Homelessness has become a serious problem across every town and city in America. It taxes city councils and police departments alike. Yet homelessness across the nation is set to double in the next 5 years. This problem isn’t going away.

In reality, there is little city councils or law enforcement can do to solve this problem. The roots of homelessness are national. Cities like Wausau, WI must deal with the immediate problems, but real solutions are outside of their control.

Addressing concerns at the national level often seems hopelessly out of reach. But there is the compelling question that leaves us with no choice: Why is homelessness, already a serious problem across the richest nation on Earth, set to double in 5 years? Why? Any solutions require answering this question. It’s complex, demands a historical perspective, and requires us to understand how our national monetary system has been methodically removed from the constitutionally designated public sector and placed in the hands of the private financial industry.

Homelessness, addictions, high levels of incarceration, child poverty, falling life expectancy, privatization of public education, excessive militarism, financialization of the economy, and gross inequality, are all hallmarks of a society in decline. They are hallmarks of our nation today. This decline is the result of hundreds of decisions made by politicians from both sides of the political aisle over the past 40+ years, all too often in service of monied interests.

From the “Gilded Age” of the 1890’s to the “Robber Barons” and the “Roaring 20’s,” America endured an era of great inequality and financial corruption. The inevitable crash, the “Great Depression” in 1929, effectively lasted until the U.S. entered World War II in the 1940’s. Poverty, hunger and homelessness were rampant. But bitter lessons were learned. The people of America, along with some political leaders of great integrity, were determined not to repeat the mistakes and corruption that led to the Depression.

From the 1930’s through the 1940’s and even into the 50’s, strict regulations were placed upon the banking industry, upon corporations, upon the formation of monopolies and trusts. Very high taxes upon the wealthy prevented the destruction of democracy by a new group of “Robber Barons.” Media regulations prevented the ownership of newspapers, radio, and the new “television” by a few wealthy individuals or corporations that could manipulate the message.

This led to the most productive and egalitarian society the world had ever known. The “American Dream” was born and prosperity spread far and wide. It wasn’t perfect. Minorities still suffered and racism lived on. But we had a strong Federal Government that served Americans, and genuinely decent politicians who worked for their people at home.

Tragically, the ugly forces of greed and power lust never sleep. People who had lived through the Great Depression were passing on, lessons were forgotten. Silent decay began setting in by the 60’s and 70’s, and in the 80’s we heard our President, Ronald Reagan, tell us “Government isn’t the solution to the problem – government is the problem.” He told us “The most dangerous words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” The strong and democratic government our ancestors had given their hearts and souls to provide for us, was slowly being dismantled. America’s new “Robber Barons” were being born.

Mass deregulation of corporations soon followed. We were told the rich were the “job creators” and couldn’t be taxed, that wealth would “trickle down.” But it gushed up. Stock buy-backs were legalized in 1982 and the gutting of corporations by self-enriching CEO’s and big investors through stock price manipulation shifted into overdrive. “Leveraged Buyouts” accelerated the devastation. President George H. W. Bush helped found the Carlysle Group, a hedge fund that made fortunes in the arms industry.

President Clinton brought the end of banking regulations, the death of the Glass-Steagall Act that had protected Americans from the predations of Big Banking for decades, that had prevented the economic crashes and devastation of average Americans that would follow in 2008. It was under Clinton that media was deregulated and fell into the hands of a few corporate empires. It was under Clinton that the Democratic Party abandoned working people and joined the Republicans in supporting the political donors on Wall Street.

President George W. Bush brought us the wars of lies in Iraq and Afghanistan where hundreds of thousands of innocents perished. He accelerated the out-of-control military/industrial/congressional complex that President Eisenhower hand warned us about back in the 50’s, the monstrosity blindly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, that does nothing to defend, but everything to impoverish our nation. It was under Bush that tax cuts for the rich became routine, under Bush that Supreme Court Justice appointments were made leading to the passage of the Citizens United Act in 2010 making corporations “people.” Corporate campaign donations soon purchased our politicians.

Barack Obama entered the White House at the very moment when the banking deregulation under Clinton a decade earlier came to its ugly fruition in economic collapse. Corruption in Wall Street’s largest banks had led to the issuance of trillions of dollars in fraudulent mortgages to unsuspecting Americans. Obama was given a true mandate by the people of America to put an end to the massive crime syndicate that Wall Street had become. Tragically, just the opposite happened. Millions of working Americans were thrown to the wolves while trillions of public dollars bailed out the criminal banks. While families were evicted from their homes and losing all their equity, corrupt banking managers were given multi-million-dollar bonuses. This was followed by the purchase of these foreclosed homes by Wall Street hedge funds at bargain basement prices. Rents began to skyrocket.

This terrible story of America’s decline could go on to cover the Trump and Biden presidencies. Little would change. Now we are left with two pathetic old men leading two pathetic political parties that have lost all sight of the people of America in service to big money. We have returned to the Robber Barons. Our nation, our democracy, that once held such promise for humanity, has been sold to oligarchy/plutocracy.

This is story of homelessness.

We the people of America now face battles similar to those of our ancestors in the 1930’s. The terms “Republican” and “Democrat” have merged to meaningless, and serve only to divide us. If we have any hope of addressing homelessness, along with a multitude of other problems besetting our society, we must somehow come together, somehow overcome the deliberately perpetuated false concepts and messages that tear us apart. No matter our status in society or our personal beliefs, the common good must be our goal. Our own future, but more importantly, the future of our kids and grandkids, depends upon it.