Why Baltimore is Burning

If you want to understand what’s going on in Baltimore right now, just ask John Angelos, the COO of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

Seriously, I’m not kidding.

On Sunday, one day after his team’s stadium was locked down to protect fans from nearby protests, Angelos took to Twitter to respond to Brett Hollander, a local sportscaster angry at protesters for “violat[ing] the basic freedoms of non-protestors.”

While he agreed with Hollander that the “principle of peaceful, non-violent protest… is of utmost importance in any society,” Angelos said that he was ultimately more concerned with the root cause of this week’s unrest: the obliteration of Baltimore’s middle and working class by decades of so-called free trade deals.

“[M]y greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case,” he said,

is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

As Angelos then went on add,

while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

That really is about as good of explanation about of what’s going in Baltimore right now as you’re going to get.

Riots and violent protests do not occur in a vacuum. They are the natural, if unfortunate, outcome of poverty and failed policy.

There is a long history of this from Roman times to the French Revolution forward. In this case, though, the failed policy in question isn’t, as it was in 1789, France’s war debt. Today, it’s so-called free trade.

From the founding of the Republic and really the Reagan and Clinton eras, America operated on the same set of principles set forth by Alexander Hamilton in his famous “Report on Manufactures.” We had tariffs that protected domestic industry, and as result, supported good working-class job.

But then, Nixon, Bush, Reagan and Clinton began embracing a new school of thought about how to grow the wealth of nations. This new school of thought, pushed by Wall Street and corporate America, said that so-called “free trade” deals were the best and fastest way to riches.

All that the free trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA really did, though, was take the most important and profitable part of our economy - manufacturing - and send it overseas. According to Public Citizen, NAFTA alone led to a net loss of over one million jobs.

For cities like Baltimore that thrived off industry and sold manufactured goods all across America, this new era of free trade was a death sentence. It destroyed the American middle class - while building a new Chinese and Vietnamese middle class - and pushed the American working class into poverty.

So while Freddie Gray and years of racist policing may have been the spark for today’s unrest, economic devastation as a result of free trade was the kindling - the root cause of why Baltimore is burning.

If we really want to prevent other cities from the going the way of Baltimore, we will, of course, have to seriously rethink our policing practices. But we’ll also need to rethink our trade policies.

FDR once said the best welfare program is a job, and when capitalism is failing like it is now as a result of Reaganism and so-called free trade, the government needs to step in and do two things: 1) make the government the employer of last resort with a massive public works program, and 2) recalibrate capitalism so that it works for every American.

In this case, “recalibrating capitalism” means going back to the trade policies that worked so well from the founding of the Republic until they were destroyed by the Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.

Right now, as a result of free trade, we are consuming trillions of dollars worth of products from around the world when we could be making them here at home and creating tens of millions of good jobs in the process. It’s time for this insanity to end, both for Baltimore’s sake and the nation’s.

So call your congressman today and tell them that you oppose so-called free trade in all forms, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And let's roll back Reaganism, while we're at it. It's done nothing but rip our country apart and tear down our standard of living.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 4 weeks ago

To see what is happening in this country, AND what will happen, just look in detail at what happened in Germany between WW1 and WW2. Human memory is short and history repeats itself, though not always in the same geological location.

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 4 weeks ago

John Angelos make some good points but I believe the rioters and protesters in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other places are making a statement and that stetement would be, "If police keep harrassing and murdering citizens, and getting away with it, there is going to be hell to pay in costs to the cities where these murders happen in the form of destroyed police cars, violence against cops, extra pay for cops overtime, the loss of revenue from businesses that are destroyed and from unlawfull death lawsuites. Those in our local governments need to pay attention to the real problem and it's not riots. It's the cause of the riots. The unnessary killing of black people by cops".

I'm sure that stupid trade policies that unemploy Americans plays a huge part in the depressed areas where the rioters live. I've sent messages to my Senators asking them not to vote for any trade policies that will not benefit all Americans. There's nothing free about free trade agreements. They are very costly to workers and only benefit CEOs and shareholders. E-mailing your representitives to let them know how you feel about somethig is helpfull and they do pay attention. I always get a responce from them. It's surprising how few e-mails representitives get from their constituants. You want to change things? E-mail your government representitives. They want to hear from you.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 4 weeks ago

I applaud the Baltimore protestors who chased away the Fox propaganda employees.....I certainly can't refer to them as news reporters!

The insidious economic injustice going on all over this country is vastly more widespread and violent than teenagers burning cars. I wonder if guys like Mitt Romney ever think about the pain and hardship they cause working class families when they destroy jobs and loot retirements?......families with children!

