Sometimes we are penny wise but pound foolish. Like when we “deinstitutionalized” our psychiatric hospitals and dumped all our mental patients out on the street, exacerbating the homeless problem.
But now we are finding out that kicking people out onto the street doesn’t save any money at all. A new study shows that the cost of dealing with homeless people is three times more expensive than giving them housing. That’s right, we can just give homeless people a place to live and it will save us money spent on law-enforcement officers who arrest and transport homeless people (typically for nonviolent offenses like tresspassing, public intoxication, or sleeping in parks), jail stays, emergency-room visits, and other costs.
This seems to be a recurring pattern. We cut important public programs to save money, which just causes other problems that end up costing us even more money.
I’m all for cutting the size of government and getting rid of waste. (for example, by eliminating subsidies for oil companies). But we have the General Accounting Office (GAO), which can tell us what programs work and which ones are a waste of money. Let’s use them.