The founder of the first modern police department suggests a path forward.
The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and the riots and anti-riot police actions that followed them, have made new radical libertarians out of some of our friends on the left, who are demanding the defunding and abolition of city police departments. As Dan McLaughlin points out, their cheerleaders in the media are undertaking yogic exertions to pretend that left-wing radicals proposing to abolish city police departments are not left-wing radicals proposing to abolish city police departments. Apparently, we are to apply the Selena Zito method and take them seriously but not literally.
There is someone we might consult about a plausible police-reform agenda: the founding father of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel.
Police departments as we know them today are a relatively new kind of agency. We have had courts, sheriffs, bailiffs, etc., for a long time, but the first modern police department did not exist until Peel organized the Metropolitan Police in London in 1829. It is to Peel that we owe the modern notion of “policing with consent,” the principle that police agencies operate legitimately only where they operate with the consent of those subject to their powers. The situation in Minneapolis and elsewhere suggests that the local police agencies have lost the confidence of at least a portion of those to whom they are responsible, and that their legitimacy is therefore in question. If there is anything at all of substance to these riots and the spectacle of Nancy Pelosi kneeling in kente cloth (“dressing up like a Wakandan chess set” in the low-pH assessment of screenwriter Eric Haywood), then that question of legitimacy is it.
(It may be that the riots are only tangentially related to any real policy agenda and are instead simply a manifestation of the ancient instinct to conduct penitential rites during a plague. That’s my read.)
Peel’s nine principles of policing articulate more of a reform agenda than the would-be reformers do. We should consult them.
Peel insisted that civil police were to be understood as a more liberal alternative to (attn: Senator Cotton) using military forces to quell disorder and relying on excessive punishment to terrorize the citizenry into submission, which had been the previous model. We have strayed far from that ideal, not only in relying on the threat of military force during the recent episodes of political violence but also in reshaping our municipal police departments to look and think more like military units than civil authorities. We have given the police military weapons and military uniforms, the results of which have ranged from the ridiculous (the SWAT team in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas, skulking around in woodland camouflage when answering a domestic call in a famously treeless environment) to the dystopian (riot police dressed up like extras from Starship Troopers, that great American testament to aspirational fascism). We arm the police like soldiers and we dress them up like soldiers, and we tell them they are at war — with drugs, with crime, but, ultimately, with the citizens they purport to serve.
And what was Joe Biden’s famous crime bill if not a semi-hysterical attempt to impose through the terror of severe punishment that which could not be achieved through other means?
Peel believed that “the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives” and that the police must “use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.”
(The “Peelian Principles,” from which I am quoting, may not have been put on paper by Peel himself.)
The death of George Floyd did not result from the “minimum degree of force which is necessary,” or anything close to that. The more general problem is that the police are not generally trusted to ethically and intelligently determine what the appropriate minimum degree of necessary force is and surely do not universally deserve such trust, as many police departments have demonstrated on many occasions.
Peel advised that the confidence and consent of the public were to be gained “not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy . . . by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.” The word “courtesy” stands out in those sentences. You can have courtesy, or you can have a state of “war” — it is difficult to have both at the same time.
And that may help us to understand why many police critics remain unmoved by data suggesting that there is no obvious widespread racial disparity in the use of deadly force by police; unjust police killings, this line of criticism holds, are only part of a larger pattern of targeting and mistreating African Americans that ranges from disrespect and discourtesy to racial profiling, and so the (contested) data on deaths do not reflect the more general facts of the case. If George Floyd had survived his ordeal, the behavior of the police would not have been any less wrong — it would only have produced a less shocking and dramatic outcome.
That kind of behavior comes from a bunker mentality, an us-and-them view of the world. Peel’s advice foresaw this as well: “The police are the public and . . . the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” We no longer even pay lip service to the notion that the police are the public and the public are the police, as attested to by such developments as “qualified immunity” and laws establishing that assaulting a member of the general public is a less serious offense than assaulting a police officer. We have taken a civil office and made a kind of caste of it.
The final Peelian Principle: “To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.”
By Red State•
The COVID-19 virus, which was effectively shipped to the U.S. and around the world from China, and the political response to the virus seem to be the lead story every day.
In this veritable flash flood of virus news coverage, one thing many media outlets have missed is the U.S. Postal Service’s release of its second quarter financials. Perhaps, Postal Service financial information sounds boring, but we must pay attention because they’ve been requesting $85 billion in what is essentially bailout funds as part of the numerous stimulus packages.
