Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has a brilliant idea. Instead of militarizing local police departments with tanks and heavy equipment, the country should take the billions of dollars and use it to create jobs.
Sen. Sanders said,
When you see the kind of force that’s being used in Ferguson it really does make it appear that the police department there is an occupying army in a hostile territory, and that is absolutely not what we want to see in the United States. I think we gotta rethink a lot this heavy equipment that police departments around the country are utilizing.
The second point is that I hope what Ferguson teaches us is that not only the violence being perpetrated against young black men, but also the economic crisis facing black youth in this country. Ed, youth unemployment in America is tragically high. It is twenty percent. African American youth unemployment is thirty-five percent. In the St. Louis area it is significantly higher than that, and if we are going to address the issue of crime in low income areas and in African-American areas, it might be a good idea that instead of putting heavy equipment into police departments in those areas, we start creating jobs for the kids there who desperately need them.
What a great idea. Instead of making defense contractors rich by spending billions of dollars on equipment that the Pentagon doesn’t even want, the money could be used for job creation programs so that young people who feel like they have no economic opportunities can work.
This formula is tried and true. It has worked for decades. Job creation is one of the keys to building safe and peaceful communities. Democrats have proven since the New Deal that government can encourage and spur job creation. The Republican fantasy that tax cuts for the rich leads to economic advancement for all has failed for the last thirty years. The way forward is to create jobs.
Sen. Sanders was correct. The country doesn’t need militarized local police forces, but young people are yearning for jobs. The militarized police response in Ferguson is strong reminder that how politicians spend taxpayer money matters, and when it is spent on weapons that trickle down into our communities, no one should be surprised at the violent outcome.