If you listen to Vice President Joe Biden, the most effective way to prevent rape and murder is more federal stimulus spending. In the Vice President’s defense, at least this is a new argument, considering the others—jobs created, bridges built, energy generated—have all miserably failed. But this desperate argument, while fresh, is also incorrect.
The Vice President made the remarks first in a speech on Tuesday at the University of Pennsylvania, saying additional stimulus would put police on the streets and lower crime, adding that he wished conservative lawmakers “had some notion of what it was like to be on the other side of a gun, or [to have] a 200-pound man standing over you, telling you to submit.” On Wednesday in Flint, Michigan, Biden doubled down on those comments.
Biden was confronted on video by Human Events editor Jason Mattera and was asked: “And if the Republicans don’t pass this bill, then rape will continue to rise?” Biden angrily responded: “Murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crimes will continue to rise.” White House press secretary Jay Carney gave President Obama’s blessing to this message in yesterday’s press briefing, even as The Washington Post’s “fact checker” gave Biden “four pinocchios,” calling the claim “absurd.”
Biden also has the blessing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) who scheduled a vote yesterday on the $35 billion stimulus bill the Vice President was pushing, which was paid for with a new tax hike on wealthy Americans.
That bill was defeated with bipartisan opposition last night, with Senator Ben Nelson (D–NE) saying: “I don’t think you increase taxes for new spending,” and Senator Mark Pryor (D–AR) saying: “I’m not sure federal taxpayers should be paying for teachers and first responders. That’s traditionally a state and local matter.”
Ironically, as conservative commentator Kevin Eder noted, the same liberal pundits decrying the failed vote for more federal police funding were only moments earlier celebrating the Occupy Wall Street protests that have so far created hundreds of arrests, chased cops out of public parks, and vandalized squad cars.
Defending this latest stimulus gambit, Senator Reid painted a rosy picture of the economy: “It’s very clear that private sector jobs have been doing just fine. It’s the public sector jobs where we’ve lost huge numbers, and that’s what this legislation is all about.”
Certainly the millions of jobless private-sector workers across the nation would disagree with Reid that our 9.1 percent unemployment rate is “just fine.”
As Heritage’s James Sherk explains:
Senator Reid is not just mistaken; he has his facts exactly backwards. If the recession has barely touched one sector of the economy, it is government. Since the recession began in December 2007 the private sector shed 6.3 million net jobs, while government payrolls are down by just 392,000. That amounts to a 5.4 percent drop in private sector employment, while government employment has slipped only one-third as much (1.8 percent). Education-related government jobs have fallen even less, down 1.4 percent.… Relatively few government employees are unemployed. Only 4.7 percent of government employees cannot find jobs—half the national unemployment rate. Government employees have the lowest jobless rate of any industry.
Unfortunately, none of this has anything to do with jobs. It is entirely about Obama, Biden, and Reid’s liberal addiction to spending. Unable to convince Americans, or even their fellow Democratic lawmakers, that another half-trillion-dollar stimulus paid for with tax hikes was a good idea, they’re trying to slip some of it through the backdoor by building sympathetic, but false, narratives.
Teachers, policemen, and firemen are certainly sympathetic. They’re suffering in the Obama economy as well. But federalizing this local workforce is not the right antidote, nor would this bill achieve what they promise it will.
Let’s not pretend that more federal education spending is needed. Since 1970, school enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools has increased just 7 percent, while staff hires have increased 83 percent. As Heritage’s Lindsey Burke explains, “On a per-pupil basis, federal spending on education has nearly tripled since the 1970s.” And Washington has almost no measurable progress to point to after all of that spending.
Likewise, Burke says: “In the 1950s, there were approximately 2.36 teachers for every non-teacher in a school district. Today, in our nation’s school systems, that ratio is closer to 1 to 1.” The administrative counterparts are necessary to keep up with all of the new federal red tape being passed down with the money.
And thus explains the problem with the federal government hiring local cops, firemen, and teachers. The money is either short term, leaving state and local governments with either huge holes to fill later and merely delaying unavoidable layoffs, or the “temporary” money becomes a permanent growth in federal spending since future Congresses won’t draw it back.
Take COPS. The “Community Oriented Policing Services” enacted by President Bill Clinton in 1994 was supposedly temporary and would put police on the streets to help stop crime. Between 1996 and 2001, nearly nine times more money was spent on this initiative by Clinton than on counterterrorism by the FBI.
The program, still alive today, has since shelled out billions of dollars to such crime-ridden communities as Beverly Hills, California, and Wellesley, Massachusetts, with little impact on crime rates, according to multiple studies by Heritage’s David Muhlhausen.
The communities that do hire new police can’t sustain them without constant federal aid, but more often, the money is spent on existing workforce or funds the type of congressional earmarks programs that make you cringe. And now even Biden is implicitly arguing that this program failed, since he now claims we need billions more to do the exact same thing—but with new rhetoric, a new name, and a new tax.
Biden and Reid’s goal is simple: Tax and spend. It’s the only idea they have. And this time they’re using tasteless scare tactics to try to achieve it. Taking money out of the economy so Biden and Reid (who is now 900-plus days without even passing a budget) can redistribute it is simply a losing proposition.