I was in Portland and Seattle recently. Both are beautiful cities on the west coast of the USA with many coffee shops, restaurants and small shops. But the impression that was most engraved on me was the enormous number of homeless people living on the streets.
In Portland, some streets had been turned into camps. On one of the city’s central squares, where the clashes between demonstrators and the federal police sent by Donald Trump took place, a kind of permanent soup kitchen has established itself. The scandal of these tent cities is further evidence of how dysfunctional the US economic and political system has become. The corona pandemic is not the cause of this development. But the crisis triggered by the virus shows it in all its severity and ruthlessness.
The situation is likely to deteriorate dramatically in the coming weeks. Because of the Corona crisis, Congress and the individual states have issued moratoriums. However, the federal regulation, which protected about a third of all tenants, expired because Republicans and Democrats could not agree on a new aid package. In some states there is still a ban on so-called Evictions. In others they have started again. The first people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic are already sitting on the streets.
When I lived in Chicago five years ago, I was helping out in my Catholic parish at a food bank. Many of the men and women who went there to get a bag of sandwiches and fruit still had a job a few months earlier. Unemployment has made them homeless in a very short time, and Corona magnifies this problem. It doesn’t affect tens or hundreds of thousands. According to a forecast by Princeton University, 28 million tenants could be evicted from their houses and apartments in the coming months.
Once again, black people are disproportionately affected, especially single mothers. The whole debate about racism in American society will remain ineffective unless policies address the causes of economic inequality between whites and African Americans, and neither Democrats nor Republicans have done so in the past two decades. For a short time, it looked as if Corona might lead to a rethink. But the so far unsuccessful struggle in Congress for a new stimulus package shows that the country is as much in a political deadlock as it is in an economic one. Danger for Trump’s re-electionPresident Donald Trump has recognized the danger that rising homelessness poses for his re-election. It’s hard to proclaim that the country is doing well when the pavements are paved with tent cities. But his Executive Order, which is intended to prevent tenants from being evicted for some time, is legally questionable and probably ineffective in this matter: to do something, at least in the short term, for citizens threatened with losing their homes, Republicans and Democrats would have to agree on another aid package. But the Republicans themselves do not know what they want. The Democrats, on the other hand, can live with a situation in which the country’s weaknesses become visible to all before the presidential election. In the long run, the problem of homelessness can only be solved by a fundamental reform of the American social system. This can only be achieved, if at all, if after the November election the party of the president has a majority in both houses of Congress.
In such a situation, the Republicans have decided on a tax reform after 2016 that will primarily benefit the rich. After all, under Barack Obama the Democrats have ensured that millions of Americans have better health insurance. After an election victory, they would have to prove that their great campaign promises were meant seriously. The tents in American cities are not an aesthetic nuisance, but rather an indication of the impending implosion of the American system. What will be importantThe Democratic Party Conference begins on Monday, at which presidential candidate Joe Biden is to be officially nominated. It will take place largely virtually. Biden will speak on Thursday evening, his vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris the day before.
Otherwise, all the party’s celebrities appear: from the Clintons to the Obamas to Bernie Sanders, the left-wing senator from Vermont. The exciting question is how it all works when it’s done without a live audience: what the polls sayA new survey by Monmouth University shows that Joe Biden continues to have a ten percent lead over Donald Trump nationwide. The strategy of letting the president do all the talking to hurt himself is working. However, it will probably not be sustained much longer. After the Democratic Party Conference, people will know what the mood is like when Biden is the centre of attention.social media moment of the weekIt’s more than a year old: a YouTube clip from a democratic pre-election debate in which Kamala Harris accuses her then rival Joe Biden of his collaboration with racist senators. Surely you will see more in the coming weeks.
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