Six days ago, in Poland, the President reacted to two fatal shootings of young black men by police, one in Louisiana and another in Minnesota, by saying, “these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents.” The message was clear enough. Two days later, an African American took revenge on a police force in Texas that, the way he saw things, was part of a system of law enforcement that was murdering young black men.
Over the past two years, one in four people killed by police have been African American. This is about double the number of blacks in the general population and it indicates that something is wrong. The President says that what is wrong is law enforcement. His knee-jerk response, time and time, is to blame the police. He has called the police stupid and racist. If a Muslim were to walk into a night club and shoot a hundred people, he would quick say there is no evidence this was part of a larger movement. But, from halfway around the world, he responds to two killings by police is to say it’s not an isolated incident.
If the disproportionate number of black people being killed by the police isn’t due to police racism, to what is it due? At a superficial level, it is due to more confrontations of black people with police, such as arrests, convictions and incarcerations. But, this is only a superficial analysis. It immediately begs the question why are there more such confrontations.
It is when you dig down that you find the real controversy. For some, the underlying reason for crime is a lack of income. For others, the underlying reason is a lack of work. If the underlying reason is merely a lack of income, then the answer is more welfare programs and redistribution of the wealth. If TANF, SNAP, SCHIP, EITC, etc., exhaust the alphabet, we need more letters. But, if the underlying reason is a lack of work, then the answer is a more vibrant economy.
The good news is that the current nationwide trend regarding black crime is positive. From a peak of 51 percent in 1994, blacks as a percent of the prison population of the United States have fallen to 36 percent in 2014. This is still about three times the percent of blacks in the general population, but its a significantly lower multiple than it was a generation ago.
The bad news is that, while crime is trending down nationwide, it is trending up in many cities. The scenario of Baltimore is being played out across the country. The police are cowed into passivity by intense scrutiny and accusations of racism, and neighborhoods fall into anarchy. Murder rates increase. Criminal gangs take over. Decent people flee. The social fabric of the city is ripped asunder.
The President, on his arrival in Dallas, used the occasion to lecture white people about how their black neighbors and coworkers don’t want to hear any disagreement from his view of what is the fundamental problem. The economics and sociology of crime are settled science as far as he is concerned.