Newsweek's Ben Adler Slams 'Stupid Idea' of Putting 'Tax' On Homeless

Combining bleeding heart bluster with soak-the-rich envy, Newsweek's Ben Adler savaged liberal billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an April 14 The Gaggle blog post for his green-lighting city homeless shelters to levy a monthly rent on residents who hold down jobs:

Don't complain about your taxes today, they are surely less than the 44 percent of one's income that homeless New Yorkers are about to start paying.

New York City, whose mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is worth an estimated $17.5 billion, has announced that it is going to charge homeless people for staying in city housing shelters.

Adler went on to briefly cite the New York Daily News before snarking that "[a]nyone who has spent a minute in a homeless shelter knows better than to buy the preposterous idea that people who could afford an apartment would rather stay there."

Of course that's an unfair assessment of the argument for charging rent of homeless shelter residents who have jobs. From the Daily News article Adler himself cited (emphasis mine):

The city first tried charging rent last year but dropped the effort after Legal Aid threatened to sue.

About 15% of shelter residents make enough money to have to pay rent, which is calculated on a sliding scale, Gibbs said. A family of three making $10,000 a year would pay $36 a month, while the same family making $25,000 a year would pay $926 a month.

Gibbs said that while the working poor should have to learn to budget, the city wanted an alternative system that would set up mandatory savings programs and make rent less steep at higher incomes.

She said the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance turned that plan down, saying it did not comply with the law.

"The city is working to come into compliance with budgeting income for all public assistance recipients," said OTDA spokesman Anthony Farmer. "It would be premature to discuss that as we're continuing to work with the City on it," said OTDA spokesman Anthony Farmer.

In other words, the city is hoping to teach homeless persons the skill of budgeting money and for savings, but is wrestling with all kinds of legal hurdles in encouraging personal responsibility.

The Newsweek writer does make a legitimate point by noting that the policy could be prove in some cases a disincentive to find work:

Shelter residents will pay up to 44 percent of their income in their first year in the program. If you are homeless and unemployed you will continue to pay nothing. So the city will be discouraging the homeless from getting a job, by penalizing them for doing so. Isn't Bloomberg supposed to be one of those savvy neoliberals who believes in policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit that reward poor people for working? Isn't that the basis of his controversial proposal to pay kids for doing their homework? 

But Adler goes off the deep end by retreating back to a common tactic of the Left, invoking class warfare as a substitute for logical argument (emphasis mine):

It's already been established that Bloomberg thinks the poor should pay more for social services than the rich. After all, Bloomberg endorsed the city's regressive sales tax instead of taxing its richest residents. There's a word for this kind government, where the rich buy power and use it to abuse the poor. The word is oligarchy. 

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.