Democrats in Oregon control the governor’s mansion, have a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the state legislature, and are firmly in charge in Portland, the state’s biggest city. So it makes total sense to blame Republicans for the staggering rise in shootings that began last June, after the city disbanded its Gun Violence Reduction Team and amidst nightly violent protests that rocked the city’s downtown for months on end.
Okay, so it makes no sense at all. That’s not stopping progressive talk show host and writer Thom Hartman from declaring that the rise in crime, both in his home in Portland and other cities, is all the fault of those awful Republicans.
A friend is trying to sell his condo in downtown Portland but large parts of downtown have been turned into a giant homeless camp so there are few buyers even in this hot real estate market. The nearby streets are pockmarked with tents and the curbs frequently sport human waste.
Homelessness and its attendant crime are getting so bad that police in many cities don’t bother to investigate many property crimes unless they’re against wealthy people and involve things of great value. Just among my own friends and acquaintances in the past year I’ve seen 3 cars stolen (one I watched happen!), one car damaged in a smash-and-grab, and two home-invasion break-ins.
And I know of dozens of smaller crimes, including assault against a family member by a mentally ill homeless person, that were simply never reported to police and therefore don’t show up in official statistics.
And this isn’t a story unique to Portland; petty and property crime are exploding along with gun crimes and homelessness in cities across the nation. New York City just elected a new Democratic mayor whose main credential was that he was a cop; people are freaking out.
But there’s more to this than homelessness or “bad people” doing crime for fun and profit; there are deep causes to this problem (beyond the pandemic) that require deep solutions.
And that’s where Hartman pivots to gun control right? That’s what I was expecting, but the lefty pundit is thinking bigger. Oh, I’m sure he’s all in favor of gun control laws, but Hartman instead focuses his argument on income inequality, which he blames on the right.
Inequality causes crime because it destroys social trust, the core fabric of any society. Without social trust, empathy and shared values disintegrate and culture begins to disintegrate.
We see examples of this across the Third World in countries that have been essentially raped by their morbidly rich ruling class for decades. Beyond a certain point, inequality becomes an actual poison to society itself. We passed that point in the last decade, and it’s tearing our nation apart.
Which brings us to the GOP. The Republican Party is so committed to making morbidly rich people even richer (and keeping them that way) that just this weekend Republican Senator Rob Portman announced on TV that they wouldn’t go along with funding a bipartisan infrastructure bill by letting the IRS hire more auditors to catch rich tax cheats. Seriously. That’s their position.
Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming told Axios last week that “spending $40 billion to super-size the IRS is very concerning. … Law-abiding Americans deserve better from their government than an army of bureaucrats snooping through their bank statements.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz said, “Throwing billions more taxpayer dollars at the IRS will only hurt Americans struggling to recover after waves of devastating lockdowns. … Instead of increasing funding for the IRS, we should abolish the damn place.”
Two things: I’m not a billionaire (or a millionaire, for that matter), and I’m all in favor of Cruz’s call to abolish the IRS. Heck, I’ve been waiting since April for my tax refund, and still have no idea where it is or when it will get to me.
As for Hartman’s finger-pointing at the GOP, there’s one big flaw in his argument. The states with the biggest gap between the rich and the poor are firmly in the hands of Democrats for the most part. According to Stastista.com., Puerto Rico has the highest income inequality of US states and territories, followed by New York, Washington D.C., Connecticut, and Louisiana. Rounding out the Top 10 are Mississippi, California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
It may very well be that income inequality plays a major role in terms of violent crime, but that hardly means the GOP is to blame. In fact, the states with the greatest level of income equality are mostly run by Republicans. They’re also generally pretty good in terms of gun laws, and have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the country. Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Alaska are the best states for income equality, and all five are Constitutional Carry states (all but Alaska also have violent crime and homicide rates far below the national average).
Note too that most of the states with the highest rates of income inequality also have very restrictive gun control laws. If Hartman’s correct that income inequality equates to higher crime rates, then the gun control laws in those states are a double whammy to lower-income residents. It’s far easier for a person on a limited income to protect herself with a firearm in a state like Wyoming than she could in New York or California, where she’d have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees to the government simply to apply for permission to lawfully carry a firearm. In Wyoming, if she can legally own it she can legally carry it; no government permission slip needed.
So maybe Democats aren’t the income equality warriors that Hartman makes them out to be. And maybe, just maybe, if states around the country want to lower their crime rates they should be taking a look at what the red state Republicans in places like Utah and South Dakota are doing; for income inequality, public safety, and the right to keep and bear arms.