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Liberals ignore homeless facts

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By Paul Kengor
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 9:03 p.m.
 

In the late 1980s, I was a pre-med major at Pitt, working part time for the great Dr. Thomas Starzl, the pioneer of organ transplantation. I loved what I did and had little to no interest in politics, at least when I first arrived at Pitt.

After a while, that changed. The liberals on campus were always carping and moaning — nuclear freeze, the Contras, El Salvador, you name it. They especially made a fuss about the homeless, some of whom I passed on the streets of Oakland.

I recall one unfortunate, bedraggled woman who wandered the streets prophesying doom and gloom. Students ridiculed her. The poor woman was clearly mentally disturbed.

“Ronald Reagan created these people,” one liberal angrily told me. “This is Reagan's fault.”

That perplexed me. I was a science major, prone to examining questions carefully and rationally, with test tubes and weights and measurements. Your emotions shouldn't determine your conclusions. I asked these liberals how, precisely, Reagan had created this alleged homeless epidemic. Their responses were utterly unconvincing.

So, I did my own research. I phoned local homeless shelters. I asked the staff I spoke to why the homeless were Reagan's fault. The first woman I spoke to reprimanded me: “Young man, I don't know what you're learning at that college, but this has nothing to do with Ronald Reagan. Most of these people are mentally ill.”

I dug some more, consulting newspapers, magazines, journals. I learned which sources had a liberal or conservative bias. In the end, I wrote up an analysis that I sent to the campus newspaper, The Pitt News, as a letter to the editor, arguing that homelessness wasn't Reagan's fault. The op-ed editor asked if he could run the letter as an op-ed. “Sure,” I answered.

As soon as the article appeared, I was immediately denounced with all sorts of names: fascist, Nazi and, naturally, racist.

Why mention this now? Well, for an interesting reason not being discussed by our media — the same media that went bonkers with the homeless issue in the 1980s: The fact is that the number of homeless at the end of Barack Obama's first term is higher than the number at the end of Reagan's first term. And liberals are saying nothing about it.

At the start of 1984, the final year of Reagan's first term, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a major study estimating 250,000-350,000 homeless. Today, under Obama, the most recent study is by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, titled “State of Homelessness in America 2012,” which provides data through the end of 2011. It lists 636,017 homeless in 2011, double the number under Reagan.

It's a stunning number. But these days, liberals are not using the homeless as a political weapon against the guy in the White House. That's because this time it's their guy in the White House.

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College.

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