Author: Janet Allon
The heads of fact-checkers throughout the land exploded last week, as speakers at the RNC in Cleveland piled lie upon lie upon piles of lies. The favorite of all these lies is the one about crime running rampant and Americans in general being so very unsafe.
It’s just not true.
Paul Krugman dismantles this myth in Monday’s column, starting with his (and Trump’s and Giuliani’s) hometown.
Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city’s worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.
National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it’s not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn’t the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they’re right — it has gotten much better.
So, the question is, what gives with the terrifying premise of the Trump speech—that crime is rampant and that he alone can fix it. (But he can’t tell you how, because then he’d have to kill you.)
It’s only one of Trump’s lies, Krugman notes. Another favorite is the bit about our being the most highly taxed country on earth, when pretty much the opposite is true among comparably economically advanced countries.)
But the fact that crime is not actually running in any way rampant is a fact that can be seen by anyone with eyes. Yet, all too many voters, and possibly a majority of white men, buy it. Again, why? Krugman:
One answer is that, according to Gallup, Americans always seem to believe that crime is increasing, even when it is in fact dropping rapidly. Part of this may be the wording of the question: People may have a vague, headline-fueled sense that crime is up this year even while being aware that it’s much lower than it used to be. There may also be some version of the “bad things are happening somewhere else” syndrome we see in consumer surveys, where people are far more positive about their personal situation than they are about the economy as a whole. Again, however, it’s one thing to have a shaky grasp on crime statistics, but something quite different to accept a nightmare vision of America that conflicts so drastically with everyday experience. So what’s going on?
Krugman’s hypothesis is that the fear is displaced. The old order is kaput. The country is becoming less racist and sexist overall, with rising diversity and muddier gender roles. Making America Great again probably involves getting women back in the home once again. Trump VP pick Mike Pence is all about espousing those traditional values, and even absurdly once wrote an essay descrying the Disney movies Mulan for featuring a strong, warrior-like heroine. Sad. Here’s the simple truth that conservatives cannot abide. All the social changes that the sixties began to usher in have made America safer, maybe even greater! The truth hurts.