Rich – I agree with everything in your column , except what you left out. Republican lawmakers have been in on the blame from the beginning. Yes, the deinstitutionalization movement was made up of zealots from the ACLU and followers of Thomas Szasz. Many of the activists bought into the outrageous and outrageously stupid idea that since the Soviet Union had dissidents in their mental hospitals the folks in our mental hospitals must be “dissidents” too. But Republicans caved on the issue of the homeless in the 60s and 70s, choosing to save money by closing mental hospitals rather than paying to improve them and standing up to the left-libertarians. Bush, it seems, is continuing in that tradition. A great book on the subject is Madness in the Streets.
Also, if you think New York City is bad now, you should have seen it when I was a kid growing up in the 1970s. Every Spring, nomadic tribes of the dangerously insanse would wander down Broadway, released from the hospitals the moment it got warm enough for them not to freeze to death. They’d camp out in the middle of the street, screaming at kids, old folks etc. For a while it seemed like Giuliani had made things better on that front. I guess it was a temporary fix.