If the Postal Service gets its way, you and your children may be on the hook once again for the Postal Service’s failed business model and its refusal to get its finances in order. After all, the USPS has lost more than a billion dollars for 13 consecutive years. And it has promised time and again to revise its business model and reform itself but has not made good on that promise. As a result, they are coming back to the taxpayer asking for billions in bailouts.
Maybe the public doesn’t really care if the USPS is losing money or uses a failed business model. After all, if some local business operates inefficiently and loses money, the problem will solve itself as it will go out of business and others who perform the service or provide the product more efficiently will take its place. But that’s not how government related things work.
When a government related organization loses money and begins to fail, the taxpayer is asked to pump billions into it to keep it afloat. It refuses to change its business model or to right its financial ship because it doesn’t have to. It can go to Congress and ask for more cash. Why restructure? Why innovate? Why focus on core profitable business products? Just ask Congress to give you billions to maintain the inefficient and wasteful status quo. That’s the Postal Service’s business model.
One of the curious things revealed in the financial report is that the Post Office claims that its package delivery business is highly profitable and it experienced an almost exponential increase in its package delivery business. That should be good news. Anytime a normal business is able to sell more of its profitable goods or services, that means higher profits. But not so with the Postal Service which still claims to be losing billions. How do you dramatically increase the sale of your most profitable products and still lose money?
Separately, in regard to letter mail, the Postal Service has a government granted and enforced monopoly on First Class Mail. It is illegal for any competitor to provide a competing First Class Mail service. So naturally, the Postal Service makes a lot of money on First Class Mail. Quite frankly, if you can’t make money as a legally sanctioned monopolist, you’re horrible at what you do.
The Postal Service takes the profits from that monopoly business and uses it to compete with other private companies in the package delivery business. And despite the Postal Service’s claims, it is clearly losing a lot of money on its package delivery business. Their financial records and cost attribution practices are so poor and substandard that they can lose billions and still claim that almost all of their products, including packages, are profitable. But the bottom line can’t lie and the bottom line reveals that the Postal Service is losing its shirt in package delivery.
That may explain why a group of USPS customers have come out to support the Postal Service’s request for a taxpayer provided bailout. If you could get taxpayer subsidized shipping and thereby lower your costs, you’d be for it too. It’s just a matter of self interest.
So these companies using the Postal Service’s package delivery services are effectively asking every American to subsidize their multi-billion dollar business and help them keep their shipping costs below market rates so that they can increase their profits. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could reach into the taxpayer’s pocket to increase our salaries?
All of this is troubling. But the fact that a government sanctioned monopoly is using its monopoly profits to subsidize competition with other legitimate businesses is even more troubling. Imagine if the government set up a monopoly with guaranteed profits and then unleashed that monopoly to compete with you and used its monopoly subsidies to undercut your line of work. They could afford to lose a ton of money, but still harm your business, reduce your salary and profits, and get the taxpayer to cover their massive losses. Does that sound fair? Is that a good use of government power and taxpayer funds?
While the Postal Service claims that its package delivery service is profitable, that simply cannot be true. If it were true, as their package business grew, they would stop hemorrhaging so much money. But they haven’t stopped losing money. Every quarter, when they release their financial reports, it’s just more bad news. If you drill down in their financial information, it is clear that the Postal Service is delivering packages at a loss. But the USPS uses its profits from First Class Mail to subsidize those losses. And when their losses overwhelm their monopoly profits, they call upon the taxpayer to bail out their failed business model.
It is time for real reform at the Postal Service. It is time to stop the perpetual taxpayer bailouts. If nothing is done, next year even after COVID-19 has passed, the Postal Service will concoct another excuse to get more taxpayer bailouts. The Administration should impose meaningful reform because it is in the taxpayer’s interests for the Postal Service to get its business model and financial house in order. COVID-19 shouldn’t be used as a phony excuse to bailout failed monopolists.
In 2017, Target announced it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of 2020, drawing praise from labor advocates who have called for other retailers to pay their employees a “living wage.”
But the new wage hike isn’t all it cracked up to be. Harry Holzer, in a 2016 Time Magazine article argued that “most minimum wage earners are not poor adults. They are, instead, young people (ages 16 to 24) or second earners in families where a spouse has a higher-wage job. So minimum wage increases help some poor heads of households, but are not well-targeted on them.”
