Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 1999 /27 Kislev, 5760
Hillary thumps her Bible
NOW, AT LONG LAST, Hillary Clinton has really jumped into the Senate race
in New York. Her entrance became official not when she donned that baseball
cap, nor when she boasted about knowing where Oneonta is, but when she
slammed Mayor Rudy Giuliani for his homeless policy.
Speaking to a group of mostly black ministers, Mrs. Clinton dusted off some
golden oldies from liberal crusades past. Noting that the mayor has promised
to arrest homeless people who decline to take refuge in a shelter or
elsewhere, Mrs. Clinton invoked the spirit of the season, "We are
celebrating the birth of a homeless child. ... Well, tonight in New York
there will be no room at the inn for thousands and thousands." She also
accused the mayor of "punishing poverty."
First, let's recall that the "homeless couple" two thousand years ago were
not really homeless, they were fleeing taxes, no? Second, Mrs. Clinton seems
to get her numbers ("thousands and thousands") from the Mitch Synder school
of social research. In fact, there may be hundreds of homeless on the
streets of New York, but not thousands and thousands.
We fought this battle over numbers back in the '80s. In the end, after
arguing strenuously that there were 3 million homeless (the result of
heartless cuts in social programs, we were told), even the liberals finally
capitulated and admitted that the late Snyder's numbers were pure invention.
The true national number was about 300,000.
Mrs. Clinton echoes the '80s view on homelessness, flaying the mayor for
"arresting those whose only offense is that they have no home." Now,
actually, the city of New York offers a great many free services for
so-called "street people." They get shelter, food, medical attention, job
training, even addiction services and psychotherapy. But you cannot give
those things to people who refuse to come in out of the cold.
And that brings us to the moral question. Mrs. Clinton is certain that she
holds the moral high ground for sticking to the view that homeless people
should be permitted to reject help. To paraphrase Anatole France, Mrs.
Clinton's position amounts to: "Sane and insane alike have the right to
sleep under bridges."
There are some people -- and they comprise roughly 60 percent of those we
call "homeless" -- who are so mentally impaired that it is foolish to speak
of preserving their "autonomy" or respecting their decisions. If a mentally
ill person declines to leave the street in sub-zero weather, is it
compassionate to let him freeze?
Liberals imagined that they were fighting for the mentally ill when they
emptied the institutions 30 years ago. When forlorn, miserable and sometimes
dangerous people began to haunt the parks and subways, liberals at first
attempted to use them for political points. They insisted that the homeless
were just like you and me.
"We are all one paycheck away from homelessness," went the propaganda of
the time. Why were there so many? Reagan was to blame. But some had eyes to
see. Mrs. Clinton might wish to peruse "The Perversion of Autonomy" by
Willard Gaylin and Bruce Jennings, two psychiatrists with no particular
brief for conservatism but who summed up deinstitutionalization this way:
"Mentally ill patients were granted their freedom to defecate, urinate,
sleep, starve, freeze, murder and be murdered in the streets of our larger
cities. All in the name of autonomy."
With a Democrat in the White House, many liberals finally admitted the
truth, that the homeless were comprised, almost entirely, of the mentally
ill and those who abuse drugs and alcohol (the latter group used to be
Giuliani's current push to arrest homeless people came after two extremely
disturbing attacks on New York's streets. One homeless person pushed a young
woman onto the subway tracks, causing her death. And more recently, a
homeless man smashed a brick into the head of a young officeworker,
critically injuring her. That is another thing Mrs. Clinton didn't grapple
with in her talk -- the right of the majority to be protected from the
criminal mentally ill.
Mrs. Clinton thinks she knows how to lift the homeless "out of poverty." If
this speech is an indication of her understanding of the issue, she has no
idea what she is talking
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©1999, Creators Syndicate