Sunday, December 22, 2013

Camden, Yet Again

Rolling Stone has decided to get into the Camden act with a lengthy article, Apocalypse, New Jersey. It's pretty standard liberal fare, with budget cuts and union contracts and race discussed, ad naseum. It's also a pretty good hit piece on Chris Christie, who slashed state subsidies to the city, resulting in mass police layoffs.
On January 18th, 2011, the city laid off 168 of its 368 police officers, kicking off a dramatic, years-long, cops-versus-locals, house-to-house battle over a few square miles of North American territory that should have been national news, but has not been, likely because it took place in an isolated black and Hispanic ghost town.

After the 2011 layoffs, police went into almost total retreat. Drug dealers cheerfully gave interviews to local reporters while slinging in broad daylight. Some enterprising locals made up T-shirts celebrating the transfer of power from the cops back to the streets: JANUARY 18, 2011 – it's our time. A later design aped the logo of rap pioneers Run-DMC, and "Run-CMD" – "CMD" stands both for "Camden" and "Cash, Money, Drugs" – became the unofficial symbol of the unoccupied city, seen in town on everything from T-shirts to a lovingly rendered piece of wall graffiti on crime-ridden Mount Ephraim Avenue.

Cops started calling in sick in record numbers, with absenteeism rates rising as high as 30 percent over the rest of 2011. Burglaries rose by a shocking 65 percent. The next year, 2012, little Camden set a record with 67 homicides, officially making it the most dangerous place in America, with 10 times the per-capita murder rate of cities like New York: Locals complained that policing was completely nonexistent and the cops were "just out here to pick up the bodies." The carnage left Camden's crime rate on par with places like Haiti after its 2010 earthquake...
As expected from a hipster rag like Rolling Stone, there's nothing whatsoever in there questioning why the residents voluntarily turned feral. It's bad form to criticize things you love to do yourself, so sleeping around and smoking blunts is not the problem, the problem is a lack of subsidies and media attention. The author, Matt Taibbi, clearly has no interest whatsoever in being labeled a prude and his article is suffused with the foundational assumptions that underlie the kinds of attacks that our friend Renee faces all the time.

What's missing from the article is any kind of vision for the future where Camden is self-sustaining. The residents are little more than wards of the State and pitiable creatures who, quite naturally in Taibbi's mind, turn to crime and depravity as a matter of course. Nothing else can be expected of them, and the rest of us seem condemned to support and absolve them for the rest of our lives.

That's not going to happen in a nation where massive government borrowing is being financed with printed money. Whether Mr. Taibbi likes it or not, the residents of Camden are on their own and people like Matt need to start factoring that into their articles.

This is all your fault because you aren't giving them enough money.

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