Neel Kashkari, the former bank bailout administrator and ex-Goldman Sachs executive, spent a week here in Fresno where he chose to live the life of a homeless person while searching for employment.
Let me be clear, the problems Mr. Kashkari outlines here in Fresno are real; however, his "solutions" to those problems are either completely lacking or based on long discredited trickle-down economic theory that Republicans since the age of Reagan have been pushing.
Yes, we need more good-paying jobs in Fresno. The region has a high unemployment rate and suffers from a sense, both perceived and real, of isolation from the rest of the state. That is precisely why we need the high-speed rail program that Mr. Kashkari opposes. The project would bring much needed construction jobs and connect the region to our state's prosperous job hubs like the Bay Area and Southern California.
Yes, people are hurting while they are looking for work. That's why we need public safety net programs that help people while they are down and out, and help them get back on their feet again. Here again, Mr. Kashkari falls in with the Reagan-Romney philosophy that classifies social welfare programs like those that provide temporary housing and job assistance as hindrances rather than a needed and necessary bridge to improving working families' lives.
Yes, a good number of people in Fresno working in minimum-wage jobs are also supporting families and that's why it's important that we raise the minimum wage, as Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown did recently. Mr. Kashkari opposes an increase in the state's minimum wage and, again, his opposition is based on outdated and long discredited conservative notions that giving working families at the bottom a little bit more will mean imminent disaster for the whole of the economy.
Mr. Kashkari mentions that, living on the streets, five days into his job search, he was "hungry, tired and hot" and wondered if "food stamps," "welfare" or a higher minimum wage would help him. Not surprisingly, he concludes "no." That's an easy thing for a millionaire to say.
The reality is welfare would have provided Mr. Kashkari with full-time housing and shelter, at least on a temporary basis, allowing him access to the shower that he craved and a bed on which to sleep, which no doubt would have assisted in making him feel more confident and appear more presentable to potential employers. As for his being "hungry," well, food stamps would have provided some sustenance, ensuring his job search was conducted on at least a half full stomach.
Unfortunately, the problems Mr. Kashkari encountered in Fresno have been exacerbated under Mayor Ashley Swearengin's term. The mayor has all but declared war on the homeless in our community, evacuating encampments, destroying the property of the homeless, using police to harass the homeless community and keep them on the move during daylight hours-all while failing to bring new well-paying jobs to the area.
Fortunately for Fresnans, there are people and organizations here-like the very ones Mr. Kashkari depended on during his time of self-imposed need-that are working hard day and night to turn the region around and share in the prosperity the rest of the state at times takes for granted.
What we need are real policy solutions, followed by action. Right now, it is clear where those policy solutions and actions are coming from and they aren't coming from Neel Kashkari.