San Francisco inequality breeds political unease

San Francisco inequality breeds political unease


san-francisco-homelessAs San Francisco’s sharp inequality draws national attention this election year, California Democrats have begun to question how to explain their role in fostering — and reversing — the trend.

The gulf between the progressive city’s richest and poorest, and the emptying space between the two, has come to haunt Democrats worried that their almost unfettered control over state and municipal politics has left promises unfulfilled and little plan for change in the future. “During all my years in Asia I constantly grappled with the perniciousness of poverty,” Thomas Fuller wrote in a dispatch for the New York Times Sunday Review. “Yet somehow I was unprepared for the scale and severity of homelessness in San Francisco. The juxtaposition of the silent whir of sleek Tesla electric vehicles, with the outbursts of the mentally ill on the sidewalks. Destitution clashing with high technology. Well-dressed tourists sharing the pavement with vaguely human forms inside cardboard boxes. I’m confounded how to explain to my two children why a wealthy society allows its most vulnerable citizens to languish on the streets.”

A city in the hot seat

Liberals have recently raised the alarm about inequality in other elite blue-state cities. “Boston is the headquarters for two industries that are steadily bankrupting middle America: big learning and big medicine, both of them imposing costs that everyone else is basically required to pay and which increase at a far more rapid pace than wages or inflation,” as Thomas Frank recently observed. “A thousand dollars a pill, 30 grand a semester: the debts that are gradually choking the life out of people where you live are what has made this city so very rich. Perhaps it makes sense, then, that another category in which Massachusetts ranks highly is inequality.”

But with California’s rising generation of leaders drawn so heavily from San Francisco elites like Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris, the leading candidates for governor and U.S. senator respectively, critics have suggested that the city’s dominant political ethos is even more determinative of the near future than its prevailing technological worldview. “San Francisco and the Bay Area have long been committed to values which embrace inclusivity and counterculture. To see these values fraying so publicly adds insult to injury for a region once defined by its progressive social fabric,” Frederick Quo suggested this summer at Quartz, warning “San Francisco has become one huge metaphor for economic inequality” across the country. “In the face of resentment it is human to want revenge,” he warned. “But regressive policies such as heavily taxing technology companies or real estate developers are unlikely to shift the balance.”

West coast anxieties  

The sense that San Francisco has painted itself into a kind of policy corner has played into growing perceptions among Golden Staters that residents are facing a painful, threatening squeeze, despite the state’s significant aggregate economic turnaround from the bad old days of the financial crisis when Sacramento issued IOUs. In a recent CALSPEAKS poll, “seven out of 10 respondents believe the number of people living in poverty is a “major” problem,” KQED News reported. “There was wide agreement, regardless of race, political affiliation, income level or age. Two-thirds of Californians also believe income inequality is a major problem. (The cost of health care was another top concern, considered a problem by 70 percent of respondents.)”

For a time, it appeared that Democrats were turning the corner on inequality anxieties by focusing on raising minimum wages nationwide, starting with big cities — an approach that courted big controversy in California but ultimately largely succeeded. “In the last few years, as concerns have grown about economic inequality, proposals for a higher minimum wage have enjoyed remarkable success, thanks in part to an energetic campaign for a $15 minimum wage led by fast-food workers and backed by organized labor,” NBC News recalled. “New York, California and Washington, D.C., have all passed laws to raise their minimum to $15 an hour within the next eight years.” But as KQED noted, in the new CALSPEAKS survey, just “one-third of those polled ‘strongly favor’ the state’s recent $15/hour minimum wage bump approved,” while only 26 percent “somewhat” favored it — a majority, but one still uncertain about the best way to right what they see as the state’s stubborn economic wrongs. 


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  1. Leaving Soon
    Leaving Soon 23 September, 2016, 11:44

    Liberal policies don’t work. In California you know have to be really rich really poor to survive. Middle class is getting squeezed out. San Francisco is dirty and pitiful now. Too expensive to visit and unsafe!

    Reply this comment
  2. New World Odor Stooge
    New World Odor Stooge 23 September, 2016, 12:08

    Oh come on, certainly these Demonrats will share!

    Don’t you know they love the homeless and other poor and everything they do is for the childern?

    Reply this comment
  3. Queeg
    Queeg 23 September, 2016, 12:32


    Visit at your peril.

    Reply this comment
  4. crazytrain
    crazytrain 23 September, 2016, 12:47

    It’s called communism and while the wealhty liberal democrats push for globalism it’s also a call for the collapse of the United States all for the North American Union and/or OWG (One World Government)! And Moonbeam Brown is leading the charge with his liberal unconstitutional laws and bills!!!

    Reply this comment
    • T2G
      T2G 24 September, 2016, 18:32

      I think people need to examine immediate policies that would help people, which basically means jobs and less restrictions on housing. Longer term society needs to anticipate the changes that are coming. The things that drove growth in the past may not be available to us in a more crowded more urban world. The 1950s were an era of high equality, partly because strong unions were able to grab a bigger share of national income and there were fewer foreign competitors to American workers.

      Reply this comment
  5. Queeg
    Queeg 23 September, 2016, 18:45


    Yep it’s tough out there for the proletariat …..the posts on CWD by disillusioned young males, possibly in dead ender career tracks, is concerning.

    They have been betrayed by Globalists, corporate food barons, high tech trinket slavers, the media enablers of corrupt plutocrats and gutless community leaders fearful tax exemptions and government grants/welfare will dry up.

    It is the race to the bottom ala San Francisco…..

    Reply this comment
  6. Bill Gore ( a former kalifornia taxpayer)
    Bill Gore ( a former kalifornia taxpayer) 25 September, 2016, 08:17

    San Francisco: The only place on EARTH where you can see filthy, impoverished, mentally ill people DEFECATE on the street in the middle of the day. Obviously progressive social engineers really know what they are doing. And lets face it: progressives are SO LOVING. In fact I think they love and suck up to the ultra-wealthy elitist status quo much better than those stodgy boring old conservatives ever could..

    Reply this comment
    • Queeg
      Queeg 25 September, 2016, 10:50

      Comrade Gored

      As an out state observer don’t you find it odd the immigration/sanctuary fanatics and uber tech trinket slavers in SF have not completely rescued the poor, infirmed, mentally handicapped they show empathy?

      Reply this comment
  7. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 25 September, 2016, 14:58

    San Francisco needs another big earthquake time for this sin city to feel the wrath of god

    Reply this comment
  8. Mike
    Mike 25 September, 2016, 16:08

    What amazes me about SF is the pet spas among the homeless.
    Of course, it is probably better to be homeless than to be a poodle fresh from the spa with Gavin in a rainbow thong, slathered in Polo cologne, chasing the pooch around the bedroom. Bite it off Buster, take it to the patio, where the pigeons will use it to make a nest.

    Reply this comment
  9. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 26 September, 2016, 07:52

    Mike. Oh yes the pet spas I tell you some pet owners go over the hill with pampering their pets with all sorts of crazy ideas its getting out of hand way out of hand

    Reply this comment
  10. Mike
    Mike 26 September, 2016, 20:02

    Bite it off. Buster.

    Reply this comment

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