The Bleeding Hearts Dry Up 3 - Charity that Fails

Lefty justice "reform" harms the innocent and the guilty.

Human nature instinctively tells us the goal of any fight: victory.  We want our side to win, and the other side to lose!

We expect politics to work this way, too; a constant theme here at Scragged is how the Left fights to win, and the Right, when it fights at all, tends not to expect to win or even know how to exploit a victory should it happen into one by accident.

Yet a strange thing has been occurring on the Left over the past half-century.  In our first article, we looked at examples where the Left named an objective, fought for it for reasons stated, and won both their objective and for the reasons they said.  They opposed the Vietnam War because it was killing Americans and Vietnamese.  They achieved the end of the war, and American soldiers did in fact stop dying.

But the next article in this series discussed a rather different example: the crusade to save the spotted owl by reducing logging in the American northwest by 80%.  This shut down a number of sawmills, cost thousands of relatively well-paying jobs, increased the cost of timber used for housing, and left trees to rot on the ground instead of being turned into useful products.  So the goal of preserving spotted owl habitat was wholly achieved.

Not the stated actual objective, though!  The logging halt didn't make a bit of different for owls - their population continued to drop.  The real problem apparently was a larger owl moving into its territory and competing for the same resources - Darwinian nature at work, and having nothing much to do with the hand of man in any case.

The fact that their crusade didn't make any difference to the owl while destroying the lives of thousands of actual human beings bothered activists not at all.  The foot soldiers felt virtuous because they'd been so sincere in their desire to help the poor beleaguered owl, and the leaders of the movement reveled in the political power and money gained by their lobbying efforts.

Well, we all know about the Law of Unintended Consequences, and everyone makes mistakes occasionally, right?  True - but as we'll see in this series, there have been so many apparent failures on the Left which nevertheless gave their leaders increased power, money, and influence achieved by their activist groups that it's more logical to suppose that gaining power and money was the real objective all along.  As long as the foot soldiers don't care about unfortunate consequences and keep supporting the movement, why should the leaders care?

Neither Truth Nor Consequences

As with the completely unhelped owls, we see total disregard for consequences in other "bleeding heart" crusades.  It's become clear, for example, that the "Fight for $15" crusade to increase minimum wages for restaurant workers means that people who receive the minimum wage end up working fewer hours and take home less money.  The Fight for 15 hurts the very people it's supposed to help, as anyone with a modicum of economic knowledge could predict.

Obviously, an unemployed person is less well off than one making $12/hr., or so you'd think - yet despite clear evidence that it's a bad idea, the "Fight for $15" continues on into new fields where people worth less than $15 still have jobs vs. sitting home collecting unemployment and welfare.

The ever-self-confident Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continues to advocate minimum wage increases in spite of the fact that one of the bars where she worked before being elected to the House of Representatives closed when its payroll costs jumped.

Perhaps as a consequence, the city in 2018 experienced its first year of negative full-service employment growth in nearly two decades. A survey of city restaurateurs by the New York City Hospitality Alliance found that 36% slashed jobs last year[emphasis added]

The Restaurant Opportunities Center is one of the major organizations pushing for the wage increase.  The Post article reveals where their heart lies:

One of ROC's organizers explained "you can't do payroll [union dues] deductions" when employees are earning their income through tips.  (Bracketed [union dues] in the original)

In other words, from the perspective of at least one of the leftist organizations pushing for a higher minimum wage, they couldn't care less about the people actually earning that wage.  Their goal is to change the laws so that the money passes through a channel which makes it easier for them to steal some of it as union dues!  Bear in mind that workers are always perfectly free to pay union dues if they want to - ROC's goal is simply to make sure they are paid electronically, by their employer, so the union dues can be forcibly deducted before the worker even gets a paycheck.  How evil can you get!

As we see it, this sort of naked union-driven opportunism should give all crusades a bad name, but that doesn't seem to be happening.  It does, however, suggest that activist groups are far more concerned about benefiting themselves than about improving the lives of the people or critters they claim to want to help.

Justice "Reform"

California and New York activists have crusaded for "criminal justice reform" for many years.  There is no question that there is a lot wrong with our justice system.  We're profoundly concerned with how prosecutors abuse suspects by hiding exculpatory evidence and setting "perjury traps" for people who think they should cooperate because they believe that law enforcement officers are on the side of truth.  We've even put our mouths where our hearts are, writing on this subject repeatedly over the years.

"King George Rides Again" showed how our bureaucrats write rules to create "crimes" that can send you to jail.  Prosecutors get rated on the amount of jail time they inflict which is easy to measure; the lives destroyed, of course, appear in nobody's spreadsheet.

"Injustice" has the story of an innocent man who spent $2 million on lawyers and finally copped a plea for 6 months in Club Fed as opposed to 150 years if he'd gone to trial, going into more detail on how they work you over.

