RealClearInvestigations Newsletters: RCI Today

RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

Picks of the Week
May 12 to May 18, 2024


Featured Investigation:
Should You Believe Faulty U.S. Crime Stats
or Your Own Lying Eyes?

That’s a Tough Call

In RealClearInvestigations, James Varney reports why many criminologists believe official numbers do not accurately gauge true levels of crime, no matter how much political leaders and media try to spin them:

  • A case is point is a recent modest drop in murders for 2023. That's touted as progress, but only in comparison with heightened crime of recent years, not compared with much lower levels before the pandemic and anti-police turmoil of 2020. 

  • The crime experts note that stats have become notoriously incomplete, with big cities in some years failing to report some or all their numbers to the FBI.

  • That's thanks largely to the FBI's complex, time-consuming and disruptive system of reporting introduced in 1988: the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

  • There have also been problems with the numbers that are submitted, including the misreporting of sex crimes in New Orleans and discrepancies from Baltimore, where police and news reports put 2022’s homicide total much higher than the FBI’s.

  • Declining arrest rates and slowing police response times to 911 calls also help explain why polls show Americans believe crime is rising – even if stats say otherwise.

  • Auto thefts may better capture the state of crime and perceptions: Car thefts, unlike petty and even violent crimes, tend to be reported because of the large insured property loss. 

  • And car thefts have risen steadily – in San Diego, for example, with a whopping 27% jump in 2021, contributing to the typical American’s perception of increased crime.

Waste of the Day

Embattled Illinois Mayor’s Sky-High Pay, RCI
Maine's $85M Checkpoint Less Traveled, RCI
NY State-Funded College Groups Pass Anti-Israel Resolution, RCI
Music Charity's Funky Sounds of Silence, RCI
Taxpayer Funding of NPR, RCI

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Whites Need Not Apply
to These Veterans' Training Programs
Washington Free Beacon

Apparently in response to President Biden’s 2021 executive order making racial equity a guiding principle of the federal government, the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering race-based training programs and workshops that exclude white veterans. This article reports:

  • In Battle Creek, Mich., for example, the VA offers a "BIPOC Support Group," an "8-week curriculum designed to provide support for Veterans that identify as people of color/BIPOC, or as multiracial or biracial," according to a program description. The Battle Creek VA also offers a "Race-Based Stress/Trauma and Empowerment" program, a "weekly group, tailored to our Veterans of color, to address race-based stress and trauma in a safe and validating environment."

  • In Long Beach, Calif., the VA also offers a "Race-Based Stress/Trauma Empowerment Group," which it says is for "Veterans who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and who are interested in addressing issues of race-based stress, trauma, resilience, and empowerment."  

  • A similar program in Palo Alto, Calif., invites "Women Veterans of color" to join a "10-week group to explore [the] impact of racism on your well-being."

  • In Minneapolis, meanwhile, a VA-sponsored "Black Veterans peer support group" welcomes "all Veterans who self-identify as Black" to learn "skills that help protect against the negative impact of racial stress and trauma by increasing feelings of belongingness, connectedness to racial/ethnic identity and empowerment." 

  • And the VA's Central Ohio Health Care System advertises a "Minority Stress & Empowerment" group, an eight-week series "open to Black, Indigenous and all Veterans of color who are interested in addressing race-based stress and trauma."

The article reports that in other settings such race-based offerings have landed private entities in hot water. Last year, amid legal scrutiny, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer amended a fellowship program to remove a provision that barred whites and Asians from applying. 

Other Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Biden Stonewalls Congress on Hur's Tapes of Him, Washington Post
Anti-Trump DOJ Partisans Prep Hits on His Past Hires, Federalist
NIH Finally Admits U.S. Funded Gain-of-Function in Wuhan, New York Post
Truman Scholarships Hugely Favor Progressives, Again, College Fix
Biden and Big Oil Like CO2 Pipelines, but Many Say 'NIMBY', Washington Post
Hunter Biden Money Man Is 'Tapped Out', Politico

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Nonprofits Are Making Billions
Off the Border Crisis
Free Press

The border crisis may be a liability for President Biden, but it’s a huge boon to nonprofits getting rich off government contracts. This article reports that the federal government has delegated much of the task of handling unaccompanied minor children – a record 130,000 in 2022 – to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that run shelters in the border states of Texas, Arizona, and California, swelling their coffers, along with the salaries of their CEOs:

The Free Press examined three of the most prominent NGOs that have benefited: Global Refuge, Southwest Key Programs, and Endeavors, Inc. These organizations have seen their combined revenue grow from $597 million in 2019 to an astonishing $2 billion by 2022, the last year for which federal disclosure documents are available. And the CEOs of all three nonprofits reap more than $500,000 each in annual compensation, with one of them—the chief executive of Southwest Key – making more than $1 million. Some of the services NGOs provide are eyebrow-raising. For example, Endeavors uses taxpayer funds to offer migrant children “pet therapy,” “horticulture therapy,” and music therapy. In 2021 alone, Endeavors paid Christy Merrell, a music therapist, $533,000. … the nonprofit conducted 1,656 “people-plant interactions” and 287 pet therapy sessions between April 2021 and March 2023. 

