Sick Cities and Why Progressives Ruin Them

San Francisco’s liberal mayor declared a “state of emergency” to try to deal with the city’s “nasty streets.”

What is the point?

Journalist Michael Shellenberger’s new book, “San Fransicko,” argues that it happened because of progressive ideas.

“The town I love is sick,” says Shellenberger in my Video of the Week.

When he was 20 years old, he moved to San Francisco to help social justice causes. He still supports those ideas, but “it just went too far.”

California politicians decided in 2014 to end mass incarceration.

This is a noble cause. America holds a greater percentage of its citizens than any other nation. The jails are full. In jail, people are more likely than not to be rehabilitated to become criminals.

California made many of the nonviolent felonies misdemeanors. People who steal items worth less than $950 are not jailed. This would allow money to be diverted from prisons and used for mental health or drug treatment programs, according to proponents.

Not incarcerating those who violate laws can have unintended and very unpleasant consequences.

Shoplifters steal just in front security guards. The police are silent. Police know that if an arrest is made, the police will have to file hours of paperwork. The person who was arrested would just walk away. Each car is broken into at least 74 times daily.

“None of us want mass incarceration,” says Shellenberger, who voted for the law to stop jailing people. “But that was a recipe for disaster.”

Because no one is arrested for camping on the street, San Francisco is now filled with tent cities that supposedly house the “homeless.” But most campers are the mentally ill and drug users who choose life on the street. The confident that nobody will stop them from lighting up and shooting up, these campers are open to the public.

In my video, one crack addict said she stays in San Francisco because it is “more lenient.” In other cities, she said, she’d be in jail.

Some cities treat the homeless differently, such as Miami. “They don’t let people use drugs in public, and they built sufficient homeless shelters,” says Shellenberger.

Progressive activists in San Francisco block new shelters for the homeless. They argue that every person deserves one. Wohnung. But, it only costs $700,000. 

A video I created a few years back arguing that San Francisco’s high housing costs were a key reason for its tent cities. California’s strict regulations discourage any new construction and create a housing scarcity. This keeps rent prices high, and encourages people to move on the streets.

“It’s not true,” says Shellenberger. “If it were true that expensive places made for homelessness, why don’t we see large open-air drug scenes in Carmel? We don’t see many large open-air drug scenes in fancy areas. Homelessness is just a function of whether or not you allow people to camp in public or not.”

If someone is homeless should they be arrested? Our Constitution grants us the freedom to gather in peace.

“People have a right to be outdoors,” I tell Shellenberger. “We don’t have a right to force them off the street if they aren’t directly threatening anybody.”

“We should defend those rights because that’s part of our freedom,” he replies, “but you don’t have a right to shoot heroin at the public park.” There need to be “consequences for people’s behaviors.”

Shellenberger realized that he couldn’t identify himself as progressive after examining the problems in his hometown. “Progressivism has become the abdication of personal responsibility.”

This is what I believe it to be. AlwaysThis was my intention.

Now, parts of San Francisco are so filthy that liberal politicians have had to rethink their views. The mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, recently declared it’s time to end the “reign of criminals who are destroying our city!”

Not long ago, when protesters shouted, “Defund the police,” Breed cut San Francisco’s policing budget by $120 million.

Now she says her town will be “more aggressive with law enforcement … and less tolerant of all the bulls—t that has destroyed our city.”

Progressive ideas are almost always bad.

John Stossel is creator of Stossel TV and author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”

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