Every time I am tempted to take foreign correspondents seriously, moronic stories like this snap me back to reality. 

Memo to the authors:

  • No one who actually retailed cocaine, etc. to Wall Street's overpaid minions would be sleeping in a homeless shelter.  That's a high-end specialty business, more like being a personal trainer than a street thug
  • Homelessness, as in people sleeping on the street, is not correlated with foreclosures.  Even homelessness, as in people staying on relative's couches, isn't very well correlated with foreclosures.  People who end up without somewhere permanent to stay generally have much bigger problems than a sheriff's notice
  • The number of Americans receiving food stamps has risen by about 20% since last year.  That is a lot of people, and not a number that should make anyone happy.  But it hardly heralds the return of "mass poverty"
  • Likewise, the number of uninsured Americans has risen modestly.  This is not the same as millions standing on breadlines
  • It is not true that "Anyone who forgets to lock his car at night" in Georgetown "can expect to see unwanted guests sleeping in it by the next morning.  It is not even true that anyone who forgets to lock his car at night can expect to find the radio stolen, although that is a much larger risk--one with which Germans are not altogether unfamiliar, as I recall.  I haven't even heard one anecdotal case of this happening, much less a citywide epidemic.  Anyone who tried sleeping in someone else's car in my considerably less posh neighborhood is very likely to have the police stop and point out that this is not technically legal.
  • While it is probably true that "Nowadays, politicians spend as much time visiting homeless shelters as they once spent at Silicon Valley startups", this was also true two years ago, five years ago, or whatever time period you'd care to name.  American politicians, unsurprisingly, like to give the public photographic evidence that they care about the poor.

It kind of makes you wonder if they've actually, like, been to America, or if they're getting the whole story phoned in by ACORN activists.  I don't mean to trivialize the very real increase in suffering, concentrated among those who were already struggling, that this recession has wrought.  But the moderate boost in the number of Americans getting food stamps is, for all my issues with the program, a *good* thing--it means we're helping out those who have lost income during the downturn.  And the cartoon picture of destitute, formerly middle class Americans making a forced migration to living in their SUVs or fleabag motels is ridiculous.

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