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NYC’s street homeless need straight, tough love — not virtue signaling

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NYC’s street homeless need straight, tough love — not virtue signaling

Homeless advocates hold fast to the belief that government fails because it doesn’t listen enough to what the homeless themselves say they need. Yet a new report by the Coalition for the Homeless shows why that makes no sense. Even if officials in the Big Apple commit to doing whatever the homeless ask, they couldn’t fulfill the vow, because the demands often press in opposite directions.

Coalition researchers surveyed more than 200 street homeless New Yorkers — and found that the main reason “rough sleepers” don’t enter shelters is concern over safety. At the same time, the homeless often say they don’t care for the police. Coalition researchers amplify these anti-police sentiments and argue that more criminal-justice “reform” would help reduce homelessness in Gotham.

Yet less policing is hard to justify in light of the brutal reality of homeless-on-homeless crime. The “A-train ripper” stabbings of this February, the fatal stabbing of a teenager in March at the Fulton Street Fish Market, the Chinatown murders in October 2019: In all these cases, victims and alleged assailants alike were homeless.

Last year, police made 924 arrests at city shelters, 260 for felonies. New York’s shelter-security budget exceeds $200 million. Shelter access is strictly controlled, so who else could be robbing and assaulting homeless clients other than other homeless clients?

Shelters impose curfews and other restrictions on client behavior. The coalition reports that shelter rules prompt many homeless adults to opt for the streets, where they feel “freer.” But there is an obvious tension between fearing for one’s safety and rejecting rules and order.

Strict rules also govern access to housing benefits. This is another grievance of the street homeless population. Some rough sleepers seem to wish that outreach workers would canvass the city, freely distributing access to supportive-housing units on a more or less as-requested basis; having to prove need and eligibility is apparently a degrading nuisance.

But if benefits aren’t regulated, programs can be abused. If subsidized housing is going to be scarce, and it always is, government should be interested in who is at the head of the queue: a long-term-disabled veteran — or some obnoxious street kid from New Jersey who showed up last week at the Port Authority.

The coalition report demands more “dignity” in the treatment of New York’s street homeless. That sounds virtuous, but what does it mean in practice? Lying to poor people is a big driver of their mistrust of government. To the extent that anything resembling upward mobility is possible for a chronically homeless individual, the path won’t look perfectly smooth. Life at the next-to-lowest rungs on the social ladder is better than life on the very lowest — but only slightly.

You don’t want to discourage people, but you also should level with them. This is another tension ignored by those who insist that listening closely to the “lived experience” of the homeless will fix the problem.

Then there is mental illnessThe coalition reckons that about two-thirds of the sample had “mental-health needs.” The report further notes that that figure likely underestimates homeless adults’ rate of mental disorders, given that many people approached declined even to participate in the survey “as a result of what [the coalition] perceived to be mental-health needs.”

One woman turned down an interviewer simply by screaming. To help someone like that calls for something more than a text hotline, à la ThriveNYC.

Mayor Bill de Blasio may well leave office with less homelessness than when he came in. Last Sunday, the Department of Homeless Services’ shelter census stood at about 50,606, very close to the tally when Hizzoner was sworn in on Jan. 1, 2014, and down 20 percent from its January 2019 historic peak.

But dips in homelessness have historically proved temporary, and many New Yorkers remain just as concerned about street conditions as ever.

Chaotic streets are a sign of government incompetence, but some incompetence may also be rooted in the contradictory demands placed on government: Keep shelters safe while giving absolute respect to everyone’s personal freedom; get everyone into housing as quickly as possible while ensuring that the neediest cases benefit the most.

What the homeless need isn’t more virtue signaling about “dignity” and “lived experience,” but honest policies that level with both them and the public.

Stephen Eide is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow.

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Opinion

The MTA’s still failing to end massive overtime abuses

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The MTA's still failing to end massive overtime abuses

Despite service reductions amid the lockdowns, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s overtime bill barely dropped last year, with a whopping $1.1 billion, down just 17 percent from 2018’s record $1.38 billion.

The Empire Center, which first exposed the MTA’s suspiciously vast OT payouts two years ago, reports that 431 employees pulled at least $100,000 in overtime, with 667 collecting more in overtime than in regular pay.

In what’s likely the tip of the iceberg, the feds have indicted five Long Island Rail Road employees (most of them flagged by the Empire Center and/or The Post) on conspiracy charges for fraudulently raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars by abusing the transit’s “honor system.”

It took several lawsuits for the watchdog to get the MTA to make public the incriminating payroll data, and various MTA units still “have trouble” coughing it up each year.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye claims the agency is “addressing potential abuses as quickly and efficiently as possible,” but the linchpin anti-fraud fix, installing fingerprint timeclocks, went off the tracks during the pandemic. And the agency blew past its end-of-February deadline for a new timeline for reforms after the abrupt departure of Chief Operating Officer Mario Peloquin.

We’ve supported the MTA’s successful efforts to get major bailouts from the feds, but the agency needs to get serious about breaking the bad habits that let employees rob it blind.

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The $8T (and growing) Biden wants to spend on changing America forever

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The $8T (and growing) Biden wants to spend on changing America forever

Eight trillion dollars. That’s how much President Joe Biden has proposed in new spending — in just the 2½ months since taking office. It’s an absurd figure, equal to more than a third of America’s entire yearly economic output.

And it’s overwhelmingly meant to transform the nation — to empower and enrich Democratic special interests, lock in permanent Democratic control and impose radical left-wing ideas.

Biden’s latest hit: $1.52 trillion in discretionary spending. That follows $1.9 trillion for last month’s American Rescue Plan, $2.3 trillion for Part I of his infrastructure plan and another $2 trillion or so expected soon for Part II.

