Its Not Just Chicago
If it bleeds, it leads. That’s why Chicago has been in the news so much recently – at least on Fox News. The Chicago Tribune reports that 364 people have been killed in Chicago so far this year, on pace to exceed the record set in 2016. But Fox News is shamelessly using anecdotal evidence from Chicago in lieu of facts, just like the mainstream media does to promote their left-wing viewpoint. Chicago is not the murder capital of the United States. That “honor” goes to St. Louis, Missouri with a murder rate per one-hundred thousand inhabitants of 64.5 compared to Chicago’s rate of 18.5 as reported by CBS News. But 18.5 is still well above the US average of 5.4 as reported by the World Population Review. Still, Chicago’s murder rate is close to that of Mexico while St. Louis’ rate is like that of Venezuela.
I should be happy that I live in Central Texas on the outskirts of the city of Austin where the murder rate in 2020 was 4.7, a bit below the US average. But my sense of security was given a jolt by a recent report on the morning news. The reporter announced that so far in 2021 Austin has had 45 murders, compared to 48 for all of 2020. Since this report was in early July, it appears that Austin is on the way to nearly doubling its murder rate this year. That would take us to a murder rate of around nine, well above the US average (about on a par with Nigeria and getting dangerously close to Chicago). This is getting close to home. Our neighbor’s daughter was murdered just a month ago in downtown Austin on 6th Street, the center of Austin night life.
The local newspaper, The Austin American Statesman goes out of its way to state that there is little proof that the increasing murder rate is related to the city council’s vote to cut the police department budget by a third. It rated Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s assertion that the cuts made Austin “one of the most dangerous cities in America and definitely in Texas” as Pants on Fire. I dunno but a murder rate approaching double the US average is not so hot.
But budget cuts are already having an impact according to interim Austin Police Chief, Joseph Chacon. He recently reported that the Austin Police Department has 235 vacancies. That’s 13% of the total force of 1851 officers. The street gang unit has been disbanded, and drunk driving patrols reduced. Four district “community relations” representatives have been reassigned to patrol duties. APD response times to 911 calls have increased by 30%.
The budget cuts were the result of progressive fervor after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter calls to “defund the police.” City council members sharply criticized police reaction to protests that degenerated into riots and banned non-lethal alternatives such as bean bags after a couple of protestors were injured. Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday reports that morale among APD officers is low and that around 8 officers are resigning every month (often to go work at nearby police departments in Round Rock and San Marcos).
City council also canceled police academy classes until reforms could be put in place so there have been no recruits to replace retiring officers. The first reformed cadet class has just started and about one hundred raw recruits are expected to join the force in 2022, just enough to offset the experienced officers that will resign or retire in the interim, leaving the Austin Police Department still woefully understaffed.
The police realize when city leaders don’t have their back. Eleven police officers were disciplined for using excessive force to protect the city when protests degenerated into a riot, but my research could not find any reports of arrested rioters being sentenced for their actions. There are indications across the country that police are holding back patrols in crime ridden neighborhoods to avoid disciplinary actions and even arrest for diligent enforcement of the law, giving criminals the green light for their nefarious activities.
These problems seem most acute in cities led by progressive activists, such as San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles where police departments are being defunded and criminals put back on the streets by progressive district attorneys and judges. But the rot is spreading to other cities and Austin is a prime example. Our cities and school districts are becoming more and more progressive, but their policies have not delivered safer streets or better educated children.
Marx divided the world by class, workers and capitalists. He believed that the capitalists exploited the labor of the workers for their own benefits and that, eventually, the workers would rebel and overthrow the capitalists. But that didn’t happen. Workers learned how to organize and fight for their rights. Working conditions and pay improved and the call for bloody revolution receded.
I don’t think improving conditions for workers was the result of workers using their numbers to wield political power to rein in greedy capitalists. The capitalists also had political power. I think that many capitalists, like Henry Ford, realized that more income for all those workers would increase the market for the products and services the capitalists were creating. Capitalism converted Marx’s workers into consumers. His proletariat became the middle-class, the hated bourgeoisie.
But the communists and egalitarians idealists did not give up. In the 1930’s, intellectuals in the Frankfurt School created critical theory, reformulating Marx’s workers and capitalists into oppressed and oppressors. Critical theory did not become a mass movement in the post-war economic boom in America and the West but bubbled along in the halls of academia among intellectual elites who disdained the concept that a market consisting of millions of unintellectual and sometime downright stupid consumers could provide a level of prosperity that improved the lives of most people in society.
But the benefits of a market economy are often uneven and much of the great benefits of a prosperous economy went to the white population (of course in the nineteen-fifties whites made up about 85% of the population). Lacking outright discrimination after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, disparate outcomes of different racial groups has become the focus of the next form of egalitarian idealism, critical race theory, where the oppressors are white and the oppressed are everybody else.
The “wokeism” that is sweeping America in the twenty-first century is based on this reformulated and distorted vision of Karl Marx’s idealistic egalitarianism. But Marx’s vision has never worked. It has been a disaster from the first Owenite utopias, to the Soviet Union, to Cambodia, Venezuela and Cuba. The intellectual elite in academia and government just cannot get accept the notion that common folk left to their own can live better more productive lives than they can in a world formulated on the basis of their scholarly (but unrealistic) idealism.
The fatal flaw of social justice progressivism, based on egalitarian idealism instead of common sense, is that the delivery of social justice is rooted in force. The force of government to take the supposedly unjust wealth and resources from greedy capitalists and crooked businessmen to be given to worthy victims by idealistic benefactors. But blinded by their idealism, and thinking themselves to be good and ethical people, they do not realize that the greedy and crooked people whose wealth and resources they have seized for a good cause, have gravitated to the government that controls all that wealth and those resources. Or worse, the kindly progressive benefactors have themselves been corrupted by the power they wield, much like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
And the common folk that have been delivered from their ignorance at the unfairness of the world will truly have become the victims. We are seeing the first indications even here in Central Texas. Coming soon to a town near you.