Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Defunding The Police, Harris

(First in a series.)

In June, Meghan McCain on The View asked Kamala Harris what "defund the police" means- not to Harris but what it actually means. In the video below, which includes Young Turks Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian approving the Californian's perspective, Harris responds (beginning at 1:30 below) in pertinent part

Again, we need to reimagine how we are addressing public safety in America and to have cities where one-third of their entire budget is going into policing but yet there is a dire need in these same cities for mental health resources - for resources going into public schools, for resources going into job training and, and job creation.

More funding from wherever is a good idea even for those unspecified, undefined "mental health resources." More resources going into public schools would appeal to supporters of both traditional public schools and of charter schools- which, because they are funded by taxpayers, are considered public schools. They undermine the nation's public school system, but whatever.

It's difficult to argue against "job training" and "job creation"- until we drill down on what that means. Municipalities traditionally pursue jobs aggressively. When Amazon in 2017 announced plans for a second headquarters, it received proposals from 238 cities from 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, seven Canadian provinces, and three Mexican  Defunding of the police is not necessary for municipalities to seek new jobs.

Job training is neo-liberal code for "the problem isn't the structure of the economy, it's you."  As a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study in 2013 found of Wisconsin, "the obsession with an imaginary skills gap and the policy focus on training and workforce development is, at best, a sideshow and, at worst, a distraction from the real labor market challenges..." 

Harris' response is based on the (false) premise that were funds for police departments drastically cut, the extra money would be appropriated for social services. But this is not 1980, the year before Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6) was inaugurated as President.  We are now in roughly the 40th year of budget cutting mania, in which the chief proponent of a balanced budget- a Republican- was given a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. Holding down government spending (except for the Pentagon) is, after all our ills have been exposed, an unquestioned virtue. It will be rampant if a Democrat is elected President.

Harris' response came more than three months into the pandemic. She knew (or should have known) that restoration of funding for needed services will  be given the highest priority- aside from holding down taxes.  The federal government can print or borrow money almost at will, as it is now doing out of necessity because of the novel coronavirus. However, state (except, on a limited basis, Vermont) and municipal governments have no such luxury.

Still, I could have been impressed with the Senator's answer,  She would have been bold had she argued for increased social services and acknowledged that it would not happen without a broad-based tax increase or a wealth tax.  Alas, had Kamala Harris done so, she would not have been Kamala Harris.


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