Rantz: ‘60 Minutes’ badly botches Seattle homelessness, but dunks on Mayor Durkan

Dec 2, 2019, 6:19 AM | Updated: 9:14 am
Seattle homelessness, Anderson Cooper...
Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, with his report on Seattle homelessness. (CBS News)
(CBS News)

Anderson Cooper visited Seattle to cover our homelessness crisis. He left buying into the absurd belief that the problem is driven by housing affordability, despite the clear stories of the people he literally spoke to. But when your goal is to push a Progressive political worldview, facts don’t matter.

The feature was embarrassing, though with one highlight: Mayor Jenny Durkan was called out brutally.

In the 13-minute feature, Cooper presented three stories from the unsheltered. You see, progressive politicians and activists can’t tackle big issues, so they rename them. In fact, it’s the only thing they’ve been successful at: Changing names.

The reason we have a homelessness problem? Not enough affordable housing. It’s a position that Cooper promotes, giving only about 15 seconds to an opposing voice in community activist Ari Hoffman. The bulk of the housing affordability argument was presented by an out-of-state professor.

“Why has the unsheltered population been going up at a time of economic expansion and low unemployment?” Cooper asks. “One answer is rising rents in hot real estate markets.”

It’s this one answer he spent virtually the entire piece discussing, mentioning mental illness just twice in passing, and refusing to focus much attention on addiction.

Yet none of the stories Cooper presents deals with someone who is homeless because of a lack of affordable housing.

Take, for example, Jeff Gold, an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency. He was evicted after not being able to pay his rent and has been living out on the street outside of a church. Cooper proclaims, “Housing prices in Seattle skyrocketed more than 60 percent over the last five years as hi-tech companies expanded or moved in.”

So, clearly we have a housing affordability crisis, right? Not quite.

Gold is an alcoholic who refuses to get treatment. He told Cooper, “I pretty much have it under control, in the sense that I guess I — I get to work every morning.”

When on food stamps, Gold was abusing the program to purchase cooking sherry, the only alcohol you can purchase with government subsidies, he says. And Cooper admits that “during our interview, Jeff smelled of liquor and by his bed, there were empty bottles of vodka.”

Gold would end up losing his job with the EPA for frequent tardiness. He wasn’t, as he said, getting to work every morning. His alcoholism is why he’s living on the streets — not high rents.

We’re also introduced to Emilee Broll, a postal worker for five years who lives in an old RV rent-free.

“Why are you living in an RV?” Cooper asked.

“Because rent is obscene here,” Broll answered. “I can’t afford it. I just think I’m working my butt off. And I don’t want to just spend all of my money paycheck to paycheck just to survive.”

“Given the work you do, I think most people would think, ‘Well, that’s a job that one can live off,'” Cooper countered.

“Yeah. I think a lot of people are shocked when they find out that I work full time,” she responded.

“What’s the solution here?” Cooper prompted.

“Affordable housing, build it. Quit selling out to developers,” she posited.

The average salary of a postal worker is $53,980 according to Payscale. That’s plenty enough to live in Seattle. But let’s say she still is at the low end of salary, which is about $35,000. She’s been living rent free in that RV for five years.

Where’s the money going, exactly? And quick question: Are all our postal workers living on the street? Or do none of them live in Seattle? Cooper says Broll has since moved out of Seattle to a city she can afford.

Then we’re told the story of recovering addicts Josiah and Tricia Wood. They’re a married couple with a young son. They live in a tent city. At least one of the pair works full-time making $19.50 an hour, but they can’t find rent they can afford. Though they take a 45-minute bus ride to the Urban Rest Stop for shower and laundry, and they’re unwilling to live in a more affordable city or neighborhood and commute a short distance to work.

They moved here from Alaska for drug treatment and decided to stay. That didn’t cause their homelessness though. They, too, blame high rent for the homelessness problem.

The piece is framed with a social justice argument in mind. Evil, greedy tech companies (read: Amazon!) came to town and rent started to skyrocket. It’s what progressive politicians and activists masquerading as experts tell us. Cooper decided to run with the talking point, with one admittedly glorious exception.

“I think we know what works,” Mayor Jenny Durkan arrogantly told Cooper.

His response?

“I counted 12 people homeless right outside city hall right now. If the city knows what works, why are there still so many homeless people out there?”

She responded by calling the problem complex and that “there’s no one city in America that’s going to fix this.”

I guess she doesn’t really know what works.

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Rantz: ‘60 Minutes’ badly botches Seattle homelessness, but dunks on Mayor Durkan