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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Bush Takes Cops Off the Beat


In the first issue of the Economists' Voice, Yale Crime expert John Donohue evaluates ex-President Clinton's claim to a share of the credit for the fall in crime during his adminstration. Donohue writes,
With an astonishing 40 percent drop in the murder rate and a 33 percent drop in the violent crime rate during his two terms in office, Clinton certainly had much to crow about. In sharp contrast, there has been virtually no drop in crime in the last four years.
Donohue gives Clinton credit for reducing violent crime by about 6 to 8 percent, mainly by providing federal funds to local authorities to hire police, which put about 80,000 new cops on the street. In contrast, Bush has pretty much eliminated this funding, perhaps because a lot of it went to big cities where he gets few votes. And local communities have been reducing the size of the police force, after having gone on a hiring spree during the Clinton years (see the graph below). John Kerry has promised to restore funding to hire 100,000 new police officers.

Even leaving aside the increased crime Bush's cuts have probably caused, this is also one way in which Bush's policies have raised state and local taxes. Local governments haven't laid off all 80,000 new cops. They've kept many of them on the beat, replacing the federal money with local money.

I'm pretty impressed by the first article I've read in this new web publication. Kudos to editors Stiglitz, DeLong, and Edlin.

Police per 100,000, from Donohue (Economists' Voice 2004)
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