On the one hand, the Seattle Times’ editors have long complained about aggressive panhandlers, some of them “mentally deranged,” while explicitly praising candidates from Mark Sidran to Joe Mallahan for taking a tough stance on the issue. Yet how does the Times propose to balance our state budget while raising as little additional revenue as possible…?
The General Assistance-Unemployable program has to go. This program, which provides a temporary safety net for people not working because of physical and mental disabilities, has been on just about every list of proposed cuts year after year. And every year, House Speaker Frank Chopp saves it. He needs to give it up.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all panhandlers are disabled, mentally or otherwise, or even a vast majority (maybe they are, maybe they aren’t… I really don’t know), but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to intuit a correlation between our society’s willingness to take care of the disabled, and the number of beggars on the street. Visit a strong social-welfare state like Denmark and you’ll have a tough time finding yourself a panhandler, whereas they’ve always been part of the urban landscape here in the ruggedly individualistic Northwest, home of the original Skid Row.
I know there are those who feel little obligation to those less fortunate — after all, I didn’t make the choice to become disabled, so why should I pay taxes to take care of those who did? But morality aside, there is a simple utilitarian equation between the strength of our social safety net and the number of beggars and homeless people on the streets. As harsh as it may be to propose to eliminate GAU, while addressing the inevitable social consequences via law enforcement, it is also inefficient, and amounts to little more than a shift of burden from the state budget to the local, while undoubtedly multiplying the cost in human suffering.
But I guess that’s what the Times means when they talk about “compromise.”