No, Harry Reid, Crushing Poverty Does Not Cause Violence

Harry Reid thinks crushing poverty explains the violence of the riots—though he is quick to say he does not condone the violence.

Before I explain how wrong he is, let me first thank Harry Reid for bringing up justice reform as a bipartisan issue. The Daily Caller reports that he did so:

So instead of turning a blind eye, let’s work together and take this problem seriously. There is bipartisan work being done on criminal justice reform and that is a good start.

For once, Reid is absolutely right. I have blogged about justice reform before.

But Reid is wrong to claim that poverty causes people to commit crimes against others.

“We cannot condone the violence we see in Baltimore. But we must not ignore the despair and hopelessness that gives rise to this kind of violence,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor late Tuesday afternoon.

“It doesn’t matter if you live in Searchlight or Las Vegas, in Baltimore or rural Maryland: when there is no hope, anger and despair move in. So let’s condemn the violence. But let’s not ignore the underlying problem. Let’s not pretend the system is fair. Let’s not pretend everything is okay.”

Reid added, “So instead of turning a blind eye, let’s work together and take this problem seriously. There is bipartisan work being done on criminal justice reform and that is a good start.”

It is simply not true that poverty makes people burn down other people’s property. Every time you claim such a thing you basically reward the violent and marginalize the honest. You are communicating to the poor that they have an excuse to riot, even though you say you don’t condone violence.

If you don’t believe me, then ask the family of Freddie Gray. It would be understandable if they claimed that rioting was caused by poverty. But that is not how they feel at all.

Should people who are poor and reject violence be treated as if they don’t matter? When you excuse violence you take away a main reason for abstaining from the violence.