Debra J. Saunders

Newsom also has proposed a provision that allows the public to give "basic-needs coupons that can be given to panhandlers in lieu of cash" and redeemed for food, clothing, medicine and other basic necessities.

I understand why Newsom suggests coupons instead of cash, but it makes more sense to urge residents and visitors to give their cash to charities that provide sustenance and services to those who need them. Charities won't swap clothes for drugs.

Newsom says he wants "education" to be a visible component in his measure -- that's a diplomatic way of saying what the DOJ stated more bluntly: "Panhandlers are drawn to communities where both free social services and generous passers-by are plentiful."

Also, panhandlers are likely to spend the money on substances that aren't good for them -- drugs, alcohol and junk food. Thus people who give money to panhandlers aren't helping the guy with his palm out -- or the city. It's feel-good, do-bad compassion.

Newsom remembers a local panhandler who recently died from a drug overdose. "The person who gave Joe that last dollar probably drove away feeling good about themselves."

Debra J. Saunders

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