Neel Kashkari, the former Treasury official who administered the federal government's TARP program, looks up during a meeting at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget Annual Conference in Washington, June 14, 2011.
Former Treasury official and current California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari says he spent a week as a homeless person to learn about what it was like to be at the bottom of American society.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Kashkari describes how he hopped on a Greyhound bus from L.A. to Fresno with just $40 and a change of clothes with the goal of landing a minimum wage job.
He discovered that not a single firm was hiring, even on the lowest rung of the labor ladder.
"I offered to do anything: wash dishes, sweep floors, pack boxes, cook meals, anything," he writes. "I went to dozens of businesses in search of work but wasn't able to get any. In seven days, I didn't see a single 'Help Wanted' sign, but I did see plenty of signs that fast-food outlets now accept food stamps."
He also found Fresno's food bank was at capacity, not only because of the weak economy but also because of the drought.
" One young woman in line at the food bank said it simply: 'There's not enough water. Crops can't be grown. My family works in the fields and they can't get work every day . . . sometimes just on weekends.' "
Without money to even book a motel room, Kashkari sought free lodgings.
" I tried to sleep on park benches or in parking lots. Anywhere I wouldn't be chased out. Night after night, however, I was woken up and told to move along by security guards or the police."
What's caused all this suffering? Kashkari asserts the answer can be found in mismanagement from Sacramento — which is of course what someone running to unseat incumbent governor Jerry Brown would say.
"California's record poverty is man-made: over-regulation and over-taxation that drive jobs out of state, failing schools that don't prepare students for the skilled work force and misguided water policies that prevent us from saving surplus water in wet years to prepare for our inevitable droughts," he says. "We have the power to tackle poverty if we implement smart, pro-growth economic policies, as many other states have done."
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