Blaming 'Inequality' for riots is an opportunity for the GOP

Big government’s failures are on display in Baltimore. Watching the often-incoherent TV interviews of angry demonstrators in Baltimore, a theme that recurred was “inequality.” The Democrats, from Elizabeth Warren to Hillary Clinton have attempted to make this their theme, and the Occupy Movement, so beloved of the media as a counterweight to the tea party but oddly quiet for the last year-plus (since the elections are over) has pushed hatred of those with more money than most.

But a counter-argument is ripe for the taking by Republicans, especially in the wake of Baltimore. It is, in fact, the Democrats’ policies that drive inequality. Ion his excellent article on Democrats’ responsibility for the mess that is Baltimore, Kevin Williamson observed:

And the kids in the street screaming about “inequality”? Somebody should tell them that the locale in these United States with the least economic inequality is Utah, i.e. the state farthest away from the reach of the people who run Baltimore. Keep voting for the same thing, keep getting the same thing.

Williamson’s National Review colleague David French brings the point down to the city level:

 So let’s examine inequality. It turns out that the more “blue” a city is, the greater its level of income inequality — inequality compounded by a lack of affordable housing. This chart, from The Atlantic, is telling:

Translation: As a city gets increasingly blue, its housing gets increasingly unaffordable. There is a deep literature tying liberal residents to illiberal housing policies that create affordability crunches for the middle class. In 2010, UCLA economist Matthew Kahn published a study of California cities, which found that liberal metros issued fewer new housing permits. The correlation held over time: As California cities became more liberal, he observed, they built fewer homes. Are the riots caused by an expansive government, which uses police officers as the tip of the spear to enforce social reform? The expansive regulatory state criminalizes everything from legitimate crimes to selling “loosies,” the individual cigarettes that triggered the New York City police’s fatal encounter with Eric Garner.

Conservatives instinctively tend to support law and order, and therefore the police. But we often lose sight of the fact that the police are an arm of big government, often brought in to enforce the policies of big government (e.g., selling loosies), as much or more than protecting private property.

There is a small government case to be made to the inner cities of America. They know that big government has failed them and they are angry. School choice, deregulation, tax cuts and other methods of revitalizing cities should be raised as alternatives to the Democrats’ call for “more cow bell.”

The GOP needs to learn how to play offense, not just defense.