Last week, Vice President Joe Biden tried to use the crime situation in Flint to bolster the case for something that the Obama administration insists upon calling a jobs bill. In the process, the VP mangled sex crime statistics and generally came off very much like the understandably agitated young man in the "Bed Intruder" video that went viral last year, singing, “Hide your kids, hide your wife.” Vice President Biden and the administration, however, have no such excuse for their histrionics over crime and their blithe disregard for economic realities in Flint.
First, the crime stats shenanigans: In his speech in Flint last week Vice President Biden claimed that rapes in the city had skyrocketed from 91 in 2008 to 229 in 2010, during which time the city was forced to lay off 57 police officers and 23 firefighters. But FBI uniform crime reports show that reported rapes had dropped from 103 in 2008 to 92 in 2010, while the Michigan State Police also reports that murders, rapes and robberies in Flint decreased during that period. It turns out that Vice President Biden had relied on figures provided by the city that were absurdly deceptive: the figure for 2008 was for rapes, while the figure for 2010 was for all criminal sexual conduct, which is a broader category of crimes. The whole thing was an apples-to-oranges comparison.
The police layoffs were real enough, but the jobs bill isn’t needed to put cops back on the street. A rational, affordable compensation plan for police officers would do just fine and would avoid tax increases on a depressed local economy. According to the Census Bureau, the average full-time police officer in Flint makes $65,416 annually, while the median household income in Flint is only $22,672. A state-appointed financial team currently is examining the city’s books, and could recommend that the state appoint an emergency financial manager.
The Flint Police Officers Association has been less than helpful. Its most recent agreement with the city expired in 2008 and negotiations are still deadlocked. Flint police officers still receive hefty step increases every year, starting at a modest salary of $33,020 but ballooning to $50,600 in their fifth year on the force. The city still offers police a defined-benefit pension, meaning that the city guarantees police officers a retirement income based on salary and years of service, a benefit that is seldom offered in the private sector and that many government agencies are moving away from.
If the union were less intransigent, or if the city were able to act unilaterally to get its finances in order, police officers might have been willing to accept wage freezes and a transition to a defined-contribution retirement plan in order to prevent layoffs and keep more officers on the streets. As it stands, new legislation will effect a wage freeze, at least until a new contract is signed. And a emergency financial manager, if appointed, will probably take a very close look at the city’s pension and other benefits and will be able to act without permission from the union. But this will come too late for those officers already let go — or for the victims of crimes that might have been averted with a stronger police force.
Instead of facing down government employee unions, the Obama administration prefers sending temporary federal funds. The first attempt at a Keynesian “stimulus” having failed, Vice President Biden is now resorting to fear of crime to justify propping up unionized government.
Hide your kids? Hide your wife? More like hide your wallet.
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