That mind-blowing $7.7 trillion total doesn’t even count another $3 trillion or so in entitlement spending and $300 billion in debt-service costs; add that in, and you’re talking about spending that’s more than half the nation’s $21 trillion output.

Where would all the cash go? Mostly to Democratic allies and left-wing fantasies: unions and their members, Democratic states facing budget gaps, government bureaucrats, Green New Deal wish-lists and Dem-friendly corporations.

The non-defense discretionary budget Biden released, for example, grows a whopping 16 percent, including a 41 percent bump for the Education Department. Title I funding for the nation’s schools (and teachers’ unions) alone would spike 121 percent. (Never mind that the left-center Brookings Institution finds “little evidence” that Title I funds are “effective.”)

Spending for the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development balloon at least 14 percent, up to 28 percent — music to the ears of government employees.

Biden’s $2.3 trillion “infrastructure” plan similarly shells out hundreds of billions to benefit labor groups and their members.

It calls for yet another expansion of Medicaid, for example, to fund caregivers for the elderly and people with disabilities. And it’s designed to promote above-market-rate union wages and mandatory union membership, as Biden also aims to neuter state right-to-work laws that let employees opt out of unions.

The goal: to balloon unions’ ranks — and the dues they collect. Groups like the Service Employees International Union, which represents health-care workers, will then use its riches, and the power that comes with them, to elect more left-wing Democrats.

The plans also steer hundreds of billions toward clean-energy programs via subsidies to utilities, electric-car makers and Green New Deal white elephants. Think Solyndra — the solar-panel company that got $535 million in Obama-era funding and then went belly up — on steroids.

Then there’s the $350 billion for state and local governments (i.e., fiscally reckless Dems, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio) in the $1.9 trillion “rescue” package Biden already rammed through.

And don’t think the money went for COVID or economic stimulus, as Dems pretend, since most of it’s to be spent down the road, not the next few months. Besides, the economy has been well on its way to recovery even without the new trillions — as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have indicated.

No, every single push from this president is for a total transformation — a massive expansion of government, union power, Democratic control and Green New Deal boondoggles. All financed via trillions in debt and redistributive new taxes to please far-left socialist-leaning progressives. If Biden & Co. get their way, say goodbye to America as we once knew it.

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Opinion

Letters to the Editor — April 18, 2021

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Letters to the Editor — April 18, 2021

Kimmel’s joke flop
Maureen Callahan was spot-on with her article about the Hunter Biden and Jimmy Kimmel comedy routine (“The lowlife of the party,” April 10).

There should be no doubt in any open-minded American’s mind that Hunter Biden is the “Fredo” of the Biden family, and Kimmel is taking advantage of the opportunity to try to turn the debacle into a comedy act.

The serious criminal accusations against Hunter Biden, which become more difficult not to believe every time he opens his mouth, are not the least bit funny.

Kimmel’s exploitation of this pathetic individual shows that he is a bottom feeder who will do anything in the quest for laughs and TV ratings.

Richard L. Mills
Bardonia

Royal family fix
Condolences to the royal family on their loss. May Prince Philip’s soul now rest in eternal peace. He had a full, rich and rewarding life (“Duke’s Earth-first farewell,” April 13).

Meghan Markle and Archie will stay in California and Prince Harry will attend his grandfather’s funeral and also actively participate in the service.

This could prove to be Harry’s and the Royal Family’s gut-check moment. Hopefully, neither will pass up any opportunity to reconcile, as his 94-year-old grandmother surely isn’t getting any younger.

Regardless, this is, first and foremost, a family’s time to grieve and remember their loved one. May it not become a crude and tasteless media circus or fodder for the tabloids.

Vincent Ruggiero
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Killing tourism
Recently, a tourist was shot in Midtown (“A Plan for NY Revival: No Shooting Tourists,” Nicole Gelinas, PostOpinion, April 12).

It may become the final nail in the coffin for New York City.

With COVID becoming less of an issue, the city desperately needs a shot in the arm from tourism. But if shots are felt by tourists, the decline will accelerate.

The cops are terrified to do their job, and the businesses that desperately need an infusion of cash can only sit and hope. It’s a bleak picture already, but after one or two more incidents like this, the city can kiss tourism goodbye for a very long time.

John Fleming
Punta Gorda, Fla.

Reform’s victims
It’s understandable to put Rafael Mangual’s (“Suffer the Children,” PostOpinion, April 15) and Ed Mullins’ (“The Real ‘New Normal’ Is Criminality,” PostOpinion, April 15) opinions on the same page. They go hand in hand.

Laws have been changed because the criminal-justice system and law enforcement have been deemed inherently racist. And it has swept the country. Some say it’s more fair. What’s fair about more senseless deaths?

It’s known that in any city, residents want law enforcement so their kids can play outside without fear and people can go about their business safely.

Leadership has lost sight of its duty to protect the people first. The police are handcuffed and our children are being killed. Where’s the fairness there?

B. Tonuzi
Wanaque, NJ

Unmasked upside
Thank you, David Marcus, for once again putting my exact thoughts into words (“Mask Forever?” PostOpinion, April 14).

I, too, understood the reasons behind wearing face masks, but the “forever mask regime” is beyond troubling to me. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing a wide open smile from people of all walks of life.

That smile of kindness and recognition is so human, so uplifting. We cannot allow fear to keep us from this joy.

Jayne Lee
Rockaway

Want to weigh in on today’s stories? Send your thoughts (along with your full name and city of residence) to [email protected]. Letters are subject to editing for clarity, length, accuracy and style.

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