Poverty, crime, and the political blame game

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online asks which political party deserves the blame for poverty and crime.

Baltimore is . . . not great. It has the second-highest murder rate (“non-negligent homicide,” in the nomenclature of the FBI) in the country, behind St. Louis. It has some of the worst-performing public schools in the nation. The city’s mayor recently resigned in disgrace after a financial scandal. It is 63 percent African American. It is an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Owsley County, Ky., is . . . not great. It is the poorest county in the United States. It has the second-highest level of child poverty in the country. Almost a quarter of the population under the age of 65 is classified as having a disability. It is 98 percent white. It is an overwhelmingly Republican county.

What does Baltimore tell us about Democratic governance? President Trump thinks he knows. (Kind of weird to hear a New Yorker complaining about the rats in some other city, though.) But we might also ask: What does Owsley County tell us about Republican governance?

This is not an entirely unfair question in either case, but you have to be particular about it. …

… On the specific issue of crime, relatively liberal cities and relatively conservative ones often clump together in the statistics. Henderson, Nev., has about the same murder rate as Irving, Texas, and Virginia Beach, Va. Politically dissimilar cities such as Boise, Idaho, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Irvine, Calif., have even lower rates. High-crime Baltimore is Democratic, but so is low-crime Austin.

Crime correlates with variables such as race and economic status. But this also happens in ways that can be counterintuitive.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...