Friday, January 28, 2011

The Economy Still Sucks

At least older urban hellholes have some amount of services to help deal the poor and homeless, but newer growth areas don't.

Much of the money for such schemes comes from different local, state and federal government agencies. But all are tightening the purse strings. The county’s revenues have fallen with property values, so it is cutting back. The state, meanwhile, has cut its grants to Mr Martin’s outfit by 80% over the past four years. Many of the federal grants come courtesy of the stimulus bill of 2009, and so are quickly drying up. When the federal money runs out, says Carolyn Mason, a county commissioner, “that’s pretty much the end of the road”.

Moreover, cities like Sarasota are unsympathetic places for those down on their luck. One of the reasons they grew so fast in the boom years were their low taxes, leaving little money for social programmes. Homelessness is often seen as a threat to migration and tourism. Sarasota city council made several attempts to outlaw sleeping rough, finally finding a formula that passed muster with the courts in 2005. That year it was named the meanest city in America by the National Coalition for the Homeless. All the other cities in the top ten were also in the sunbelt.

I think we missed our Sputnik moment.