ChicagoMatt 8 years 4 weeks ago

Thom correctly points out that this has been the story for four decades now. But he fails to mention what else happened four decades ago: forced bussing, which greatly sped up white flight in the areas where it was practiced.

Like all government-forced social engineering experiments, there were unexpected consequences. In this case, those consequences - white flight - are as much of a problem as the original problem the program - bussing - was supposed to fix.

And, also in the last four decades, blacks have gone from the second-largest, to third-largest minority, behind Hispanics. It's no longer a black/white issue.

It's gotten to the point now where most Americans would rather give aid to the Nepalese, on the other side of the world, than the citizens of Baltimore. The Nepalese didn't bring the earthquake on themselves, and they say "thank you" when you help them.

The mayor of Baltimore spoke about how they had to push CVS to build the pharmacy in that part of town - the CVS that was looted and burned. This is the "thanks" they get for investing in the inner city. Good luck getting that rebuilt.

Suppose that the manufacturing base came back to the USA. How many of those factories would re-open in the inner cities? I'll bet most would go to rural and suburban areas of right-to-work states.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 8 years 4 weeks ago

With very rare exception, Democrats and liberals have both worked to further divide and subdivide the "masses," and worsen conditions in the US, in large part by maintaining an endless pep rally for the better off, the middle class. Our poverty crisis has not been a prefered topic of the liberal bourgeoisie. If they notice poverty at all, they defined it as a black issue, even though the majority of the US poor are white. (I do understand that considering poverty as something that effects "those other people" enables middle classers to feel a measure of economic security.) Does anyone NOT know that it has essentially been "open season" on our homeless poor for years, subjected to brutality by police and citizens alike? And that the majority of these are white? Liberals probably didn't notice because they've spent the last couple of decades waving the banner for middle class elitism. Can you remember the last time that liberals were outraged when a white homeless person was raped, beaten, murdered? Right.

What would it take to knock middle classers out of their complacency? The occassional urban uprising catches the public's attention for a short time, and then it's back to business as usual. In a couple of weeks, liberals and Democrats will resume their pep rally for middle class consumers and campaign donors. We will keep the "masses" divided and conquered, black vs. white. middle class vs. poor.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 8 years 4 weeks ago

Very few (if any) factories would relocate in the inner cities because of the amount of space a factory and its parking facilities require. When there actually are job openings, people in cities are able to use buses to get to work. The great majority of US poor are white, and don't live in inner city communities. America has been sinking because of policy choices made since Reagan. In the real world, not everyone can work (health, etc.), and there aren't jobs for all who desperately need one. While the US was busy shipping out a massive number of our jobs, we were increasing the number of people who need jobs -- with the inevitable consequences. Bill Clinton ended actual welfare aid in the 1990s, worsening conditions for the jobless poor. The last I heard, there are 7 jobs for every 10 people who urgently need one. While that's an improvement, what do you think happens to the three who are left out?

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 4 weeks ago

An interesting comparison. People don't see it. Which is worse? To destroy a business which puts people out of work because you're angry over an injustice. Or, to destroy a business which puts people out of work or to just ruin peoples lives in many different ways for profit. Both are wrong and equally evil but only one is reported in the news as a criminal activity.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 8 years 4 weeks ago

Free Trade was only the mechanism, as Prof. Richard Wolff (PHD Economists) has said, this was the next logical step taken by Capitalists who, in their ongoing need to consistently increase profits, left their long held taxpayer subsidized positions in the U.S. to seek even greater wealth in foreign sweat shop labor countries with modest income tax requirements, no mandated labor protections and no expensive environmental protection requirements ! Our representatives in government were looking the other way in the early nineties when various groups all over the country were soliciting corporate decision makers to attend week long seminars in New York City, and other major business centers, where they would be introduced to the economic benefits and requirements associated with the relocation of their manufacturing jobs and distribution centers to low wage foreign countries. Burying their newly acquired wealth in off shore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. Taxes became a logical extension of this move !

ddanl's picture
ddanl 8 years 4 weeks ago

Let me get this straight Thom, when PPL see $$$s, a Protest is no longer Right? i actually think you came closest to the mark, when you mentioned the French Revolution at the very end of your Article.

we need to have a Revolution, or things will go on EXACTLY the way they have been.

Sorry for the Property damage but we've seen where 'peaceful Protests' have gone. there are Videos on youtube of Pepper Spray & Guns, & the change that NEVER happened.

ChicagoMatt 8 years 4 weeks ago
we need to have a Revolution, or things will go on EXACTLY the way they have been.

