Among the many well-intentioned but IMO ill-considered ways of stimulating the economy I’ve been reading about, one that I find particularly poorly thought out is to hire more teachers and police officers.
There is no straight line relationship between teachers and educational performance or police officers and public safety. There’s scholarship suggesting that cutting class sizes in half would improve educational performance but not much saying that reducing classroom sizes by one student results in improvement. Nobody is talking about cutting class sizes in half—they’re talking about reducing class sizes by a student or two.
If there’s a relationship between police officers and public safety it’s an inverse relationship. Chicago has the highest number of police officers per 100,000 population of any city in the United States. Higher than New York or Los Angeles or Philadelphia or Detroit and much higher than Dallas or Miami or, indeed, any southern city. It also has the highest intentional homicide rate among major cities and higher rates of violent crime, generally.
While I’m on the subject it is simply untrue that we’ve been skimping on healthcare or education or infrastructure over the last 30 years in the United States. That’s a lie. We spend more in real terms in all three of those areas than we did 30 years ago, in the cases of healthcare and education more per capita by a several multiples in real terms. Our problem in those areas is much more insidious: we’re not getting value for the money we spend.
The most significant reason that the federal government shouldn’t spend more to “put cops on the streets” or hire more teachers can be stated in one, simple question: what happens next year? Those cops and teachers have wages to pay, healthcare to support, the cost of which is not under control, and unaffordable pensions. Those pensions will need to be paid long after the federal appropriation runs out and when interest rates are much, much higher than they are now. How could they not be? What happens then? The cities are already strapped.