After a weekend of police violence and protests, Washington Republicans spent Monday pretending to have a fainting spell over the phrase “defund the police.”
“There won’t be defunding,” said a pearl clutching President Trump, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy similarly faked outrage over protesters pushing public officials to reevaluate the nation’s bloated $115 billion police budget.
Republican leaders would have us believe they love law enforcement and cops, but that is belied by an unmentioned fact: These are the same greedheads who have eagerly pushed to defund the police charged with protecting us from the world’s most dangerous and powerful criminals.
Specifically, they have pushed to defund:
• The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which polices major industrial accidents.
• The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which polices corporations’ compliance with civil rights laws.
• The Consumer Products Safety Commission, which polices industries to make sure their products don’t harm or kill people. The agency now acknowledges that its “funding level has been insufficient to keep pace with the evolving consumer product marketplace.”
• The Internal Revenue Service, which polices the tax system and which is responsible for making sure the wealthy and large corporations pay the taxes they owe. Thanks to this successful effort to defund the police, the agency “conducted 675,000 fewer audits in 2017 than it did in 2010, a drop in the audit rate of 42 percent,” according to ProPublica. With 30,000 fewer tax cops on the beat, a recent Treasury Department report found that 800,000 high-income households have not paid more than $45 billion in owed taxes.
• The Department of Labor, which polices employers and makes sure they aren’t stealing wages, breaking workplace safety rules, ignoring overtime laws, and/or violating workers’ union rights. Amid this particular GOP effort to defund the police, there are now fewer cops scrutinizing employers than ever before and workplace inspections have plummeted -- as workplace injuries, deaths and disasters have increased.
• The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which polices the accounting industry.
• The Securities and Exchange Commission’s reserve fund, which was established after the financial crisis to bolster the agency’s work policing Wall Street. The agency reports that the number of law enforcement staff “supporting our investigation and litigation efforts remained almost 9 percent lower” today than it was at the start of Trump’s term — and now white collar prosecutions have hit an historic low.
• The law enforcement agencies that police corporate mergers. This effort to defund the antitrust police has come as mergers have accelerated (and there has been some recent effort to reverse the defunding).
• The independent law enforcement agency that policed agribusiness monopolies.
• The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which polices the financial industry and works to protect consumers from fraud.
• The law enforcement offices that police federal agencies and root out waste, fraud and abuse.
• The federal program that polices local law enforcement agencies.
• The Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for policing polluters. Trump’s first budget proposed to reduce EPA “spending on civil and criminal enforcement by almost 60 percent,” and laying off 200 environmental cops, according to the New York Times. By the middle of Trump’s first year in office, the EPA had “fewer than half of the criminal special agents on the job” during the George W. Bush administration, according to one environmental advocacy group. Bloomberg News noted that Trump’s most recent budget cuts “could hamper the EPA’s efforts to link contamination at hazardous waste sites to companies and others that may be responsible for the pollution.” The result: environmental prosecutions have now hit an historic low.
Trump has called himself the “president of law and order,” but these efforts to defund the police have created lawlessness and disorder. And yet, that hasn’t been mentioned by the politicians and pundits pretending to be scandalized by protesters’ demands for a change in criminal justice priorities.
Apparently, we’re expected to be horrified by proposals to reduce funding for the militarized police forces that are violently attacking peaceful protesters -- but we’re supposed to obediently accept the defunding of the police forces responsible for protecting the population from the wealthy and powerful.
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