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A Modest Post-Election Proposal 

For Preventing the Homeless People of San Francisco From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to the Public in an Energy-Efficient Manner

Wednesday, Dec 10 2003
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town to be accosted daily by hordes of drunken beggars and junkie prostitutes. The noble citizenry of San Francisco hath long ago proclaimed its distaste for such public displays of moral laxity, laziness, and lollygaggery. Yet, the governing councils have failed miserably to purge our boulevards of the presence of these poor, wretched souls, who take up so much public space, and spend so much public wealth, without (let us not flinch from the terrible truth) giving back so much as a nickel to the common purse.

Now, let it be freely acknowledged that as of today, our fair city shall have a new mayor, be he a Newsom-Alioto, or a Gonzalez. And this happenstance doth provide us with an opportunity, in the name of community healing, to combine the poverty and public power programmes of the Newsom-Alioto with the energy conservation programme of the Gonzalez, no matter who hath prevailed in the contest.

Let it also be acknowledged that our city is in need of public power, for the Pacific Gas & Electric monstrosity hath bled us mercilessly for more than a century in strange compliance with the Act of Raker. Let it be further acknowledged that a series of wars on energy-producing nations doth make it an act of civic prudence to become sufficient unto ourselves in the production of the raw material of electrical generation. Let it yet again be acknowledged that, as the daily chronicles show, most of the people-without-homes who obstruct our streets refuse to enter cozy, caring shelters, or to cast off their foul addictions, even while they shamelessly pose for local paparazzi.

Furthermore, these uncaring homeless souls, who have so clearly rejected our kindly care, yet do ruthlessly squeeze the truly caring among us with piteous and unsightly begging as we pass them by, ask only for cash, cash, cash, always more cash, as they refuse our offers of care.

Now, it is well and publicly known that in the subtownship of Bayview-Hunters Point there doth exist an antiquated power plant which spewes forth excessive smoke and smell and which will require the princely sum of $200 million if it is to continue to be employed in the production of the power that drives our city (an amount that is, by chance, almost precisely the same sum that the citizenry doth spend on providing the homeless hordes with a cornucopia of services each year, according to the daily chronicles). And this electric plant is capable of generating many megawatts which could make San Francisco self-reliant in power, provided that a steady stream of fuel be readily available. And the boilers of this massive facility are of a size that could hold an entire SUV, and they are very, very fucking hot.

So let us ponder, and reach the logical assessment, in the way of good and honest public-policy-making. On the one hand are boilers, capable of producing tons of generator-driving steam from tiny morsels of carbon-based fuel. On another hand is the need for pollution-free ergs of power drawn from input that can be totally combusted without leaving behind inky, particulate, or carcinogenic residue. On yet a third hand sits a city budget, pillaged to treat the tubercular, overdosing, hallucinating, starving, untreatable, uncaring, and wretched homeless people who flood the emergency rooms of our hospitals when they are not panhandling for cash, cash, cash, and more cash. And, verily, there is even a fourth consideration: the need to make a peace between the Newsom-Alioto and the Gonzalez, no matter who hath prevailed, as the electoral winner will shape the future of our town for many years to come, with the aid of the Getty and the O'Donoghue and the Wong, and it is always good to make the peace between the warring parties, and have good-sportiness all around.

And so we come to the crux of our proposal, modest as it be in scope, yet fiscally sound, and of clear humanitarian appeal to all the populace, be their politics Democrat, Republican, or shades of Green and Red. In a caring, brotherly, sisterly, transgenderly way, we can simultaneously address the problem of street sanitation, energy conservation, public power, and political unity.

Under the guidance of the Newsom-Alioto, the city will make a MUD and seize the power plant in the overpolluted district of Bayview-Hunters Point. Then the city fathers, under the hypnotical spell of the verdant Gonzalez, shall RAISE the amount of the General Assistance Grant to $1,000 A WEEK in order to ATTRACT even hundreds of thousands of homeless people more, from all over the world, to San Francisco. When these miserable, shivering, huddled masses arrive at the gates in the Wall we have built around our city, we shall offer them FREE MEALS and HOUSING in the PG&E SHELTER in the township of Bayview-Hunters Point.

And then we shall walk our streets without a care, secure in our cash; toasty in our double-paned homes, condominiums, and tenancies in common; happy that our leaders hath found a solution, finally. And as for the homeless fuel – unmourned by their relatives, or the panhandled, or, indeed, a single thoughtful soul among us – these formerly homeless units will perish, that is plain, but they will also be reborn, atom by atom and electron by electron, in service to our cash. And who could deny the essential humanitarianism of this proposal, which accomplishes so much, while putting so many out of their misery?

Jonathan Swift is a London-based essayist. He may be reached at

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Jonathan Swift


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