In the runup to Trump’s fundraising trip, the White House dispatched several administration officials to California to look at the state’s homeless problem. As Chris Megerian and Ben Oreskes wrote, the visits gave rise to speculation that Trump might announce new policy on the issue. But, as they noted, that was never particularly likely.
Once the president got to the state, he made clear that he doesn’t have any interest in proposing new programs to assist its roughly 130,000 homeless people. The administration’s main policy idea on the topic — cutting regulations on housing to make construction easier — is one that a lot of California officials share, at least in part, as Oreskes and Liam Dillon wrote. But, at best, it might have an impact in the long term.
For Trump, however, homelessness is not so much a problem to be solved as an issue to be exploited. He uses it to highlight what he sees as the failure of liberal politicians to maintain public order.
His comments to reporters on Air Force 1 as he flew into the state were telling.
“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” he said. The problem, as he depicted it, had little to do with the plight of those living on the street, but instead with how they make more affluent residents uncomfortable.
“We have people living in our… best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings,” he said. “Where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige.”
“In many cases they came from other countries, and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents. Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave.”
The next day, he said the Environmental Protection Agency would be putting San Francisco on notice about pollution stemming from people living in the streets. Officials were at a loss to explain what sort of notice he was referring to.
Meantime, at the other end of the political spectrum, Sen. Bernie Sanders released a “housing for all” plan that would spend billions of dollars to add millions of homes nationwide.
As Melissa Gomez wrote, the plan would also impose a nationwide rent control measure, capping annual rent increases at 3%, or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index — a move that many economists, including liberal Democrats, say would risk worsening the problem by prompting many landlords to take units off the market.