California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari did a stunt spending a week homeless in Fresno looking for a job, then wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal. It turns out–shock!–that getting a job isn’t as easy as asking for one, and–double shock!–relying on our patchwork safety net doesn’t exactly deliver results or human dignity.
Kashkari supposedly spent six nights sleeping outdoors getting rousted off park benches by cops, and getting his meals from a homeless shelter during his supposedly fruitless job search. His upshot? That California is over-regulated and over-taxed, that he didn’t need government programs, that all he needed was a job, and everything would have been just fine. No, really. He wrote that.
I walked for hours and hours in search of a job, giving me a lot of time to think. Five days into my search, hungry, tired and hot, I asked myself: What would solve my problems? Food stamps? Welfare? An increased minimum wage?
No. I needed a job. Period. Like others, I have often said the best social program in the world is a good job. Even though my homeless trek was only for a week, with a defined endpoint, that statement became much more real for me. A job was the one thing that could have solved my food, housing and transportation problems.
California’s record poverty is man-made: over-regulation and over-taxation that drive jobs out of state…
Any normal person would have come away from the experience saying, “Whoa, there but for the grace of god go I.” Or perhaps “what the hell is wrong with the economy that no one will even hire me for $9/hour to sweep floors or wash dishes?” But not Republicans like Kashkari. They immediately assume that taxes and regulations must be to blame for all of it.
But Kashkari’s experience would have been far more instructive if he had actually gotten a minimum wage job. It would have been far more interesting to have seen Kashkari’s reaction to trying to find an apartment, decent food and workable transportation on $9 an hour. Methinks just “getting a job” wouldn’t have really solved his problems.
Maybe that can be his next stunt. He could even learn from Democrats who have documented their own time “living the wage” that just having a job doesn’t really cut it.
Cross-posted from Digby’s Hullabaloo