Newsletter: Uh-oh, Trump wants to help on homelessness

Homeless people's tents line a street in downtown Los Angeles.
(Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. MoviePass officially shuts down today (if you thought it was still actually in business). Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Homelessness is something of a Rorschach test in Los Angeles. When people notice the nighttime tent villages under freeway overpasses and other manifestations of the region’s economic dysfunction, generally they say something must be done to fix it. But dig a little deeper, and you find they share two different concerns: Some want simply to help their fellow humans, while others believe they should not have to put up with the sights and smells of squalor.

I would venture a guess that President Trump falls in the latter group, so color me a little skeptical of his intentions when he sent White House officials to Southern California this week on a fact-finding mission for possible federal intervention in the region’s homelessness crisis. The L.A. Times Editorial Board is similarly uneasy: “We don’t know yet exactly what Trump’s plans are. But our fear is that he views homeless people the way he views undocumented immigrants seeking asylum — as dangerous, as a burden on society, as offensive to ‘real’ Americans.”


As the editorial notes, responding to homelessness is a lot more complicated than simply putting the crisis out of sight. In fact, as an Op-Ed piece by a writer living in her van shows, plenty of homeless people try their hardest to evade attention, including those who remain in their cars and off the street. But even that draws the ire of housed residents who want rickety vehicles moved away by police, in the process making those who live in their cars go to the last place that will take them: the street.

We have a new Op-Ed columnist — new to our section, but certainly not to the Los Angeles Times. She’s veteran Times reporter, editor and columnist Robin Abcarian, and in her first installment on the Op-Ed page, she introduced herself by listing some of her values and political positions (some of which did not go over well with readers). In her second piece, Abcarian lamented the moral turpitude of left-wing legal icons who represented Harvey Weinstein.

You call it the gig economy. California calls it “feudalism.” It’s not just Uber and Lyft drivers who will benefit from Assembly Bill 5 — which will reclassify them as employees — but also construction workers, delivery drivers and other “gig” laborers who will soon receive more protections in California. Companies that rely on contract workers say the bill is out of step with the 21st century economy; they’re wrong. New York Times

“A dizzying three-hour barrage of empty claims and grandiose promises” — not a Trump press conference, but the Democratic debate. Jon Healey’s initial optimism over a discussion on healthcare dissolved once Julian Castro took a “schoolyard swipe” at Joe Biden. As for the former vice president, Michael McGough hits Biden for failing to give a straightforward answer to a question on the Obama administration’s record on immigrant deportations. He didn’t get a much better review from Mariel Garza.

Mayor Pete remember him? As coverage of the Democratic race has focused increasingly on the top tier of three or four candidates, it seems like long ago that the mayor of South Bend, Ind., made his splash as a potential front-runner. But in what will likely be his final moment in the national spotlight, Pete Buttigieg made during the Democratic debate perhaps his most candid and inspiring statements on his sexuality. L.A. Times

Bernie Sanders is right: Trump is scared of the NRA. The Vermont senator summed up the president’s relationship with the National Rifle Assn. as one based on not on lofty constitutional principles but rather on intimidation. Sanders has a point, as anyone who watched Trump speak favorably of universal background checks after back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, only to back down after speaking with the head of the NRA, can see. L.A. Times

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