Then there is this. A new report by CNN BUSINESS, found the big-box retailer has been slashing employees’ hours since the announced wage hike. So have TJMAXX, Marshalls, The Gap and Old Navy, and fast food chains such as Burger King. Nearly half of D.C. employers said they have laid off workers, and reduced hours due to a minimum wage hike
Heidi Shierholz, who was the chief economist at the Labor Department during the Obama Administration, said the wage hike is being counter-attacked by the company slashing employees’ hours, “Most workers aren’t getting any more of what they really need.”
Since the wage increase, Whole Food employees have told reporters that they have experienced widespread cuts that have reduced schedule shifts across many stores, often negating wage gains for employees. Further, companies often move to a nearby city or state to avoid the increase.
And that’s not all. A recent study suggests minimum wage hikes lead to automation replacing low-skill workers’ jobs. In New York City, the rise had people in a panic fearing the loss of other government subsidies, such as section 8 housing due to the added income.
Few would argue that finding a way to create living wages is a bad idea. But the unintended consequences of large raises in the minimum wage are clearly not worth the price. Here is a better way.
We now have a successful, if limited, device to raise wages without interfering in the marketplace. It is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). It is a refundable tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children. Many states already have state EITC’s, which further expand total income for a household. Critically, the EITC encourages work since the credit is only available to those with earned income.
What needs to be done is to expand the EITC for single and childless couple workers. Also the 2009 changes in the EITC that reduced the marriage penalty and increased the credit for households with three or more children should be made permanent. These changes combined with a refundable child tax credit could be the basis of a broad wage supplement program. Finally, a reform should be instituted so that the EITC comes on a weekly or bi weekly basis, not the following year.
Holzer wrote that “when the minimum wage increases are moderate in size — up to, say, $10 an hour — such employment losses are very small, so the likely tradeoff between higher wage levels and lower employment becomes worthwhile.”
But when the minimum rises so dramatically, we will likely see much larger employment losses among young or low-income workers. The hard truth is that too many of them have too few skills to merit such high wages, at least in the eyes of prospective employers. Some (particularly immigrants) might instead be hired off the books, and paid in cash, while many more will lose employment entirely”.
Proposals such as those suggested by Isabel Sawhill and Quentin Karpilow along with Holzer combine a modest increase in minimum wage with revisions to the EITC. This may be the best alternative to large increases in the minimum wage.
The tsunami of minimum wage hikes comes from a well intentioned benevolence. Its results have been disastrous for the very people they were intended. A small increase in minimum wage combined with smart revisions to the EITC will benefit low wage earners without marketplace disruption and harm to the working poor.
While we should expect the upcoming presidential campaign to focus on traditional issues of the economy, taxes, foreign policy, trade, and immigration — as well as the elephant in the room that is Donald Trump — criminal-justice reform has become a surprisingly hot topic on the campaign trail.
At one point, every presidential candidate pretended he was running for sheriff. “Tough on crime” was considered the ultimate badge of honor — in both parties. Bill Clinton even rushed home during his campaign to execute a mentally disabled murderer. Times have clearly changed.
This is in part due to the growing evidence of racial and class inequities within the criminal-justice system. Studies also show that failures within our criminal-justice system contribute to poverty and dependence. A recent YouGov poll conducted on behalf of the Cato Institute found that 22 percent of the unemployed and 23 percent of people on welfare had been unable to find a job because of a criminal record. Scholars at Villanova have concluded that mass incarceration increases the U.S. poverty rate by as much as 20 percent. It has also become clear that overcriminalization and mass incarceration have not necessarily made us safer. Support for criminal-justice reform now cuts across party lines.
But there is also a large degree of politics behind the sudden importance of criminal-justice reform on the campaign trail. Most important, Democratic front runner Joe Biden is perceived as being vulnerable on the issue. Biden’s supported and partially wrote the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which led to an increase in incarceration — especially among African Americans. He also supported and sponsored several pieces of legislation that enhanced sentencing for drug-related crimes, once again contributing to the mass incarceration of minorities.
Even President Trump has taken the opportunity to tweak Biden on the issue, tweeting, “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular, African Americans will not be able [sic] to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, and helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!” And in a second tweet, Trump noted that “Super Predator was the term associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so heavily involved in passing. That was a dark period in American History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!”
Trump is not exactly the best messenger on this front, given his at least implied support for police abuses. But he is correct that he signed the FIRST STEP Act, the first important federal prison and criminal-justice reform in many years. As a policy, it was modest stuff, but it symbolically highlighted the changing politics of the issue.
