Far-left Congressional Democrats Cori Bush (Missouri), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts) slept in the rough on the Capitol steps over the weekend, surrounded by cases of bottled water, pizza boxes, staffers and fawning press. These Democrats, who are part of a group who call themselves “The Squad,” are protesting the end of the federal moratorium on evictions, which expired Saturday night, and warning of soaring homelessness.
They should have been shooed away by Capitol Police for their stunt. Camping on public property is against the law in the District of Columbia. It threatens public safety, creates disorder and health hazards and wrecks neighborhoods. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance banning encampments in most public areas and ordering police to clear tents and cardboard colonies. Even uber-liberal LA has had enough.
The Squad is playing on this public concern over homeless to demand Congress enact a new eviction moratorium. It would not only suspend rent and mortgage obligations but actually cancel them until the pandemic is over. When is that? In their view, maybe never.
Far-left Democrats have a socialist agenda, which can be seen in their message: Don’t pay rent, we’ll block evictions; don’t pay back college loans, we’ll cancel them; don’t work, we’ll take money from those who do work and give it to you.
Before Omar set up camp Friday, she introduced a bill in the House for guaranteed incomes. Everyone would receive $1200 a month from the government whether you work or not. Utopia, unless you happen to be one of the people toiling to pay for it.
The truth is there’s no need for an eviction moratorium. Congress has provided $47 billion in rent relief with generous terms. A New York City household of four earning as much as $95,450 is eligible. There are delays in getting the money out, but in New York, California, Massachusetts and several other states, any renter who applies for aid is protected from eviction while waiting.
That federal rent aid is on top of stimulus checks and unemployment benefits with federal add-ons, and in New York State, newly enhanced state vouchers for renters who need help.
The White House said Monday, “Money is available in every state to help renters who are behind on rent and at risk of eviction.” The White House and US Treasury are pressuring states to get the money distributed.
The economic problem is not tenants unable to find work. It’s too few workers willing to take the jobs available.
“America’s employers can’t fill a record 9.2 million jobs because the government has been paying people more in unemployment to stay home,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis told the New York Post. “So why aren’t they paying their rent?”
Continuing the moratorium would clobber mom-and-pop landlords who need revenue to pay mortgages and repair buildings. They’ve been hardest hit during the pandemic, according to the University of Pennsylvania Housing Initiative. Prolonging the moratorium threatens their survival, putting housing supply at risk.
Let’s be clear. A moratorium won’t relieve the crime, filth and disorder caused by hardcore homeless lying on the streets, benches and subway stairs. Most are mentally ill or addicted. They didn’t become homeless because of pandemic layoffs. Some have been living rough for a decade.
They need sensible love: removal from the streets to supervised shelters with mental health and addiction services. For their sakes, as well as to restore quality of life and safety in cities such as New York.
As for homelessness caused by the pandemic, Republicans and Democrats alike supported a temporary moratorium on evictions during the lockdown, when millions were forced out of work. That time has passed.
Yet Monday morning, Bush tweeted from her sleeping bag, predicting 11 million would become homeless. A lot of theatrics, but none of it true.
Layoffs are way down from the pandemic peak in April 2020, and it’s time to get the capitalist engines humming. Unfortunately, that’s not what left-wing Democrats want.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of "The Next Pandemic," available at Amazon.com. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.