Should we be surprised that Paul Ryan muscled his way into a soup kitchen to get a photo op? It’s what politicians do, right?
Well, yes, they do. And no, they don’t all do it in the same way. No recent presidential administrations have had successful comprehensive plans to end homelessness, but some have done more than others. The Obama Administration has been working to help homeless veterans with varying success. But they have a plan. What’s the plan on the right, aside from bursting into a shelter and throwing soap and water into already-clean pots?
In the GOP platform, the first mention of homelessness is this:
The spiritual welfare of our troops and retired service members should be a priority of our national leadership. With military suicides running at the rate of one a day, with post-service medical conditions, including addiction and mental illness, and with the financial stress and homelessness that is often related to these factors, there is an urgent need for the kind of counseling that faith-based institutions can best provide. We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith. A Republican Commander in Chief will protect religious independence of military chaplains and will not tolerate attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities. We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces as well as in the civilian world.
So, to help fight homelessness among veterans, they will fight to ban gay marriage, and to make sure that military chaplains aren’t having their bibles confiscated, which I’m sure is a big problem. And they want to rely more on “faith-based” organizations to help out, presumably in place of the federal government that put the troops in harms way.
The second and last mention of homelessness is here:
We are committed to ending homelessness for our veterans. One key is to assist their reentry into the job market as soon as possible after military service ends. A job for a veteran is more than a source of income. It is a new mission, with a new status, and the transition can be difficult. It is a national scandal that veterans are one of the groups with the highest unemployment rates. We urge the private sector to make hiring vets a company policy and commend the many organizations that have specific programs to accomplish this. But the federal government must take the lead by simplifying the paper work required for a tax break for hiring a veteran and by giving vets their assured place at the head of the training and employment line.
They “urge” the private sector to hire vets, and want to simplify paperwork for tax breaks in hiring vets. I’m sure that will do the trick.
Are the Dems any better?
That’s why we enacted the Returning Heroes Tax Credit and the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit to give companies incentives to hire vets. That’s why we have committed to ending veterans’ homelessness by 2015, and have launched new partnerships with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development and with veterans’ organizations to do just that. That’s why, because the traumas of war don’t always end when our loved ones return home, this administration is continuing to work to meet the mental health needs of our veterans. That’s why we will continue to partner with the nation’s Veterans Service Organizations and veterans advocacy groups to ensure that every veteran of every generation receives the care and benefits they’ve earned. That’s why we have made it easier for veterans in rural communities to get the care they need. And it is why we have substantially increased funding for the VA, and directed it to eliminate its backlog of claims, hire additional claims processors, and deploy new systems to improve claims processing times.
They sound more committed, if that’s worth anything. They acknowledge that the government has a role to play in helping those who have fought our wars and that there are other factors in veterans’ homelessness besides unemployment (e.g. mental health).
This administration is implementing the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative to combat poverty in American cities and the Sustainable Communities Initiative, supports the proposed Growth Zone Initiatives, and has invested in green jobs training programs, community development, public and affordable housing, and homelessness prevention to cut red tape and help revitalize American cities. The administration knows one size does not fit all, which is why it has listened to city leaders about what they need most and is fostering ground-up, instead of top-down, solutions by assigning federal workers to work side-by-side with local leaders in struggling cities.
That sounds kind of Republican.
Soup kitchens aren’t only for the homeless, and neither party discusses homelessness other than that among vets. But this is a start. The GOP has promised to help homeless vets by urging companies to hire them, by denying rights to homosexuals, by fighting fake problems such as religious freedom for (Christian) military personnel, and by abandoning their responsibilities as leaders to care for the men and women who fought for us by turning their care over to faith-based organizations.
The Democrats, on the other hand, have an actual plan, one that may have had only moderate success to date, but one that has already disbursed funds to help real people, right now. They don’t plan to wait for businesses to decide to hire a vet out of the goodness of their heart and a modest tax break. And they acknowledge the need to involve local communities in fighting the problem.
Paul Ryan’s photo-op of his disrupting a homeless shelter is a pretty good metaphor for the Republican approach to social issues. Punish those you don’t like, and hope that the market will help those most in need, and make a big, distracting commotion in the process. If they had the least bit of knowledge or empathy, they might be able to see this as the cynical scam it is.