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Who Bears the Costs of Progressive Policy?
with Robert Woodson
One of the ironies of progressive criminal justice and education policies is that their costs are often borne by the very people they claim to help. And I don’t mean the financial costs. What I’m talking about is, I think, more consequential than money. Living in an under-policed high-crime area could cost you your life. Living in a school district full of dysfunctional schools could set your child behind in ways they may never recover from. And yet progressives who wave the banner of equity and inclusion continue to defund the police, to decline to prosecute potentially dangerous criminal offenders, and to stand in the way of school choice.
Of course, progressive politicians rarely bear those costs themselves. They often live in safe neighborhoods and send their kids to private schools their constituents could never afford. In this excerpt from my recent conversation with the great Robert Woodson, we discuss the ironies (maybe “hypocrisies” is a better word) and costs of progressive policies that continue to disadvantage the already disadvantaged while giving a boost to the careers of the politicians that advocate for them. These are perennial concerns here at The Glenn Show, and I’m pleased to add Bob’s on-the-ground experience to the mix.
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GLENN LOURY: As I'm sure you are aware, Bob, Philadelphia is a basket case now, in terms of crime. They've exceeded 500 homicides in a year for the first time in, I don't know, 35 years. You've got this open argument between former mayor Michael Nutter and District Attorney Krasner, self-consciously progressive D.A. who's been elected as a Democrat in Philadelphia to transform policing—not policing. He's not chief of police, he's the D.A. But to transform criminal justice policy in the city, get rid of cash bail, not bring all of these cases for low-level property crimes.
And Philadelphia is only one of a dozen cities about which a similar story could be told. Baltimore, close to you in D.C., also having trouble with the mayor and the police commissioner and the district attorney, all self-consciously progressive black women, if I'm not mistaken, who are presiding over a disaster. Chicago, my hometown, carjackings are through the roof, homicides are through the roof, assaults are through the roof, guns are everywhere, et cetera. St. Louis. I mean, we could go on for a long time,
ROBERT WOODSON: But it makes the class issue. But let me tell you what, it's even gotten worse. And I just read that in Seattle there is a ballot initiative that will reduce the enhancements of people who engage in drive-by shootings, because of racial equity, because a higher number of black gang members are guilty of drive-by shootings. And therefore, since it adversely affects them, they're going to try to reduce the penalties in the name of racial equity.
But trust me, the people advocating this do not live in those neighborhoods suffering the problem. That's the point. 80 percent of blacks living in those communities are against defund the police. And so that makes my class argument.
I want to read you something that Jesse Jackson said when he was a force for good. Back in 1978, Jesse Jackson said this. He said that, “Our children are living in depressed neighborhoods, are on the verge of ethical collapse.” That “morally weak people not only inhibit their own personal growth, but finally contribute to the politics of decadence. A generation of people lacking the moral and physical stamina necessary to fight a protracted civilizational crisis is dangerous to itself, its neighbors, and to future generations.”
Civilizational crisis. Moral. The foundation of it is moral. People without morals. A civilizational crisis.
This is what he said in Ebony Magazine.
He was talking about the black community.
He was talking about the black community. He was talking about it then. The same issue that Jesse Jackson talked about, today our grassroots people are saying the same thing. That I really think that the only answer to this—but, oh, this violence is not happening in San Diego, California. That city is about the same size as Baltimore. The question is, why is it happening in some cities and not others? It is happening in these progressive cities, where defund the police is nullifying the police. But even like the chairman of the city council of Los Angeles, who was a big advocate of defund the police, but she had personal police protection at her home 24/7.
And that's the moral inconsistency, that they don't have to suffer the consequences of their advocacy. But the people that I serve, they are the ones who are in these communities where elderly people are being beaten and and home invasions.
By the way, that's also true, it seems to me. The thing that I'm saying is true is the interest of the governing classes—and they are often people of color—diverging from the interests of the governed class. The governing classes impose policies that create costs for the governed, which the governing people themselves never have to bear. I think that's true about criminal justice. They've got security, they purchase safety for themselves, and they experiment with policies that really adversely affect the safety of people who can't move and who can't put themselves behind gates and hire security guards to protect them.
But I think that's also true in education, Bob, where policies that lead to failure to deliver quality educational services to kids and whose parents have no alternative but to send them to underperforming public schools, policies that would help them are opposed by people who would never, ever countenance sending their children to a school where they thought that the level of education was not adequate. Would you agree with that?
Absolutely. I've been fighting this a long time. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jesse Jackson Jr., I can go on, all of the civil rights leaders who were in Washington, D.C. send their kids to Sidwell Friends School.
Barack Hussein Obama.
Barack Obama, and all of them. While at the same time opposing choice for the people living in those communities.
And I'll tell you something else. The Congressional Black Caucus, I think it was 2011, they were raising about $16 million from corporations, and a lot of that money was supposed to be spent for scholarships for the children in their districts, poor children in their districts. Well, then it was revealed that the bulk of that money went to the grandchildren of caucus members, as well as the children of black staff working for the caucus. And they just treated it like, “Oh, we made a mistake.” But it didn't rise to the level of a scandal. There was no investigation, no reports on television. It wasn't treated like the scandal that it was.
And again, this is an example of a racial exemption from any personal responsibility. And there are other examples of flagrant abuse. And yet, the same people who took private sector dollars and spent it on their own grandchildren instead of on the low-income people in their district are the same people calling for reparations and more government spending through government. If they use private dollars that were raised to help, what are they going to do with public dollars? But you know, it's heresy to even raise these kinds of questions, because, again, we're living in an era of racial exemption from any personal responsibility. That's my point.