President Obama called on Americans “to do some soul searching” in the aftermath of the rioting that occurred in Baltimore on Monday. Obama offered a perfunctory condemnation of the rioters, but then, as the Washington Post reports, criticized “Americans, including the news media and some politicians, for failing to address the chronic problems of men, women and children who live in poverty and find their opportunities limited because of poor schools or long stints in prison” (emphasis added).
For Obama, “soul-searching” means granting the government more money to throw at the inner city. Real soul-searching means understanding why the men, women and children who live in poverty have limited their own opportunities by dropping out of school, using drugs, and committing crime.
One need not search far. The obvious explanation is the breakdown of the family structure in the inner-city.
Everyone understands this. That’s why the video of the mother trying to slap sense into her son, the would-be rioter, has become such a sensation.
It’s politically incorrect to say that lack of proper parental supervision is the “root cause” not just of Monday’s riots, but most of the social-pathology from which the riots emanated. That would be “blaming the victims.” However, when a video captures this reality, we still are permitted to cheer. And cheer we do.
I shouldn’t end this post without commenting on Obama’s attack “long stints in prison.” In a sensible society, a president wouldn’t think of using riots as the basis for urging softer sentencing. If anything, riots would produce calls for law and order, including keeping criminals off the streets and behind bars.
The fact is that longer prison sentences have coincided with a sharp reduction in Baltimore’s crime rate. As Bill Otis explains:
Prison terms have. . .become longer at least since 2000, and probably for a decade before then. . . . So what has become of Baltimore’s crime victimization rate?
Over these years of increasingly “long stints in prison,” the crime rate in Baltimore has fallen significantly in every measured category. Take a look at this chart. Murder is down, along with rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and (among others and ironically) arson. This is true even though the number of police officers in that city per 1,000 residents has leveled off or fallen.
Thus, contrary to what the President argued, the people of Baltimore are significantly better off now that the criminals who have victimized them are spending longer behind bars.
There isn’t much the government can do to repair the family structure of the inner city, and Democratic constituencies stand in the way of educational reform that would likely produce better schools. But the government can offer inner city residents some protection against crime through the stiff sentencing of criminals. Yet, the president wants softer sentencing.
Obama should search his own soul.