And Yet, Another Question

Posted: June 17, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homelessness, Money, Politics

I think I’ve mentioned a handful of times that I keep close track of this site’s statistics. Thing like: how many visits daily; which pages are the most viewed; how new readers found the site; where they linked from and so on. And of course, because of the search widget over there to right, I can get an idea of what types of information folks are looking for.

But, I’m also able to see what search engines they used to find the site and what search inquiries were used.

Most of the search inquires are just variations on a theme. But every so often I notice a search string that catches my eye.  

For example – this morning while checking the blog statistics this question was listed as part of a search engine query:

"Why are there so many homeless in San Luis Obispo?"

Actually, I like that question. Clear and to the point. No ambiguity at all. And, I can answer the question using just one word: money.

Well, perhaps I can’t answer it with just one word, because the answer would more accurately have to be stated as the lack of adequate funding to help the homeless.

Yesterday, when I posted, It Doesn’t Make Cents, I mentioned that the federal government budgeted only $153 million dollars to help the homeless this year. Next year, the amount will be cut back to $100 million. However, the federal government actually has the taxpayer dollars to allocate substantially more than what they do.

Let me show you what I mean.

On the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website, you can find information on how much of U.S. taxpayer dollars will be spent on NASA next year.

At the bottom of the page is a chart which states that, in 2009, NASA will receive an estimated $18.1 billion dollars to explore the cosmos. That’s a lot of money. And, while I’m all for knowing what’s out in space, it seems a foolish expenditure to worry about other places in space when there are people who don’t have a place to call home right here on Earth in our very own nation.

On the Citizens Against Government Waste website, which keeps track of Congressional "pork barrel" spending it says,

"The 2008 Pig Book identified 11,610 projects at a cost of $17.2 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2008. A "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures."

$17.2 billion is also a lot of money. But think of the phrase in the paragraph above: "…in circumvention of established budgetary procedures." That’s just a fancy way of saying foolish and wasteful Congressional spending of your hard earned tax dollars.

If you were to head over to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) website, you’d see that in 2007 the U.S. spent $21.7 billion for Official Development Assistance (ODA) – or what us regular folks call "foreign aid."

United States ODA goes toward helping other nations throughout the world who are impoverished and are looking for a hand up, but hopefully not a handout.

I’m not saying that we, as a nation, shouldn’t be willing to financially help those nations which need it, but at what cost? It doesn’t seem right for us to take food out of the mouths of our nation’s homeless children to feed everyone else’s children.

If we have the wherewithal to spend tens of billions of dollars annually to help build and strengthen the economies of other nations, why can’t we do the same thing here?

If we can find a way to provide ODA so that the citizens of other nations can have adequate medical care, why can’t we seem to do that here on our own shores?

If we are able to spend U.S. taxpayer dollars to help other countries maintain their national infrastructures, how is it that we aren’t able to fund the necessary programs to help our nation’s homeless find a way out of extreme poverty and off of the streets?

Now, consider this: just between the three federal spending examples I’ve mentioned, the total is $57 billion. Yet, our federal government is spending less than $50 per homeless person for federal fiscal year 2008!

So, in response to the question: "Why are there so many homeless in San Luis Obispo?"

The answer is: because the federal government is allocating taxpayer dollars on things that do nothing to actually benefit the average everyday person, let alone the homeless.

Ask yourself these questions: how much of the $18.1 billion dollars allocated to NASA is actually making your life better? Or, how much of the $17.2 billion dollars in Congressional "pork barrel" spending is helping you pay your bills. Or, how much of the $21.7 billion in foreign aid is actually having a positive impact in your day to day life? How much of that total of $57 billion will you, the American citizen, actually benefit from?

The question would have been better if it had asked: "Why are there so many homeless in the United States?"

The reason is because; our elected leaders aren’t willing to sufficiently fund programs to help our nation’s homeless. That’s why.

  1. Jose M. Lemus says:

    As I read your post this morning, I go back to the day that I met you in San Luis Obispo and you were holding a sign that read
    Which fit so perfect with the opening words of the film “Suckerfish”….
    “Your Just One Paycheck Away From Being in the Same F______ Place”

    When we look at the daily news and hear about the jobs lost, coupled with the cost of living constantly rising, It is a blessing to be able to have any sort of home in SLO or any community for that matter.

  2. Evelyn Adams says:


    Regarding the question itself, why are there so many homeless in San Luis Obispo? Maybe this inquisitive person isn’t acknowledging or even could imagine the actual homeless number in their OWN county and state. The minimization and skewing of homeless census’ are commonplace in the U.S., not just SLO County. We’re a nation overall, in immense denial.

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