We agree with the Wall Street Journal that our current plea bargaining system needs drastic overhaul.  The good news is, some states are trying to make changes, in our great laboratory of democracy!

The bad news is, what these states did wasn't what we or the Wall Street Journal had in mind.  City Journal tells what happened:

Today, in some West Coast cities, the Supermarket Sweep isn't a game show - it's a dark reality, fueled by addiction, crime, and bad public policy. From Seattle to Los Angeles, a "shoplifting boom" is hitting major retailers, which deal with thousands of thefts, drug overdoses, and assaults each year. Since 2010, thefts increased by 22 percent in Portland, 50 percent in San Francisco, and 61 percent in Los Angeles. In total, California, Oregon, and Washington reported 864,326 thefts to the FBI last year. The real figure is likely much higher, as many retailers have stopped reporting most shoplifting incidents to police.  [emphasis added]

In other words, these states decided to reduce the number of incarcerated criminals by not arresting them in the first place.  A child could have predicted the result.

The reason for the spike in crime is simple - lawbreakers are as skilled at profit and loss calculations as anyone else.  If the consequences of crime are reduced while the rewards remain constant, crime will increase:

In Portland, a repeat offender nicknamed the "Hamburglar" stole $2,690 worth of meat in one year. He bluntly told police officers: "I know the law. I know the rules. I know what I can and can't do . . . I'm never going to get over $1,000 at any store."

Activists could argue that it's good for such people not to go to jail, but what about the rest of society?  Is it really a good idea to teach so many youngish people that a lifetime of thievery is a viable way to make a living?

Of course, shopkeepers aren't stupid: merchants are adapting by moving out of cities which will make it harder for everyone in the city to obtain the goods they need.  Haven't leftist activists been complaining about "food deserts," where there are no grocery stores for miles around and nothing to eat beyond McGarbage?  Far from helping the lives of poor people, allowing lawlessness is making their lives worse by driving away merchants and jobs.

This is the same unintended consequences that always happens whenever someone tries to create a phony improvement in results by lowering standards.  The simplest way for high schools to boost "graduation" rates, for example, is to just award diplomas regardless of student achievement - with the temporary effect that their numbers look good, but the long-term result is that the diplomas become meaningless and therefore worthless.  Similarly, the simplest way to "reduce" crime is to just change its definition:

California's Proposition 47, approved by nearly 60 percent of voters statewide in 2014, reclassified many drug and property felonies as misdemeanors, effectively decriminalizing thefts of $1,000 or less. Many criminals now believe, justifiably, that they can steal with impunity. ...

How will progressive cities balance a desire to reduce incarceration rates with a commitment to protect businesses? For now, city leaders refuse to consider how mass decriminalization fuels a breakdown in public order.  [emphasis added]

Although one of the stated goals of our prison system is rehabilitation, at which it fails miserably, jail also has the desirable effect of keeping lawbreakers off the streets.  There is plenty of crime committed behind bars, but the victims are generally other jailbirds, not law-abiding members of society.  Thus, anything that makes it harder to lock up street thugs keeps them out and about where they will inflict more crimes on innocent citizens.

Now, not every accused person is actually guilty, and as we well know, not even every convicted one is.  But at least when you have a trial in open court, there's an opportunity to make the arguments on both sides and get them in the public record.

For that to work, though, there has to actually be a trial that people show up for.  The New York Post reports on a new New York law which makes it even harder for judges to require that accused people post bail to assure that they'll be there when their turn comes:

And the Legislature has guaranteed that it'll [the problem of repeat offenders] get worse come Jan. 1.

That's when the new "no bail" law kicks in, removing judges' discretion to remand defendants they deem a danger to the public. ...

Nearly all defendants, excepting only the most violent, will go free without having to post bail - and mostly without services that might keep them on the straight and narrow.

Defendants who don't post bail seldom show up for trial.  When they don't appear, judges issue arrest warrants which consume police time - and even then, bail can't be demanded until they've missed several court dates in succession.  Mayor DeBlasio is suggesting that defendants be awarded cell phone cards or sports tickets as rewards for appearing in court!

Mayor de Blasio’s $12 million supervised-release program to entice accused criminals back to court - something they are required by law to do - gifts them with everything from movie tickets to cellphones.  [emphasis added]

March of the Woking Dead

We've pointed out that California's absurdly high housing costs coupled with excess permissiveness with respect to defecating in public have led to the revival of medieval diseases such as typhus and probably the bubonic plague.  California is also suffering an explosion in property crimes as the voters decided to raise the threshold for stealing to be taken seriously.

In "America's Inner-City Cartels," the Wall Street Journal reminds us that going "soft on crime" either by changing the laws or making it impossible for police to enforce them also leads to an increase in more serious crimes such as murder.

