I have long harbored the idea that LA — where poverty has increased faster than anywhere else in America except Detroit — should pay people to leave town and start a new life somewhere else.
It’s not the kind of thing I’ve talked about much, given the fact were the Politically Correct Capital of America as well as the Homeless Capital — and the Meanest City in our treatment of the homeless.
But maybe it’s an idea whose time has come.
New York City is already doing it. On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg started a program of evicting some of the nearly 10,000 families housed in city shelters at a cost of $36,000 each if they break rules like staying out after curfew or refusing apartments offered them.
That brought up the subject of a program that the city has quietly run to buy one-way tickets anywhere in the world for down-on-their-luck families to start the lives over, places like Paris ($6,332 cost), Orlando ($858.40), Johannesburg ($2,550.70), or most frequently, San Juan, Puerto Rico ($484.20).
The city makes all the travel arrangements from visas to relocation loans, all it takes is for the families to agree and to have a relative who will take them in.
It’s a $500,000 a year program that has relocated 550 families since 2007.
Think about it: The mayor launched a dud $5 billion affordable housing plan that has managed to waste millions of dollars and achieve very little, LA would be a better city with fewer people instead of more crammed into ever denser spaces, poor people might actually find better lives in places without gangs, places where there’s steady work, places where there aren’t so many poor people that none of them stand a chance.
At $10,000 a family, a million dollars would help 100 families to relocate; a $100 million would help 10,000 families make a new beginning.
The savings in housing assistance, social services, educational and medical costs would more than pay the cost and leave a fortune to actually provide more help for those in need. We might even be able to identify what their problems are and actually give them the support they need to improve their lot in life.
The truth is LA has too many poor people.
For all that’s wrong with LAUSD, does anybody really know how to educate 700,000 kids with the vast majority coming from poor and/or immigrant families?
For all that’s wrong with the public health system, does anybody really know how to provide decent medical treatment where there are so many people without insurance or the means to pay to see a doctor for what ails them?
For all that’s wrong with City Hall, does anybody really know how to get rid of gangs that control whole neighborhoods or how to create enough good jobs to raise people’s standard of living?
We are hiding behind programs that are more political slogan than meaningful, the “living wage” and “affordable housing” being prime examples.
I’m not talking about mass deportations or buying people one-way bus tickets to Wetumpka, Alabama. I’m talking about genuine support and enough money to start a new life.
I know it’s not realistic for the masters of LA’s failed experiment in municipal socialism (an oxymoron if ever there was one) but the dark vision of LA as Blade Runner City becomes truer every day as the disparity grows between rich and poor and the middle class flight continues unabated.
If it’s good enough for New York, it’s worth at least talking about in the once innovative City of Angels.