Corporate America's Hooked
on Prison Labor

There are 800,000 incarcerated workers in the U.S., and they do roughly $10 billion worth of work a year, more than $2 billion of it for clients outside the prison system, this article reports. Those engaged by private companies can get as little as $2 an hour, after the prison system takes its cut. A class action lawsuit in Alabama is targeting the practice – which occurs across the country. Quote:

Prison labor touches almost every corner of American life. Prisoners farm on former slave plantations in Louisiana and upholster high school auditorium furniture in Massachusetts. They produce Russell Stover chocolates in Kansas and handle DMV customer service calls in New York. In 2014 lawyers for Kamala Harris, then California’s attorney general, argued against easing the state’s parole process because it was so dependent on captive firefighters. During the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, prisoners washed hospital laundry, made masks and dug mass graves. These days, they’re also building more prisons.

Utah’s prison labor agency alone has provided goods or services to hundreds of private clients over the past decade, including the Boy Scouts of America, Cold Stone Creamery, the Nature Conservancy, Smithfield Foods and the Sundance Film Festival, according to documents obtained via a public records request. Earlier this year, an Associated Press investigation found prison labor in the supply chains of dozens of prominent companies including Cargill, Coca-Cola, Kroger, Target and Walmart.

The article reports that a class action suit filed is Alabama is suing the state’s governor, attorney general, the prisons commissioner, parole board leaders, and a slew of cities, along with companies they claim rely on forced labor, including Hyundai supplier Ju-Young, beer distributor Bama Budweiser of Montgomery, and franchisees of KFC, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s. The plaintiffs, who are all black, allege that the government officials colluded to keep black people imprisoned and available as cheap labor and that the companies conspired to profit from the coerced work.

How Bad Cops Become
Private Security Guards
Marshall Project

With the number of sworn police officers dwindling nationwide and departments struggling to attract new recruits, many businesses are turning to security guards, who outnumber police officers by a significant margin. But, this article reports, there’s growing evidence that failed cops with troubling histories of abuse — including excessive force — can easily find second careers in private security:

About 30% of former police officers working as private security guards in Florida had been fired or faced complaints for serious “moral character violations” while they were officers, according to a recent academic study. The misconduct included felony crimes, excessive force or false statements in court. Some aspiring officers who couldn't pass a basic policing test or get a job in law enforcement also turned to private security, the study found. … [The Marshall Project] found numerous examples of cops with histories of complaints in law enforcement becoming private security guards and then shooting and killing people. In one case, an apartment complex guard in Georgia, who had repeatedly faced complaints of racial profiling, got in a fight with one resident and fatally shot him. The guard was not charged criminally. In another case, a guard working for a public transit agency in San Diego shot and killed a man after he had been detained and laid on his stomach. Some officers who have been fired after accusations of sexual misconduct have also landed in private security jobs that put them in close contact with the public and even children. 

Hospitals Refusing to Do Surgeries
Unless You Pay in Full First
Wall Street Journal

For years, hospitals and surgery centers waited to perform procedures before sending bills to patients – often leaving those providers chasing after patients for payment, repeatedly sending invoices and enlisting debt collectors. Federal law requires hospitals to take care of people in an emergency, regardless of their ability to pay, so more hospitals and surgery centers are now demanding upfront payment for non-emergencies to protect their bottom lines:

Advance billing helps the facilities avoid hounding patients to settle up. Yet it is distressing patients who must come up with thousands of dollars while struggling with serious conditions. Those who can’t come up with the sums have been forced to put off procedures. Some who paid up discovered later they were overcharged, then had to fight for refunds. Among the procedures that hospitals and surgery centers are seeking prepayments for are knee replacements, CT scans and births.

While the pay-me-now strategy will force some patients to forgo care, there is a silver lining for patients. Upfront billing provides price transparency in a notoriously opaque system – knowing the cost ahead of service gives them the opportunity to comparison-shop and avoid getting walloped with a huge bill unexpectedly.

In a separate article, KFF Health News reports that the high medical costs are scaring some off from having kids. “About 12% of the 100 million U.S. adults with health care debt attribute at least some of it to pregnancy or childbirth, according to a KFF poll.”