Biden is not the only one with vulnerabilities on criminal justice. During her time as a prosecutor, Kamala Harris vigorously enforced California’s three-strikes law, actively pursued drug users and sex workers, and even prosecuted the parents of truant children. She was also an outspoken supporter of asset forfeiture and the use of solitary confinement in prisons. She backed capital punishment and resisted calls to investigate some police shootings.
So far, she has responded by apologizing for her past positions, now saying, “Too many black and brown Americans are locked up. From mass incarceration to cash bail to policing, our criminal-justice system needs drastic repair.” She has also sponsored the Equal Defense Act, which increases funding for public defenders. Still, criminal-justice activists have remained critical, complaining that she has ducked specific reform proposals.
Other Democrats also have hurdles to overcome. Bernie Sanders, for instance, voted for the 1994 crime bill, although he had a much lower profile than Biden. And, like Harris, Senator Amy Klobuchar also has a background as a prosecutor. Her low poll standing has kept it from becoming an issue yet, but she may eventually face some tough questions about her actions in that office. Even South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg has faced scrutiny over his handling of police-abuse complaints during his tenure as mayor.
On the other hand, candidates such as Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Beto O’Rourke are better positioned on the issue. Booker, in particular, has championed justice reform. He has introduced the Next Step Act, which would expand upon the FIRST STEP Act. Booker is also calling for cutting minimum drug sentencing in half, legalizing marijuana, removing barriers to entry in the job market for those with felony records, and reinstating the right of felons to vote in federal elections.
Beto pushed for criminal-justice reform during his Texas Senate campaign and has reiterated his support during his presidential campaign. During his Texas campaign, he stated that he would like Texas to lead the way on criminal-justice reform. He supports ending cash bail at the state level, making for-profit prisons illegal, ending mandatory-minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses, and legalizing marijuana.
Warren has been far less specific, mostly limiting herself to rhetoric about the “racist” criminal-justice system. For a candidate whose claim to fame is “I have a plan for that,” she is remarkably vague on this issue. Still, she carries far less past baggage than others, leaving her an opening.
With more than two dozen candidates in the Democratic primary and a general election that is looking extremely close, even secondary issues could play an outsized role in deciding the outcome. Keep your eyes on criminal-justice reform.
I am not generally a big fan of lame-duck sessions because such a large number of soon-to-be former senators and congressmen are voting on their way out the door. But Congress must do something about a looming multi-employer pension plan disaster or we could see very difficult economic times ahead.
Multi-employer pension plans have more than $600 billion of unfunded liabilities and are dangerously close to failing. Once these endangered plans fail, others will not be far behind. Additionally, state and local governments have about $6 trillion in unfunded pension promises. If these potential failures come to fruition, it could be a disaster far worse than the 2008 housing bust.
The White House understands the risks and has met with the chief players on Capitol Hill, encouraging them to work together to find a lasting solution. Continue reading
By Scott Rasmussen • Real Clear Politics
President Trump has perfected the art of antagonizing his opponents with provocative tweets. He demonstrated this skill recently in declaring that the tax reform act, by repealing the Obamacare mandate, had effectively repealed Obamacare.
This generated a number of stories from left-leaning pundits pointing out that there’s a lot more to Obamacare than the mandate. Sarah Kliff, writing for Vox.com, noted that many Republican voters believed the president and hoped that would bring an end to efforts to undo the rest of Obamacare.
But many Republicans in Congress seem intent on continuing to fight for repeal of the controversial law. A skeptical report in The Hill noted that the GOP had tried and failed to accomplish that goal in 2017. In their view, “nothing significant has changed since then that would now make the path easier. In fact, the obstacles appear even greater now that Democrat Doug Jones has been elected to the Senate from Alabama.”
Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:
We believe that it is time for the Copyright Office to be modernized. On behalf of our organization and the millions of Americans we represent, we encourage Congress to give the Copyright Office the autonomy it needs to best serve the digital economy and Congress by:
1) removing the Copyright Office from within the organizational structure of the Library of Congress, and empowering the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm the Register of Copyrights; and 2) allowing the Copyright Office to modernize its IT systems as it sees best by granting the Office authority over its own budget, personnel, and technology.
The intellectual property represented by copyrights has always been important — important enough that our Founders specifically addressed it in the Constitution in Article 1, Section 8 saying that Congress shall have the power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Continue reading
by Senator Mike Lee • Washington Examiner
This Thursday, after months of hard work, a bipartisan group of senators and I introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
Most people, including many conservatives, might think criminal justice reform is a progressive cause, not a conservative one.
