The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Then Solve it!

When I was a young undergraduate engineering student, I learned the key lesson that all people must learn if they are to become effective problem solvers. We were assigned a difficult take home test. I assessed the problem, decided that the problem could be solved based on a preconceived solution strategy, did all of the mathematics to derive a solution, and then produced a multi-page result that I assumed would yield an "A." After all, I crushed it!

When my exam book was returned, I opened the first page and there I saw a "D" grade with the following comment by my professor: "You developed an elegant solution for the the wrong problem. Understand the problem first, and THEN solve it!"

It was a harsh lesson, but I learned from it, and it's served me quit well throughout all the years since that time.

As I watch the collection of Democrat candidates for the presidency, supported by their legions of progressives, social justice warriors, and "activists," I've come to the conclusion that none of them has learned the fundamental lesson stated succinctly by my engineering professor. Driven by ideological zeal that often precludes an honest assessment of a problem, often with judgment clouded by political correctness and boxed in by a limited set of acceptable 'rules,' the Dems craft what they belief are solutions that never address an underlying economic, social, or cultural problem. The solution then fails or make things even worse.

As an example, let's consider the serious homeless problem that has beset many major cities—almost all of them operating under the blue governance model. The problem has become so serious that cities like Los Angeles have skid rows (populated by thousands of homeless people) that exhibit conditions that are often as bad or worse than third world countries—addiction, violence, mental illness, and crime prevail, along with unsanitary conditions and general chaos.

Christopher Rufo has done in-depth reporting on the homeless crisis in Los Angeles. He writes about the disastrous condition on LA's skid row and then notes:
Roughly a decade ago, Skid Row’s future looked more hopeful. In 2006, Police Chief William Bratton and Central Division Commander Andrew Smith implemented a strategy of Broken Windows policing for Skid Row, called the Safer Cities Initiative, which led to a 42 percent reduction in major felonies, 50 percent reduction in overdose and natural deaths, and 75 percent reduction in homicides. “We’ve broken the back of the problem,” said Chief Bratton then, reporting that the overall homeless population had been reduced from 1,876 people to 700 people—an astonishing success. (See “The Reclamation of Skid Row,” Autumn 2007.)

The progress proved short-lived. Arguing that Broken Windows policing “criminalizes homelessness,” activists slowly dismantled the Safer Cities Initiative through civil rights lawsuits and public pressure campaigns. Today, Skid Row’s homeless population is estimated to be at least 2,500 people, and crime has been rising for years.
Democrat politicians (LA has not had a GOP mayor since 2001), backed by progressive supporters who are often social justice warriors and "activists," decided that broken windows policing was the problem and decided to solve it with policies that have failed miserably. Their solution (which has resulted in the crisis LA faces today) is described by Rufo:
Over the past 30 years, activists and political leaders have successfully shifted public policy regarding addiction and disorder away from a so-called punitive model that relies on prohibition, incarceration, and abstinence toward a “harm-reduction” approach that takes widespread drug use as a given and attempts to reduce rates of infection and other negative effects. Mark Casanova, executive director of Homeless Healthcare Los Angeles, has been working with addicts on Skid Row since 1985. His Center for Harm Reduction distributes 2.4 million clean needles to more than 12,000 addicts each year ...

... despite a steady expansion of harm-reduction services, last year was the deadliest on record for Los Angeles County, with meth-related overdose deaths up more than 1,000 percent from 2008, claiming Skid Row as its epicenter. In the Central Division, crime has increased 59 percent since 2010, with officers responding to 13,122 incidents last year, including 2,698 assaults, 2,453 thefts, and 1,350 car break-ins, a trend doubtless intensified by the addiction crisis.
By characterizing the solution as "harm reduction" the Democrats are solving the wrong problem. Because that has failed and things are getting really bad, they now believe that building "affordable housing" is the solution. The only problem is that government isn't very good at that. Again from Rufo:
None of this seems to deter Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who projects relentless optimism and insists that homelessness is primarily a housing problem. The centerpiece of the mayor’s plan—endorsed by activists, unions, and the Democratic establishment—is the construction of new subsidized and permanent supportive-housing units. In 2016, Los Angeles voters approved Proposition HHH, authorizing $1.2 billion in new spending, with the goal of constructing 10,000 units of “affordable housing” over the following decade.

Nearly three years later, the city has finished only 72 units, costing $690,692 apiece, a cost inflation that the city comptroller has called “utterly unacceptable.” In total, Los Angeles spent a total of $619 million on homelessness last year—more than double the previous year’s budget—but the number of people on the streets rose by 16 percent.
No one would argue that homelessness is a difficult problem, but one thing is certain—if you refuse to look at the underlying causes—addiction and mental illness, it cannot be even managed much less solved.

Here's the point. The Dems have gravitated to a place where they're incapable of practical and realistic solutions because they cannot or will not understand the problem. They believe that fantasy BIG government "solutions" for everything from the economy (think: income in equality) to wages (think: a mandated minimum wage) to healthcare (think: medicare-for-all) to crime (think: Bernie's idea to cut the number of people incarcerated at both the federal and state level by 50%) to diversity (think: the task force to address the Corona virus MUST be diverse) to immigration (think: open borders) to taxes (think: soak-the-rich tax plans) can be developed without a thorough, hard-nosed assessment of the underlying realities that define the problem. So they virtue signal and become all emotional, but they accomplish little and often make things worse (with the best intentions, of course).

It seems that no matter who the Dems nominate fo 2020, their ability to solve actual problems is impaired by their collective inability to examine the problem and understand it. That's a shame, because fantasy never wins out when it collides with reality.