An obsession with a distorted sense of “compassion” is strangling our national debate on the most important issues of our time and contributing to the ongoing deterioration of the country. Leftist activists and politicians love to appeal to people’s “compassion” in support of policies with demonstrably destructive results. We must stop being taken in by this deceit if we hope to repair our damaged nation.
Blue city and blue state policies on mental illness, drug use, and homelessness are perfect examples. An NPR article from 2017 described “deinstitutionalization”—the nationwide effort to close mental hospitals and other long-term psychiatric facilities in the 1950s and 1960s—as being an outgrowth of the civil rights movement. But the hoped-for move to “community-based” care was a chimera; in fact, thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of the most seriously mentally ill have ended up homeless. There they have stayed, and their numbers have grown—particularly in places where policies permit it.
California is perhaps the best (worst) example. Los Angeles County alone has nearly 70,000 homeless. The San Francisco Chronicle estimated that city’s homeless population was around 20,000 last year. Sacramento has seen a 70 percent increase in homelessness just since 2019.
The official narrative at present is that homelessness is primarily a function of lack of affordable housing, but this is a sleight of hand. According to author Michael Shellenberger, fully two-thirds of Los Angeles’ homeless population deal with addiction or mental illness, and half of the homeless in San Francisco are dealing with both. Affordable housing will solve neither problem. Progressives attack Shellenberger because he has the audacity to attack California’s so-called progressive policies as contributing to the crisis. But homelessness and mental illness are national phenomena, so comparing statistics from different states shores up Shellenberger’s arguments.
California’s population is around 40 million, and it has nearly 170,000 homeless. Florida has a population of 22 million, and its weather is just as pleasant as that of the Golden State, but its homeless population is around 27,000—not quite 16 percent of California’s. And consider the state of Washington, which has almost as many homeless as Florida (22,000) but a total population only one-third the size (7.7 million).
Shellenberger is right. It isn’t a matter of population or climate. It’s policy.
Where homelessness and mental illness are permitted to fester, crime follows. Los Angeles saw an 11 percent increase in crime last year. San Francisco has seen a 17 percent increase in homicides and a 20 percent increase in property crimes since 2020. And yet, despite the evidence (and public outcry), Democrats in the Oregon legislature have introduced a bill decriminalizing homeless encampments and permitting the homeless to sue for “harassment.” These lawmakers are ignoring the pleas of citizens, the departure of residents, and the closure of businesses, all of whom are fleeing Portland because of crime and filth. Seattle is facing a similar situation, as is San Francisco; 17 major retailers have left the downtown, with more threatening to leave.
The same analysis can be applied to other equally destructive policies espoused by the Left.
It isn’t “compassionate” to let young people whose brains are not even fully developed—many of whom are suffering from other mental or emotional illnesses—engage in medical experimentation, chemically altering or surgically mutilating their bodies, leaving them sterile, and, in many cases, sexually un- or underdeveloped for the rest of their adult lives.
It isn’t “compassionate” to lower academic standards for minority or poor children. In Chicago, 55 of the city’s 649 public schools had no children who could perform at grade level in either reading or math during the 2021-2022 academic year. Ninety percent of Chicago public school children are minorities, and the city spends almost $30,000 annually per student.
This trend is not limited to Chicago, nor is it merely a function of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress—referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card”—reading scores across the country declined in 2019 compared to 2017 levels. This decline was present in every racial/ethnic group, except Asians and Pacific Islanders.
The problem isn’t racism or lack of money. It’s policy.
It isn’t “compassionate” to leave our borders wide open, allow millions of unvetted individuals to pour into the country, and expect Americans to foot the bill for their education, services, and health care. It isn’t “compassionate” to permit drug cartels to exploit those open borders so that fentanyl can kill tens of thousands of Americans a year.
The problem isn’t poverty and anti-immigrant hysteria. It’s policy.
Those who promote these disastrous policies never want to answer difficult questions, preferring to hide behind false “compassion.” It isn’t really compassion, either, if it forbids nuance, ignores multiple perspectives or dismisses complicated and conflicting interests. People capable of real compassion can admit, for example, that they have concern for children struggling with gender dysphoria and for girls who do not want biological males undressing in their locker rooms, or taking away their athletic opportunities.
Admittedly, it takes courage to speak up. The word “compassion” is thrown around now as a thinly veiled threat: agree with us and support our policies, or we’ll call you a racist, a bigot, a homophobe, a transphobe; someone who wants children, the poor, and the mentally ill to die.
But real compassion requires real courage. Those who have real courage are willing to buck the crowd, not swim with it. They risk their jobs, careers, status—even their relationships with friends and family—to take unpopular stances in pursuit of the truth.
People with real courage and real compassion are willing to engage, to discuss facts, competing scientific theories, and actual results. They do not use political power to shut down opposition or prevent the public from finding out the truth.
We have let those promoting destructive policies hide behind false compassion.
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