Americans were naturally shocked by the brutality of the [Mexican drug] cartels. But it would be a mistake to think it doesn't happen here. Similarly brutal crimes frequently occur among black Americans in our own cities, generating much less coverage. ...

Nationwide, the tragic number of unsolved murders was documented in a 2018 study by the Washington Post that mapped nearly 55,000 homicides in 55 cities. The study identified inner-city areas "where murder is common but arrests are rare," dubbing these crime-plagued communities "pockets of impunity."  [emphasis added]

Unsolved murders have been increasing for years.  When too few murders are solved, thugs rightly believe that they have a high probability of getting away with murder, particularly when honest citizens have been disarmed and can't shoot back.

The Boston Herald ran a series pointing out that unsolved murders were much more common in black neighborhoods than in white areas.  The police pointed out that black people don't want to talk to the police - the saying "Snitches Get Stitches" is not just a T-shirt slogan but a sober fact.  In most cases, it simply isn't possible to solve murders without cooperation from the community.

Take St. Louis, where 14 children and teens were shot dead in a three-month period from May through July. By August, only one arrest had been made in any of those cases-a bleak trend police attribute to locals' unwillingness to report suspects. Even the brother of a victim declared that "around St. Louis we don't snitch on people. We keep it in the streets."

Low-income black neighborhoods throughout the U.S. are becoming more isolated and more dangerous in part because of the efforts of self-proclaimed social-justice warriors, including members of Black Lives Matter. These activists demonize law enforcement, making it harder for police to gain residents' trust. They sometimes openly celebrate violence against police.  [emphasis added]

The Journal touched on the same phenomenon we've been writing about.  As tree huggers and critter crusaders gained wealth and power from their activism, anti-police activists such as Black Lives Matter have gained influence by vilifying the forces of law and order.

BLM got its start with the meme "hands up, don't shoot" which proclaimed that Michael Brown had been murdered in Ferguson, even though there was overwhelming evidence that the police officer acted in self-defense.  The lie was so outrageous that the Washington Post eventually had to apologize for writing about it and gave it four Pinocchios, yet the BLM activists were invited to the White House by President Obama.  More recently, several Democrat candidates for President carried on the lie in saying that Mr. Brown had been murdered.

... three Democratic presidential candidates - Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and billionaire Tom Steyer - said last month that Brown was murdered. These candidates haven’t backed down in the face of press queries and fact checks. Warren even dismissed a face-to-face question about the DOJ report that cleared Wilson. ...

Despite subsequent fact checks by CNN, Vox, the Post, and, not one of these candidates has corrected his or her statement about the shooting.

Activism benefits activists and politicians think that supporting activists will get them votes.  This is why activism is becoming so common regardless of outcome.

The elite promoters of this blanket forgiveness [of violent criminals] don't suffer the consequences of their advocacy because they don't live in the ZIP codes where rates of crime and violence are high. Most live in safe, well-to-do communities where the police are encouraged to enforce the laws, supplemented by private security.

As the social-justice warriors and race-grievance experts continue to wage war against the police, trust of law enforcement deteriorates further, and predators face no consequences. Law-abiding citizens in the afflicted communities are sometimes forced to seek protection from the people preying on them. America is on the verge of surrendering authority to the lawless forces in our inner cities. In short, we could have Mexico in America.

Reining in prosecutorial abuse would be a good idea.  Coming up with some way to deal with drug addicts other than locking them up with murderers and rapists would be a great idea.

But is activism which makes reporting shoplifting not worth the bother, puts repeat offenders back on the street, ignoring defendants who don't appear in court, or making it difficult for police to do their jobs going to benefit society in the long run?  Do activists care about how outcomes affect ordinary citizens?  Or only about gaining political and economic power while helping their footsoldiers feeling virtuous?

You might think that keeping the guilty out of jail at least helps them.  Maybe.  Or maybe it keeps them on the mean streets unprotected, where they'll get shot by some other thug.

For all that jail is hardly a place of peace and repose, it's not usually quite as filled with utterly unrestrained murderous violence as the lives many gangbangers live - to say nothing of the at least theoretical possibility of a religious conversion or otherwise life-changing reform experience behind bars.

Of course, worrying about shoplifters is only relevant if you have something to steal, and calling the cops, for what it's worth, is possible only when the phone is working.  Crusade-driven "renewable energy" mandates to "Save the Planet" are working hard to resolve these tensions by taking California from a first world technical civilization down into the ranks of the third world where electric power is subject to costly blackouts and maintenance-related failures even though it costs two or three times the national average.

We'll explore that in our next article, assuming you don't live in California or Venezuela and your power and Internet are still working.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

Superb series of articles, as was the last one on homelessness. Such a deep pleasure to read the products of a sound mind combined with painstaking research and written with the skills that were far more common seventy years ago, and can seldom be found now. Please keep going!

December 15, 2019 6:20 PM
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