Thursday, September 18, 2008

Economy and Crime Go Together Like Peas and Carrots

by Robin Sax

November 4 is creeping up on us, and in 47 days voters will elect the next leader of the United States. Who will it be? Barack Obama or John McCain?

Both candidates say they offer change, both tickets recognize our country is need of a serious overhaul, both think they are the one to run our country. When you look through elections past, crime, abortion, gun control was a key issue, along with the economy. Now according to the latest Gallup Poll (September 17), the “Top voter issue this year is the economy, gas prices, Iraq, healthcare, and terrorism.” So, what does this have to do with crime?

As I mentioned in my previous post, neither candidate is going to say he is soft on crime. And the true differences that
we can glean from voting records may be minor in the grand scheme of things, with the major differences (based on their prior voting records) between the candidates being:

Gun Laws

John McCain: No gun restrictions for law-abiding citizens

Barack Obama: Some restrictions on certain guns

Death Penalty

John McCain: Keep death penalty as it exists

Barack Obama: Supports death penalty in certain circumstances

Drug Laws

John McCain: Tough drug sentencing, except for first-time offenders; no medical marijuana

Barack Obama: Ease some drug sentencing requirements; undecided on medical marijuana

National Security

John McCain: Increase border security before other reforms

Barack Obama: Increase border security, including fencing


John McCain: Increased penalties and stiffer sentencing

Barack Obama: No extra punishment for gang association

The bigger difference, however, the bigger unknown and potentially the most significant way crime can be affected is in how the candidates will “change” the economy. Face it, people, the economy is in trouble! It’s been a gloomy week here in the United States and it’s only going to get gloomier until one of our change-minded future leaders can actually do something about it!

Crime is affected by the economy. In 2002, according to a report in
USA TODAY, “major crimes increased slightly in the first half of 2002, with modest spikes in murder, burglary and car theft.” At the time, the numbers represented the second consecutive year in which crime rose. Analysts believe the trend is being driven primarily by a faltering economy.

So how does a faltering economy contribute to crime?

1. Financial desperation and unemployment lead people to turn to illegal ways to make money, including burglary, robbery, and other theft-related crimes.

2. Unemployed people have more time to commit crime.

3. People have less means to purchase medications (like anti-psychotics or anti-depressants) that may help control behavior.

4. People who lose their homes and are already being supervised by courts or similar government agencies are less likely to stay in touch with probation, police departments, and social services departments to ensure that they are maintaining their responsibilities and obligations. Less supervision = less accountability.

5. City and county budgets are affected, as there are increased layoffs and hiring freezes of law enforcement personnel.

6. Drug use increases in tough economic times, thus leading to more violent crimes as people become more desperate to get drugs and money.

7. Poor economic times lead to more family strife, thus increasing incidents of domestic abuse and child abuse.

8. Neighborhoods decline, and with lack of upkeep fewer people take pride in where they live, thus bringing crime into their own neighborhoods.

9. Teen pregnancies increase when the economy is weak. This leads to more children growing up in poverty.

Though economists and social scientists may take issue as to what effect the economy truly has on crime, the statistics are very telling. The bottom line is that a sustained weak economy leads to unemployment, loss of homes, and greater crime. And if you don’t believe me, look at the decreased crime that occurred during the economic surge that occurred for almost a decade in the 1990’s—the Clinton years.

So in order to really evaluate the nominees on crime, you need to take a peek at their stances on the economy. There’s no better time to see what the candidates have in store for us than this week when the financial markets have wrought havoc, caused chaos, and have many people wondering if their money is really safe.

So what did the candidates say? Both said that we are in crisis. We need to do something. We need change. And what exactly is that I ask, Senators? I have been trying to figure that out all week, as neither White House hopeful offered any fresh ideas for turning things around. Instead each relied on the same vague, though vastly different, pitches they have offered over the past few months for fixing what ails the country.

Probably the best summary of their positions was written by Liz Sodti of the Associated Press in noting the key differences between the candidates: “In line with historical positions of Democrats and Republicans, Obama generally supports stronger consumer protections, better regulatory oversight and more government intervention, while McCain broadly prefers a market system of less federal involvement and red tape."

Both advocate tax cuts, though to different degrees and toward different ends. Obama seeks to cut into inequality between rich and poor by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and giving breaks to the middle class and lower-income people. McCain wants to spur the economy and create jobs by keeping tax rates low for higher-income taxpayers and slashing rates for corporations.

Which approach do you prefer? That’s one thing to ask yourself when you’re contemplating who you want to see in the White House.



Anonymous said...

Don't forget local economics and politics. Communities that insist on a low crime rate and are willing to both pay for it with social programs, and additional law enforcement, lower DA, PD caseloads, as well as hold their elected officials accountable via voting usually have a lower crime rate.

LadySheila said...

Thank you for clearly organizing and pointing out the differences with respect to economy/crime in the candidates. You've actually saved me quite a bit of time! It is a bit difficult for the public to make sense of all that we see.
Also, keep up the good work with regards to the children I know you seek to get justice for. I would love to pick your brain! Again, thank you. Sheila

LadySheila said...

Adn by the way, great title! I needed a little laugh today.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Nothing prevents crime like jobs. Some on the right complain about FDR and his work - but I'm told that the levees built in New Orleans in his time stood up while later ones collapsed.

Public works are better than cash bribes.