''San Francisco government agencies cannot continue to subsidize the alcohol industry. Alcohol consumption costs San Francisco residents tens of millions of dollars in harm every year. It's time for big alcohol, including wholesalers, to pay its fair share. A local alcohol charge for harm fee is long overdue.''
Saturday, June 26, 2010
The Homeless-Industrial Complex
Size matters, and "big" is bad. Big Oil, Big Pharma. And now: Big Alcohol, at least until they come up with a moniker more tripping off the tongue.
The City of San Francisco is going after the scourge of Big Alcohol and wants to impose $15 million dollar annual drink tax to reimburse the city for the cost of alcohol-related emergency room visits, ambulance trips, and rehab beds.
Bruce Livingston, executive Director of the Marin Institute, puts it this way:
San Francisco isn't a hard drinking city, and it seems extraordinary that San Francisco should have such high alcohol-related expenditures. Although cocktails are currently trendy, wine is king, and what imbibing takes place is, like most things in San Francisco, terribly precious. There is no sports culture, and there aren't that many colleges, so what gives?
What gives? You give. You give money to the homeless, either your spare change (STOP that!) or your tax dollars. San Francisco has 1000 homeless service programs, and spends about $200 million per year on the homeless. There are 15,000 homeless in San Francisco, approximately 3,000 of whom are considered "chronic homeless," and these chronic homeless cost the city an average of $61,000 per year each. With generous benefits and a gentle climate, San Francisco imports homeless from states with harsher weather and/or bureaucrats, and San Francisco has the highest per capita homeless population in the nation. Drive (I don't suggest walking unless you enjoy the constant smell of urine) around the city and you'll see people queued up for their gimmes: meals, clothing, health care, social services. At holiday time, Glide Memorial Church hands out food parcels and frozen turkeys to the homeless, although it's never been clear to me what a homeless person is going to do with a frozen turkey. (Last year, when this incongruity was brought to Glide's attention, they demurred, although the entrepreneurs quickly set up shop on the sidewalks a few blocks away from Glide and started selling off the contents of their food parcels.)
You give money to the homeless, and as anyone who has spent any time in San Francisco can see (and smell), the homeless are not using that money to improve their lot in life. The liquor stores on Sixth Street do a brisk business at 8:00 in the morning, serving patrons who look like they've been up for a while.
Precious wine snobs and diners gushing over their organic sustainable cocktails aren't the ones at fault, it's the homeless and their army of poverty pimps driving this expense. The Homeless-Industrial Complex, if you will. So if Bruce Livingston wants to make the guilty parties pay their fair share, he needs to impose a surcharge on every soft-hearted fool who gives money to a street person, garnish the wages of everyone who has spoken out against the sit-lie ordinance, and revoke the tax-exempt status of the Glide Foundation and the other 999 organizations that sustain San Francisco's army of drug-addled street people.
With the money collected, we'll be able to reinstitute involuntary institutionalization. If you're so sick that you can't help drinking yourself into a stupor by 8:15 am, sure we'll call you an ambulance, but just once, and the ambulance will drop you off at a place where the door locks behind you.
1000 organizations rely on the continuation of the homeless problem for their own survival; if the homeless problem goes away, so do the donations and grants. The homeless problem will remain intractable until the homeless-industrial complex which sustains it is broken.