I’ve been enjoying three days at the beautiful Hotel Shattuck Plaza, est. 1908, in downtown Berkeley where I arrived Friday night. Still on east coast time, I took a very early Saturday morning walk and enjoyed the cool lifting fog over the coastal range. What a glorious change from the broiling east coast.
NorCal’s always great but the homeless problem is clearly severe. There were several down-and-outers on each block pushing shopping carts or sitting in bus stops. How terribly sad.
Berkeley’s been like this at least since my first visit here back in 1983. But the problem seems worse now. Based on recent reporting, the San Francisco Chronicle clearly thinks so.
Even if you’re a rock-ribbed Republican, not a bleeding-heart like me, I don’t get how you can be indifferent. Is there any doubt that the quality of life for all of us is diminished when a few or – as in this case – many lack a safe place to rest their head every night?
There are obvious solutions. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) would greatly lower the numbers on the streets. Sufficient clean comfortable shelters that welcome pets would help too. Reducing wealth and income inequality, through progressive taxes, would incentivize developers to build more middle-class and working-class homes in cities like Berkeley and would pay for the UBI and the shelters.
The richest man in the world is Jeff Bezos with over $100 billion. That wealth came at the expense of small and medium-sized businesses and their employees – some of whom we see on the streets. Bezos is today’s Sam Walton.
We have it in our power to make places like Berkeley that much nicer for all of us. All we have to do is summon the collective political will to force the Bezoses, Zuckerbergs, Waltons, Trumps, et al., to disgorge, through truly progressive taxes, most of the obscene multigenerational capital that they have aggregated.