Poverty Is More to Blame for Baltimore Riots than Racial Tension

Another man dies at the hands of police under questionable circumstances. Protesters fill the streets, but their pleas are overshadowed by violence, looters, and the responses required to maintain law and order. We saw it in Ferguson and are now seeing it again in Baltimore.

In both cases, it is hard not to shift focus from a death to the looters, seeing them as separate events — one distracting from the other. However, if we connect all the dots, we may find that both are related.

Hopefully, the public debate will force us to view these conflicts as more than police brutality with racial overtones.

Reports following the incident in Ferguson revealed several incidents of racial bias within the local police department, and while it may also exist in the Baltimore Police Department, it cannot be said that it is institutionalized based on lopsided representation.

Unlike Ferguson, Baltimore has substantial “minority” representation in its local government. Many of the responses to what happened in Ferguson related to the responsibility voters have to change things at the ballot box, which they were able to do to some degree recently.

So how do similar situations exist in these two different locations with different representation in their local governments?

What got less coverage regarding Ferguson was the systematic targeting of citizens as an alternative source of revenue for many small cities in the St. Louis area. When a majority of citizens are non-white, it is disturbing that the non-white citizens are targeted disproportionately. However, the reasoning behind using traffic tickets to fund city operations should not be ignored.

When a city’s tax base is eroded, local government officials must cut services or raise revenue by some other means. Issuing traffic citations in what appeared to be a discriminatory fashion proved to be both embarrassing and devastating for Ferguson.

However, to understand the root problem that the media is ignoring, we have to dig deeper, because the problem is not necessarily the result of incompetent Democratic local governments.

We must remain focused on socioeconomic factors that create pockets of poverty with higher than average unemployment and underemployment. While these problems are national in scope, they become amplified when concentrated, and it is not hard to understand the development of enmity between citizens and police.

We must remain focused on socioeconomic factors that create pockets of poverty with higher than average unemployment and underemployment.
Steve Hough, IVN Independent Author
As local police forces are tasked to enforce laws as well as maintain order, the current flare up in Baltimore transcends the death of Freddie Gray. All the facts surrounding the man’s death must be released and considered, and while police departments across the country review policing policies, we must also address the economic forces that have an impact on crime and community policing.

The Fed says a government-manipulated unemployment rate of 5.5 percent is now considered “full employment.” Given that “official” unemployment figures have black unemployment at twice the rate of whites, and it is 20 percent (twice the national average for blacks) in Mr. Gray’s community, I think we need to take a hard look at these statistics.

Is it simply a failing of local government, or do we need to hold our elected officials on the federal level responsible as well?

I’m not sure what the Republicans are proposing, but the responses from many Democrats appear to be the same old standard, stale responses. They talk about punishing the sins of the owners of capital who finance the GOP, but do we hear any of them offering new ideas?

They want to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for new spending on infrastructure. Although infrastructure is a source of ongoing spending and creates jobs, the projects are temporary, benefit specific locations, and are subject to appropriations.

We need politicians to talk about tax and health care reforms that would allow manufacturers to be more competitive with low-wage countries. Detroit, Camden, Cleveland (the rust belt) were once vibrant manufacturing hubs employing tens of thousands of people. That is no longer the case, and the disappearance of those jobs is directly related to the demise of these cities.

Many of the goods we consume do not need to be produced in foreign countries, and the trend of shipping jobs overseas must be reversed. The middle class in this country is being systematically dismantled. The policies that are contributing to our economic decline may have been well-intentioned, but there is now enough evidence to demand a change of course.

As the debate is heating up over President Obama’s desire to “fast track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, we should all be acutely aware of our trade deficits and how many jobs have been lost as a result of previous trade agreements.

It appears that maximizing profits has become a new religion and the zealots, if not rejoicing, ignore the declining standard of living at home and the potential for even more social upheaval.

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Photo Source: AP