Roots of the Donald’s Nixonian Betrayal of Conservative Economics
When all else fails, Fake Republicans like Richard Nixon back in the day and Donald Trump today turn to “Law & Order” demagoguery to incite the electorate in their direction.
So doing, they conveniently abandon the real job of the Conservative Party in American democracy, which is to fight against the Government Party (usually the Dems) in behalf of free markets, fiscal rectitude, sound money, smaller government, federalism and maximum personal liberty.
Thus, when America was plagued with the short-term outbreak of riots in dozens of major American cities in 1968 – Detroit, Cleveland, Newark, Gary, Chicago, Philadelphia – Tricky Dick Nixon put himself over the top at the polls in November by running for National Sheriff rather than as the scourge of Lyndon Johnson’s drastic ballooning of the state in the form of “guns and butter” finance and the eruption of Great Society spending programs.
As it happened, however, Nixon didn’t need an electoral mandate for Law and Order because the summer of 1968 eruptions in the urban ghettos quickly burned themselves out, while mainly harming the residents living therein.
More importantly, policing the big cities is not the job of the Federal government or the President, anyway; and is, in fact, one of the principal functions implicitly reserved to the states and their sub-units by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.
Indeed, administration of local law and order is one of the main reasons we have 87,575 units of government separate from the Federal government, including the 50 states, 3,034 counties, 35,933 cities, towns, municipalities and townships and 48,558 other units including school districts and special purpose units of local government (e.g. police, fire, library districts etc.).
Far more so than the giant Federal bureaucracies that have insinuated themselves into the law and order business, such as the FBI, DEA, BATF and the far-flung operations of the Homeland Security Department, the overwhelming share of these local government units are actually creatures of their respective electorates. If law and order breaks down or is wanting, therefore, the solution is to clean house at City Hall or the county courthouse, not import Federal money, laws, regulations and rhetorical posturing from Capitol Hill or the Oval Office.
And if the local electorate fails to clean house, it will bear the brunt of the adverse consequences of too many homicides, robberies or destructive attacks on private property within the jurisdiction in question. After all, most serious crime – especially homicides and violent assaults on persons and property – are the work of local residents, not regional or national crime rings.
Moreover, if the electorates of badly governed jurisdictions like Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York and Baltimore at the moment fail to remedy their own crime problems, the ultimate brilliance of Federalism comes powerfully into play: That is, on the margin residents and businesses vote with their feet, causing local economic decline and diminution of tax revenues, and thereby eventually generating electoral demands for corrective action.
At the same time, presidential Law & Order demagoguery by GOP presidents readily becomes a cover for betrayal on Federal policy matters that actually count. Until the Donald came along, of course, Tricky Dick Nixon was the poster boy for this kind of doctrinal perfidy.
The man’s policy sins are almost too egregious to reprise. Richard Nixon –
- Famously abandoned sound money when he slammed the gold window shut at Camp David in August 1971;
- Made a mockery of free markets when he imposed wage, price, rent and interest controls on the entire US economy shortly thereafter;
- Fecklessly fueled the growth of Big Government by putting Federal bureaucrats in charge of domestic energy industries and employing subsidies and import controls to pursue the folly of national energy autarky;
- Deeply wounded the cause of fiscal rectitude by adopting the specious Keynesian notion of “full employment budgeting”, which amounts to an excuse for chronic government deficits whenever an imaginary figure called “potential GDP” is not realized (most of the time);
- Attempted to vastly expand the Welfare State through a guaranteed annual income (Family Assistance Plan) and an incipient form of national health insurance (Family Insurance Program);
- Eroded Federalism through revenue sharing handouts from Washington and a vast expansion of federal grant-in-aid programs; and
- Fueled a 50-year assault on the social and economic stability of the nation’s declining urban centers via the abomination of the the War on Drugs.
Needless to say, the latter betrayal gets us to the present moment. There is no more of a Law & Order crisis today that demands presidential attention and Washington intervention than there was in 1968.
The overwhelming bulk of the American electorate is not in any danger owing to the antics and defaults of the clowns running Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago or even New York City. In due time, their electorates will select better leadership or the citizens will flee for better governed environs.
But as we demonstrate below, there is an elevated and unnecessary level of friction between the police and citizens in the nation’s urban centers. The latter is overwhelmingly caused by and aggravated by the War on Drugs and the criminalization of related social behaviors such as gambling, prostitution etc.
Moreover, it can be solved by repeal of bad laws, not costly and counterproductive efforts to get tough on crime; and most certainly not be sending Federal cops into cities which are wittingly or unwittingly abetting crime and riots and thereby bringing ruin upon themselves.
So just as in Nixon’s time, by relentlessly obsessing about crime-ridden Democrat cities the Donald is abandoning his real job. If there is a real crisis in America, it is the crushing burden of debt and speculation on the main street economy, not any serious or long-lasting outbreak of crime.
Obviously, when it comes to crime, it doesn’t get more serious than homicide. Yet as shown below, the homicide rate per 100,000 in recent years has been barely half of what prevailed during the 1970-1995 period, and has continued to edge lower.
The same is true of total violent crimes, which includes rape, robbery and aggravated assault, as well as homicides. As shown below, the rate per 100,000 in the most recent year was about half the early 1990s level.
Moreover, although not shown, preliminary FBI statistics indicate that neither the homicide rate nor the total violent crime rate appreciably changed in 2019.
Violent Crime Per 100,000
While the last full year for which FBI statistics are available is 2018, the preliminary data from the FBI for 2019 indicates that all four categories of violent crime were down versus prior year:
- Homicide: -3.9%;
- Forcible rape: -7.3%;
- Robbery: -7.4%;
- Aggravated assault: -0.3%.
To be sure, during 2020 to date there has been an upsurge of homicides in a handful of big cities owing to the BLM demonstrations and riots after the late May murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis.
Still, even in the 25 largest US cities shown below, total violent crimes in 2020 YTD are essentially flat with 2019 (up 0.4% during the first 7 months) and property crimes are actually down by -7.7% year-to-date.
As to the surge in homicides, 80% of the 576 increase in cases over 2019 is attributable to just eight cities including Chicago ( 173), NYC ( 60), Philadelphia ( 56), St. Louis ( 42), Houston ( 39), Atlanta ( 30), Louisville ( 27). and Los Angles ( 25). By contrast, a nearly equal number of big cities, including Dallas, Newark, Baltimore, Miami, Las Vegas, Plano and Lincoln have experienced little change or even declines from 2019.
In short, notwithstanding the cable TV tsunami of coverage of urban protests and riots and the Donald’s false characterization of Law & Order as a national crisis, there is no breakout of homicides and other violent crimes, even in the big cities. For the nation as a whole, the downward trend in crime rates which has been in effect for nearly 20 years remains in place.
Needless to say, when it comes to the Donald’s real job as a Republican president, he has presided over what can only be described as a horror show. Owing to the total demise of fiscal rectitude and the last vestiges of sound money (the Fed’s belated, short-lived attempt at normalizing its balance sheet in 2017-2018) on his watch, the burden of total debt (public and private) grinding down the US economy has soared to $77.6 trillion.
In terms of of annual rates of gain, the blue bars below show that borrowing is again off to the races, vastly exceeding the egregiously large gains that were recorded during the Obam
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