That's what the majority of Americans want - things to stay the same or regress to an earlier state. Because, despite what Progressives like to believe, the majority of Americans are perfectly happy, thankyouverymuch. Or, at least, happy and distracted enough to not care for any "Revolution".

dianhow 8 years 4 weeks ago

why did my comment disappear .from yesterday 4/28/15 ? Strange

Robindell's picture
Robindell 8 years 4 weeks ago

There are neighborhoods in Baltimore and other cities where there are no retail stores except for possible liquor stores. Despite all of the complaints about bankers, these inner-city neighborhoods sometimes also lack bank branches. In small cities in suburban and rural areas, there are sometimes more chain stores which are permitted to more in than are needed. Mom and pop and other locally owned stores are put out-of-business. WIth the drought in California, the building of more and more supermakets in certain cities gives the impression that there is an unlimited supply of crops, produce, and water to help grow them. California is the nation's largest agricutural state. Sometimes, these suburban big box and chain stores co-exist; occasionally, a new store might take away business -- and scheduled hours -- of workers at already-existing stores in the same area. Instead of increasing the economic pie, more and more businesses of a similar type open up in a given community, diluting the business among more and more players. I have found that having more than store in relatively close proximity to other stores of the some type does not result in price wars or a significant lowering of prices among the different stores. Some companies have slightly lower prices than do others, but it is not the duplication or competition that is the reason.

I think Chris Hedges is one author who would agree that establishment liberals have largely overlooked urban poverty and deterioration of living conditions in inner-city neighborhoods. But another group of mostly low-income and poor people, the disabled, have also been largely ignored by progressives and by Democrats. A PBS documentary called Autism: Coming of Age has several people, including a Boston attorney who tries to help developmentally disabled people become eligible for state services, pointed out that states have woefully inadequate resources to help the autistic people who were once children and have become adults, and in a majority of instances are living at home with aging parents.

Who will invest in neighborhoods in Baltimore, Detroit, and other cities with high rates of poverty? These neighborhoods often have significant problems involving child-rearing, drug use, and violence. No one knows exactly what could be done to turn things around, even if the government had the money to expand services or try new things.

PaulHosse's picture
PaulHosse 8 years 4 weeks ago

I agree with Angelos. Much of this is about the poor, housing, crime, education, and jobs. But you don't solve any of these problems by looting stores, burning homes and businesses, or by cutting fire hoses. All that does is drive out the very things your community wants and needs. It creates an reputation that no business owner would be dumb enough to invest in the area. The end result, is more blight and fewer jobs, which, in turn, only creates more poor and so the cycle repeats.

Yes, peaceful protests are the way to go; protests which not only expresses a message but should also offer solutions. The death of Mr. Gray didn't cause this. The issues were already there, but where was the leadership to address those issues? Neighborhoods need to own the issues. They need individuals to step up and take ownership and responsibility of what's happening in and around them. This would have helped to attract more investors, and that, in turn, would mean more jobs.

They needed to make sure children in those neighborhoods were getting a proper education, not "flunked through". This nationial black culture that excelling in school, using proper grammer is "acting all white" and discouraged the lazy and low lifes needs to stop. Education--even just high school--is the key to get out of poverty and out of declining neighborhoods. Walking around with your underwear (and sometimes not even that) hanging out doesn't make you look cool. It makes you look like an idiot. Local leaders and ordinary residents need to work with the police to not just keep out these petty thugs and gangbangers, but work to point them out to the police. By the same token, the police can stop behaving like they're the Waffen SS. Intimidation is not good policemanship.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 4 weeks ago

PaulHosse, are you suggesting these black communities are causing their own problems? That all this shit would just go away if only they'd behave themselves, clean up their streets, get up off their lazy black behinds and go find work? Where are the bloody jobs?! In case you haven't noticed, oligarchs and privatizers have left our education system in shambles. The poorer the neighborhood, the crappier the schools. "Proper education"? Gimmie a break. Meanwhile the school-to-prison pipeline is in fine shape these days.

It never ceases to amaze me that so many of my fellow whites assume they are somehow qualified to judge poor black folks and chastise them, and tell them how to solve their problems. “Go to school! Get a job!” is the knee-jerk mantra. Gee, how original. How insightful.

Black folks have been accused of laziness since slavery was the law of the land. Yet this country was built on the backs of black slaves. What's more, black people have contributed more than their share to American culture. We have them to thank for much of the greatest music and literature ever created here. What's more, you guys don’t know squat about these young people you're so busy judging and criticizing, looking down your pointy anglo noses at them like you're so above it all. You have no clue what it’s like, to walk in those shoes. Your arrogance is appalling. It makes me cringe. Apparently nothing Thom has to say about the racism in this country has had any impact on you. If you read Thom's analyses and assessments with an open mind, you might learn a thing or two. But I'm not holding my breath.

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