Democrat Indifference to Baltimore's Inner-City Decline Harms Minorities
The Democrat political stronghold of Baltimore has experienced squalor and crime for many years due to ineffective policies and indifference shown by many of the city's Democrat politicians. Unfortunately, the serious problems in Baltimore are found in many inner cities throughout the country. If Congressman Cummings would work together with President Trump, perhaps they could find effective solutions to the poverty and high crime all too common in the inner city in Baltimore and inner cities throughout America.
One of the few things President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders agree on is the dismal situation in large parts of Baltimore. President Trump has mentioned Baltimore's high crime and failing economy, while in 2015, Bernie Sanders referenced the poverty and failure of Baltimore's education system.
When it comes to poverty in Baltimore, both President Trump and Bernie Sanders are correct. Baltimore has a very high poverty rate. According to the U.S. Census, in 2017, the official poverty rate in the United States was 12.3%, while Maryland had a poverty rate of 9.3%. In contrast, the poverty rate in the city of Baltimore was a staggering 22.4%. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, there is a strong correlation between poverty and violent crime, with those in households at or below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) having over twice the rate of violent victimization as compared to high-income households.
A 2017 New York University report notes that there is a massive wealth disparity between blacks and whites in Baltimore, with a median household income of $33,801 for a black family as compared to $62,751 for a white family. The U.S. Census makes clear that Baltimore is suffering, with a 2017 median household income of $46,641 and a per capita income of $28,488 (with an average of 2.48 people per household). For generations, Democrat politicians in Baltimore have routinely failed their constituency, particularly their black constituents.
Worse yet, poverty is also correlated with significantly lower life spans. According to the Baltimore Health Department in 2017, there is a 20-year gap in the life expectancy between the poor and wealthy neighborhoods of Baltimore. In addition, a 2015 article in the Washington Post (echoed on Twitter by Bernie Sanders) reported that an astounding 14 Baltimore neighborhoods have shorter life expectancies than in North Korea.
President Trump was right to point out that Baltimore is dangerous. Allstate ranks Baltimore as the most dangerous of 200 U.S. cities for driving. According to a Pew research article based on data from the FBI, in 2017, Baltimore had the second highest murder rate of any U.S. city with 55.8 per 100,000 residents, with St. Louis having the highest rate of 66.1 per 100,000 residents. For comparison, Detroit, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge placed third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, with respective rates of 39.8, 39.5, and 38.3 out of 100,000 residents, far eclipsed by Baltimore. Even worse, for better perspective, Baltimore's homicide rate is about 10.5 times the national average of 5.3 murders per 100,000 residents in 2017.
In October 2016, after a year-long investigation, the Baltimore Sun reported that "gun violence in Baltimore — and in cities across the nation — is concentrated in poor, predominantly black areas," adding that in the previous 5 years, 80% of Baltimore's homicides occurred in one quarter of Baltimore's neighborhoods. A comparison of data on Baltimore's income by neighborhood and homicide rates by neighborhood bears out the connection between poverty and high homicide rates. That would mean that in the most dangerous Baltimore neighborhoods, there is a substantially higher murder rate than the city average.
While Baltimore's high poverty rate — twice the national average — may account for a doubling in violent crime, the city fares so much worse than that. In 2014, according to the federal government's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics, there was also a whopping 1,338.5 acts of violent crime per 100,000 residents in Baltimore. Baltimore health officials estimate that as few as 0.5% of Baltimore's population is responsible for most of the violence. This means that the overwhelming majority of residents in those Baltimore neighborhoods are innocent but must still put up with the high crime rate.
In 2014, Baltimore's homicide rate was 33.8 per 100,000 residents, which spiked by 21.5% to 55.4 per 100,000 residents in 2015. A key driver in the spike in the murder rate in Baltimore was the threat of legal prosecution of police by the Obama administration. Another driver was public outcry, involving protests and riots, in the wake of the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who fell into a coma and later died after being placed in a police van without a seatbelt. USA Today reported that the result was a steep drop-off in police enforcement of crime and a spike in murders. Increased usage of illegal drugs also leads to an increase in violent crime. In 1999, Congressman Cummings made it clear that drugs are a major problem in Baltimore, referring to his district as a "drug-infested area."
Unsurprisingly, Bernie Sanders was correct to note that Baltimore's education system is failing its students. According to a 2011 article in the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore's education budget is $1.2 billion with an average of $15,564 per pupil, the fourth highest per student expenditure out of the largest 100 school districts nationwide. However, only 15 of Baltimore City's 141 schools met federally mandated progress goals in reading and math. In 2017, "Project Baltimore" found that one third of Baltimore's high schools had zero students proficient in math. According to a 2018 article in the Baltimore Sun:
Baltimore City students scored near the bottom in reading and math compared to children in other cities and large urban areas on an important national assessment given in 2017. In fourth- and eighth-grade reading, only 13 percent of city students are considered proficient or advanced. In fourth-grade math, 14 percent were proficient and in eighth-grade math 11 percent met the mark, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally mandated test from the U.S. Department of Education. That put Baltimore ahead of only Detroit and Cleveland, and sometimes ahead of Milwaukee and Fresno, Calif. — areas of the country that also suffer from high poverty and crime.
The bigger picture painted by these data is that poverty and drugs are a couple of the major drivers of high crime, where most of the crime is committed by a small minority of the population. Aside from the crime rate, shorter life span and the high abortion rate linked to poverty further eviscerate inner city communities.
President Trump has proven that he is interested in lifting up low-income areas of the country with opportunity zones designed to spur massive investment in these communities. President Trump is also working to combat drugs, with particular emphasis on opioids, one of the drivers of high crime. Unemployment is continuing to reach new lows under President Trump, including for black Americans. It is high time for Democrats to join President Trump in a bipartisan manner to help disadvantaged communities in an effective way, not merely by throwing more money into the ineffective programs that Democrats have thus far advanced.
President Trump was correct to shine the national spotlight on Baltimore's woes, as decades of indifference and bad policy have proven ineffective in combating serious problems that must be addressed. It is high time for Democrats to choose to shun indifference and failed policy rather than to shun President Trump and Republicans. This can be a game-changer, benefiting disadvantaged Americans of all backgrounds and all political persuasions, and can deliver the salvation and freedom desperately desired and all too long denied.