What if there were a way that cities could put millions of dollars into the school systems without raising taxes? What if your county could fix the roads and invest hundreds of millions into education without going into debt? What if there were a way states could inject funds into jobs and community programs without subtracting money from other items in their budgets?
Right now, conservatives are reading this, rolling their eyes and grabbing their wallets, knowing that this will end in something about helping the poor, underprivileged or—even worse—the coloreds by closing loopholes, or doing something that will make them have to consider a smaller boat for the lake at their second vacation home.
Calm down, Brad. Tell Jennifer not to write that sternly worded letter to your senator yet (you know the Caucasian answer to everything is always some form of “Let me speak to your supervisor”).
There is a simple way to do this, and it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a single dime. The theory is not based on voodoo economics or speculative conjecture; it is based on a centuries-old hypothesis that Republicans often eschew, but we call it “math.” All it would take to accomplish this seemingly impossible goal is change one single practice that is incredibly simple on the surface:
Stop the killing of unarmed people by police.
On Wednesday, Milwaukee’s Common Council approved a $2.3 million settlement to pay to the son of Dontre Hamilton, a black man killed by a Milwaukee police officer in 2014. While this sum may be an insignificant blip in the city’s total budget, it highlights an oft-forgotten fact in the police brutality debate:
Cops don’t pay for police brutality—you do.
There is often a large public outcry when law-enforcement officers don’t face charges or are acquitted after killing unarmed citizens. Likewise, media outlets hop on the outrage bandwagon and trumpet the statistics about brutality, illegal searches and police misconduct. But even when there are no criminal charges or prosecution, juries often find police departments liable in civil cases, resulting in large settlements to victims and their families.
When this happens, cities, counties and states don’t go to the offending police departments and pass the hat until officers come up with the compensation money. Oftentimes, the officer keeps his or her job, the department doesn’t lose funding, and the taxpayers end up paying the salary of a cop who killed an innocent victim and millions in court settlements. in 2015 the Wall Street Journal reported that the 10 largest police departments spent over $1 billion on police brutality cases.
Take Chicago, for instance. Between 2004 and March 2016, the city paid over $662 million in legal fees, settlements and court costs for police misconduct, according to CBS News. After spending $147 million settling lawsuits in 2016, Los Angeles needs to borrow money to cover this year’s projected legal costs. The New York City Police Department paid $482 million in false arrest and civil rights settlements between 2009 and 2014—and that doesn’t include the $228 million it paid in 2016 alone. That’s right: New York City has paid almost three-quarters of a billion dollars because of police misconduct in less than 10 years.
Many are likely to read these numbers and think of the number of people who must have been abused or killed wrongfully, but instead of an emotional argument, consider the conservative argument (no, you don’t have to put on a red tie and say “All lives matter”).
This past year, Chicago Public Schools had 20,973 teachers. With the settlement money for police misconduct, the city could have paid every teacher an extra $3,146.90 per year. With teachers being paid an average salary of $76,000, CPS could have funded 868 more teachers for the city’s schools. Apparently, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would rather cover up for the cop who killed Laquan McDonald than fix the city’s schools.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Los Angeles was 4 percent last month, which is one of the lowest in the country. But if the city hadn’t had to pay that $147 million last year, it could have paid a full-time minimum wage salary to 6,370 more workers. That’s not giving away money. That could be paying citizens to build roads and clean neighborhoods, which eases traffic and raises property values.
How could a real Republican not love that idea? Conservatives always have some shit that traffic has them running late for, and hate when anyone other than a blond family with porcelain skin moves into their neighborhoods, because—no, it’s not racism—they’re worried about the “property value.”
Tuition at the state colleges in New York averaged $6,740 in 2017. Community colleges cost an average of $4,370. If New York’s Police Department stopped violating people’s rights—if only for a year—they could send 19,783 students to a four-year college for free and give a free education to 22,883 community college students. Not or, but and.
Whether it is health care, food stamps or global warming, the conservative argument always boils down to a debate about costs, deficit reduction and overspending. Real right-wing Republicans could watch someone slowly starve to death in front of their bay window overlooking Lake Caucasia as long as it didn’t raise the taxes on their investment-income portfolio. It is always about the bottom line, except when it comes to this single issue. If police discontinued their practice of brutalizing the people they swore to protect and serve, everyone would be richer.
This is why conservatives should be mad at police brutality. It costs them money. Even if they don’t give a damn about black lives, we don’t need a hashtag to know that there is one thing that has always been true about America:
White pockets matter.