In Our Power

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.

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7 Responses to In Our Power

  1. Jeff Linder says:

    Ask Finland. one of your Scandinavian Shangri-Las, how their basic income worked out. I notice a recurring theme with you Hal, You seem to want someone else to ease the suffering you perceive. Why didn’t you stay somewhere cheaper and help one of those people out? Really Hal $250 a night? Maybe send your kids to a community college and not $40K/year universities. You want others to sacrifice, why won’t you? Where are your priorities?

    • Hal Ginsberg says:

      Thanks as always for your comment Jeff. How do you propose we ensure a decent life for our fellow poor and homeless Americans?

      • Jeff Linder says:

        Unshackle capitalism. Its obvious that capitalism has moved more people out of poverty than any other economic system, ever. In the mean time I donate generously to several pet causes. What do you do? Oh wait…you’ve already answered that question. It was “nothing”n wasn’t it?

        • Hal Ginsberg says:

          Can you provide just one example of a modern industrialized country that has “unshackle[d] capitalism” in the way that you favor and that doesn’t have the problems that I describe and that you see every day in post-industrial Ohio?

          Oh and do you see how I model appropriate online behavior and you don’t? Why do you think you are incapable of having a polite and respectful online dialogue Jeff? What do you think that says about you?

          • Jeff Linder says:

            Can you point to a country that has implemented all the things you desire and has succeeded? As far as on-line demeanor Hal, we’ve been through that. You seem to tolerate much worse from your ideological compatriots. Why do you think that is? What does it say about you? I also notice that you don’t seem to answer direct questions. Why do you insist that other people sacrifice when you refuse to do so yourself? I mean you lament what you see. Yet you live pretty well…without working.

          • Hal Ginsberg says:

            Jeff – again you make it personal. Why do you do that? Is it because you can’t adduce any facts in support of your assertion that “unshackled capitalism” will lead to a better result for the billions of poor and struggling people in the world?

  2. Daniel DeCamp says:

    Shackled (regulated) capitalism is precisely what is necessary for a more fair and equitable world. In a capitalistic economic system with the government representing We The People as the arbiter of fairness and we actively overseeing OUR government, we must try to provide incentives for people to be creative, productive and industrious while at the same time we make sure that economic and political power doesn’t become overly concentrated into the hands of people whose goal is to achieve prosperity with little or no regard for the health of the nation and world as a whole.

    Look back in history and you’ll see where unshackled capitalism got us and why labor unions and government regulation became necessary. Look back at the highly regulated and state directed capitalism after the Depression of the 1930s and World War II and you’ll see the most widespread and prolonged period of prosperity in our history.

    The economic problems of the 1970s and 80s had nothing to do with capitalism being shackled but our nation is now suffering greatly because of the mistaken diagnoses and ensuing economic policy which has plagued our nation over the past three decades and led to the current inequities.

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