But, like many pearls of conventional wisdom, this is simply untrue.
Just look at the history of criminal justice in the 20th century. The most successful reformers — whether they be academics or evangelists, policymakers or community leaders — have advocated for conservative goals: law and order built on tight-knit communities, a vibrant civil society, strong, intact families and personal responsibility. Continue reading
By Michael Biesecker • My Way News
Internal documents released late Friday show managers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were aware of the potential for a catastrophic “blowout” at an abandoned mine that could release “large volumes” of wastewater laced with toxic heavy metals.
EPA released the documents following weeks of prodding from The Associated Press and other media organizations. EPA and contract workers accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater on Aug. 5 as they inspected the idled Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.
Among the documents is a June 2014 work order for a planned cleanup that noted that the old mine had not been accessible since 1995, when the entrance partially collapsed. The plan appears to have been produced by Environmental Restoration, a private contractor working for EPA.
“This condition has likely caused impounding of water behind the collapse,” the report says. “ln addition, other collapses within the workings may have occurred creating additional water impounding conditions. Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.” Continue reading
By Alex Cabrero • Deseret News
It was a dream come true several years ago when Andy Johnson built a pond on his property to stock fish, let his kids play and provide a spot where his horses could have a drink.
But now that dream has turned into a nightmare. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency accused him of violating the Clean Water Act by damming the middle of Six Mile Creek and polluting the water to build the pond.
The agency is threatening Johnson with a $75,000 per day fine — a penalty often reserved for companies that emit toxic hazards — until he tears it all down.
“I think they’re trying to gain jurisdiction,” Johnson said. “They’re trying to see if they can run over me, and then they will get into everyone’s irrigation ditch and stock ponds throughout not only Wyoming, but the United States.” Continue reading
By John Siciliano • Washington Examiner
The methane restrictions for oil and gas companies proposed by the Obama administration Tuesday are just the beginning of a regulatory “tidal wave” that the industry is bracing for this fall.
The new rules for oil and gas wells proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency would limit methane from fracking sites, creating new costs that the industry says are “unnecessary.” The industry says it has reduced methane voluntarily, so why bother with regulations that would only be duplicative.
The EPA estimates the cost of the proposed rule to be $170 to $180 million in 2020 and $280 to $330 million in 2025.
Those costs are expected to amplify considerably given that some of the rules coming down the pike are considered the most expensive in history. Continue reading
by Alex B. Berezow & Todd Myers • RealClearScience
The accidental spill of toxic wastewater into Colorado’s Animas River is an ironic case study: The very organization meant to protect Americans from environmental catastrophes was responsible for perpetrating it. How should the Environmental Protection Agency be held accountable?
Colorado, and the states downstream of the spill, should sue the EPA. But, instead of merely recovering the cost of environmental damage, the lawsuit should focus on taming the leviathan the EPA has become.
Created in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, the EPA, at its best, has been an important part of improving air and water quality. Clear standards, enforced in a straightforward way have been successful. The fact that the American environment is cleaner and safer than it has been in a century is partially due to EPA action. Continue reading
Affordable Care Act opponents must make their goal the enactment of a better plan.
by James C. Capretta • National Review
In the 2014 midterm elections, opposition to the Affordable Care Act — i.e., Obamacare — was a clear political winner. That’s obvious from the election results themselves but also from polling that consistently finds that far more of the electorate disapproves of the law than approves of it.
It is therefore to be expected that the incoming Congress, fully under the control of the GOP, will vote on a straight repeal bill, probably very early in next session. In the House, such a bill will pass easily. But in the Senate, Democrats will control at least 46 seats in the new Congress, giving them plenty of votes to filibuster most legislation they oppose. Consequently, the most likely scenario is that the repeal legislation will die in the Senate and therefore never get sent to the president for a certain veto. Continue reading
The Los Angeles Times, citing studies and information the Obama administration most certainly knows about but won’t release, reports that 9.5 million previously uninsured people now have health coverage because of Obamacare. Look for that 9.5 million, or perhaps a rounded-up 10 million, to be come the talking point for Obamacare supporters in coming days.
The Times says the numbers break down like this: 4.5 million previously uninsured people are now on Medicaid; 3 million previously uninsured young people are now covered because of a provision that allows them to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26; and 2 million previously uninsured people have purchased coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. In all, it is “the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century,” according to the Times. Continue reading