops to crack some heads and punish people for being poor. As for the trolls who think homelessness will just go away I wish they would take a statistics class. Statically speaking (I would ask them) what percentage of a population do you think will always be unable to hold down a job for fill-in-the-blank reason? If it's 1 percent well that's about 3.3 million Americans. Not a small number but we must punish these people so Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk can go to Mars and my precious property value stays ludicrously high!


I agree that the ultra rich should be taxed heavily but it never seems to work out that way in practice. Instead the middle class are always the ones to pay for the brunt of it, via their "expensive" houses taxes we have here, ones valued at $850k, which is a modest 2 bedroom under 1,000 sq feet bungalow in Wedgewood or West Seattle. My taxes on such a house are already almost 10kper year. How much more $$ should people like me have to pay to house, treat and so forth all the drug addicts who come here due to our permissive laws and upcoming "free housing for all"? Maybe I should sell my modest house and move somewhere where house taxes are not so expensive, so my house will be torn down and replaced with a 2 million dollar glass box (I'm sure that the city council will be more than happy to collect the additional taxes from the tear down.) Like I see everywhere in my neighborhood. I never here about getting rid of house taxes in the debates here, only new more "progressive" taxes such as income taxes or something similar, but never any mention of reforming our tax structure to make it truly more fair.


Charles is correct: the homelessness tragedy is an effect or manifestation of the inequities or shortcomings of the capitalist system, in that the distribution of wealth is lopsided, and leaves a large segment of the population exposed to the elements and without housing and basic services.

These shortcomings which result in human misery are like vague background radiation emanating from the rapacious machinations of greedy corporations and their minions in elected office who are on the take and perpetuate poverty due to ineptitude and the selfish desire to judge others as inadequate.

To quote Danny O’Keefe:
“…Ain’t it hard to go beggin' When you never learned to steal? Even the street's an illusion, the Pain and hunger are real…”

Homeless folks may in fact be victims of Stockholm syndrome on the macro level, held captive to an inept capitalist system that fails to adequately distribute goods and services equitably, yet beholden to that very corrupt system for survival.

The fundamental Marxian effect that Charles alludes to is the corrosive effect capitalism has on the participants of its wealth-creation machine, who tend to condescend to those less fortunate when we should all agitate for adequate housing and human services for these disadvantaged individuals and families.

Poverty is evil and must be eradicated through cogent social policy that addresses the needs of the displaced and disadvantaged.

Electing a middle-of-the-roader stuffed-shirt, anointed by the powers that be for Mayor and right of center City Attorney to address pressing social decay is moving in the wrong direction, as Seattle has been wont to do.

Lady Seattle, for all her pretenses to the contrary, is Squares Ville U.S.A. when it comes to formulating progressive social policy.

We see this regressive behavior with the mindless Sawant recall, which is mere longing for the good old days when people of color where enslaved and white sugar daddies called all the shots.


All US cities are run by conservative business interests. Even those with democrats holding office answer to the most powerful of these related to automobiles - finance, insurance, construction of streets and freeways and car-dependent suburban (and urban) housing, vehicle manufacturers and local car dealers as seen on TV, during the most expensive commercial air time.

These obscure members of the ruling class may spout platitudes but they will do nothing substantial to address the homeless crisis so the working class will know how close they too are to becoming homeless. Author Naomi Klein might describe the situation today as a vile form of "disaster capitalism" - leaving societal problems to worsen so the ruling class may further wrest hold of government power to benefit their interests. They see the rest of us as nothing more than consumers, wage-slaves and cannon fodder to exploit and dispose of when our usefulness wains.

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk lead the ruling class in committing crimes against humanity. The Amazon model of global trade will bring about the most dreadful end of modern industrial civilization. The Tesla 'S' is the most over-rated EV on the road. Without the ability to drive as much as we do, enough households would of necessity take in boarders to help with goods transport.


"For one, our society does not define things like the almost-near absence of affordable housing as deeply irrational."

That is because Seattle's current shortage of housing is eminently rational, considering Seattle's recent population history:

Year Census Change
1960 557,087
1970 530,831 −4.7%
1980 493,846 −7.0%
1990 516,259 4.5%
2000 563,374 9.1%
2010 608,660 8.0%
2020 737,015 21.1%

Over FOUR decades, Seattle had a net population growth of ONE per cent. For all of that time, Seattle coasted on a combination of existing housing stock, and some new construction here and there. Within that context, the idea that Seattle's population would increase by over twenty percent in one decade (and almost all of that during 2015-2020) was simply not real. (Putting it another way, from 2015-2019, Seattle's population increased by an amount equal to that of the entire population of Bellevue.) It would have been highly irrational for Seattle to have greatly increased spending on low-income housing before 2015.

@31: "This election was about nimbyism and what I've been calling fascism lite."

In 2015, Seattle's Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness collapsed into a Homelessness Crisis. Since then, Seattle has spent approximately half a billion (!) dollars on homelessness as the problem has worsened. In the recent election season, many commenters here had repeatedly warned the headline posters that Seattle's citizens had tired of spending such a huge amount of money to obtain a result which could have been had for free. The election confirmed this was true, so the Stranger and you sympathetic commenters have viciously turned on Seattle's citizens, bitterly castigating them as you did here. Is it really offensively NIMBY to want clean parks? Is it terribly, terribly NIMBY to want school playgrounds to be free of bloody needles and dirty tents? Noting the public-health threat posed by actual human shit on the sidewalks makes one a horrendous NIMBY? Likewise, voting for long-time liberals such as Harrell, Nelson, and super-RINO Davison (really, voting against the insane Twitter rants of NTK) now qualifies as "fascism lite"? In most of the United States, those winners would have been unelectably bleeding-edge lefties.

"As for the trolls who think homelessness will just go away I wish they would take a statistics class."

As for the homeless-industrial complex in Seattle, their funders on the City Council, and the enables of both here at the Stranger, I wish they would learn the term, "Opioid Crisis." It's commonly used in the rest of America to explain a key driver of modern homelessness, but getting the above-named entities to admit addiction even exists among Seattle's homeless population has proven a frustratingly impossible task. Those entities tell us that Amazon has driven hard-working locals out into the streets and parks by driving rent increases, but every time an encampment is cleared, some non-trivial number of inhabitants have outstanding arrest warrants in other jurisdictions. Citizens have simply tired of paying generously for ever-larger numbers of encampments, thefts, and assaults by persons who arrived here already homeless and addicted.

You guys can keep on blasting Seattle's liberal citizens as irrational, fascist sympathizers who want to criminalize poverty if they dare object to predatory behaviors which have long been justifiably illegal. All it will get you is more election results exactly like this past one delivered.

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