The homeless and poor population of a prominent California city is about to lose its largest and oldest source of a free meal. We can blame those cruel budget cuts forced by Governor Schwarzenegger's refusal to increase taxes on the 'rich,' and a desire by reactionary local politicians to make the least powerful members of society suffer, when money is tight, can't we? Actually, no.
Surprise! The city is Berkeley, and the reasons for the program's impending demise have nothing to do with budget cuts. Not one cent has been cut from municipal grants to the meal—providing agency.
The Quarter Meal, a venerable free dining service for the poor and homeless population of Berkeley, announced last week that rising costs will force it to reduce services as of March 1st, and probably close its doors by June, unless its financial problems can be resolved. The rising costs are rooted in precisely the 'progressive' well—intentioned 'reforms' which have been advocated by the left all over America, but implemented most extensively in Berkeley.
For starters, there is the matter of the 'living wage' legislation passed by Berkeley, and mandatory for anyone contracting with the City of Berkeley, including the Quarter Meal's parent organization, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project. Every job, you see, should pay enough to support a family. The generous escalator clause for inflation, built into Berkeley's living wage law, is forcing the Quarter Meal to pay $10.76 an hour to its lowest—paid employees.
Then there is California's notorious Workers Compensation system, which has seen costs skyrocket several hundred percent over the past few years, making California by far the most expensive state in the nation for workers comp. Lawyers specializing in work—based injuries, like Barbara Boxer's husband, have prospered, and workers with vague backaches and other injuries get paid better than in other states, but everybody else has to pay, nonprofits included.
Finally health insurance costs have skyrocketed. Not only have overall medical costs risen, but there are a lot of 'extras' such as coverage for 'domestic partners' and 'mental health' problems, which don't come cheap. Berkeley's vast industry of therapists and counselors is always coming up with new mental and emotional ailments which need treatment, and those bills do have a way of adding up.
Conservatives are fond of telling leftists who advocate all kinds of goodies to pass out to the unfortunate that there is no free lunch. Berkeley's homeless and poor are about to discover the literal truth of this old saw. The free lunch and free dinner, too, are an endangered species in Berkeley, and the killers are to be found on the left.