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Homelessness as a Disorder?

"They" should "overcome homelessness more quickly." How brilliant! As if homelessness were a medical or psychological condition, or an addiction, like gambling. Maybe our beneficent City managers should prescribe a drug for it!

And it's too true that the sad character of our times is boldly on display in this "election". The Council might bicker against the Mayor on this or that. Mainstream organizations might take issue with a policy of his. But when it comes down to it, these folks have always-already compromised their integrity and humanity and hitched their horses to Bloomberg. So the Council abolishes term limits, and there's a gleeful NARAL President on Bloomberg's TV ads now reminding us how confident she is that he understands and defends women's rights.

(On the term limits and election, the Indypendent ran a cool article proposing that - as Bloomberg is already guaranteed victory - we just bypass the formalities of actually having an election and instead demand the millions he's paying for ads and glossy mailings and robocalls go to providing needed public services in NYC. http://www.indypendent.org/2009/05/14/bill-the-billionaire/#hide).

Bloomberg represents, in stark form, something interesting about neoliberal ideology. It's pretty philosophical for him, in fact. The ideology can bend this way or that on the more social issues, and has no problem supporting some human rights in their narrow, legalistic form. The real thing for neoliberalism, as he reminds us all the time, is class. Or rather, neoliberalism's total erasure of class or structural inequality as a category of it's thought structure. It's all about choice, "opportunity", and the individual's rights and responsibilities.

A good example. In the 1960's LBJ, a Liberal of the classic variety, declared a "War on Poverty" and it was actually possible to talk about public and state provision of collective welfare programs. Cut to today, with a global economic crisis and unemployment at its highest levels in generations. And what does Bloomberg, a neoliberal, do? Opens up "financial empowerment" offices. Instead of public programs to provide meaningful support for people, we get people passing out shitty brochures in spiffy offices, "counseling" the poor and indebted on their need to make lifestyle changes, work and sacrifice harder, and "seize opportunities" for "financial freedom".

Old school liberalism minimally understood class inequality and at times was compelled to appeal to the poor with almost real programs. (Of course, only so long as profit margins allowed, and so long as the working class and poor agreed to never independently organize.) Neoliberalism, though, is contemptuous of the poor and the worker, actively strips away minimal supports from them, and vindictively punishes the dispossessed in order to reinforce the ideology of "individual opportunity" at every turn. It's actually possible for the neoliberal to say publicly, as Bloomberg did recently, that "one can argue that if you make more money, you deserve more money."

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