Thursday Edition


Correction: In yesterday’s edition we mistakenly referred to Alabama Sen. Katie Britt as an Alaskan senator.

1. Conspiracy Theories as Emotional Support Blankets

Why has the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore prompted such bizarre reactions? (Commentary)

Video of the incident shows a containership striking a support pillar, sending huge segments of the bridge crashing into the water. Just before the collision, officials say the ship’s crew issued a mayday call informing the Maryland Department of Transportation they’d lost control of the vessel.

While all signs point to a freak accident, it hasn’t stopped left and right from politicizing the collapse. A number of politicians have blamed DEI, or diversity, equity and inclusion. Social media’s been awash with conspiracy theories about the bridge.

One reason people seem hellbent on finding someone to point the finger at is the American trust crisis. The public’s faith in our institutions (media, government, corporations) has been declining sharply for years. But conspiracy theories can help make sense of a world that feels like it’s spinning out of control.

Commentary Magazine editor John Podhoretz: “There's a larger world in which the conspiracy theories are a way emotionally of dealing with the trust issue and the anxiety that it provokes. Because of course, what we have here is a freak accident, right? … And randomness is terrifying. But if it's a plot, if this only happened because a hostile country or somebody took control of the ship and steered it into the bridge to collapse the bridge, then the world makes more coherent sense … and eliminates randomness, which is one of the things that terrifies people so much, particularly at a time of low trust.”

2. How Venezuela’s Problems Became Ours

Venezuela is in crisis, and the spillover effects are being felt all the way in the U.S. (NYT)

Poor governance and failed policies have sparked an economic collapse, which has cratered the popularity of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. Using legal loopholes and technicalities, Maduro’s socialist government is currently blocking strong opposition candidates from running in elections. In response to the repression and economic devastation, Venezuelans have fled the country in droves (nearly 8 million since 2014).

Many of them have made their way to the U.S., which is already facing record-high levels of border crossings.

  • In 2023, 262,633 Venezuelans crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, up from 189,520 in 2022.

Last year, the Biden administration granted temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants, making them eligible to work. The surge in migrants has stretched the resources of small towns and big cities. Police data doesn't indicate a "migrant crime wave," but a number of crimes committed recently by Venezuelans have grabbed headlines.

Bubba’s Two Cents: Thanks to the United States’ global status and prosperity, when things go bad in other countries, the effects many times end up reverberating onto us in some way (and that’s true in reverse, too). The Venezuelan crisis also highlights how our humanitarian efforts come at a cost, often to our own citizens. That’s not to say we shouldn’t help, but we should be clear about what we’re asking and maybe acknowledge that Americans are already very concerned about how many people are entering the country.

3. Americans Aren’t Buying “Bidenomics”

President Biden’s usage of his “Bidenomics” slogan has slowly tapered off to virtually nothing. (Axios)

In June and July of last year, he used the word more than 20 times each month. Last month, he didn’t utter it at all. This month, he’s said it once.

Democrats pretty much abandoned the term, too. Usage of "Bidenomics" decreased from 483 mentions last July to less than a dozen a month currently, amid voter concerns about inflation and the economy.

Economists and media talking heads have struggled to explain why Americans are so down on the economy, when many indicators suggest it’s thriving. Feelings about economic conditions have improved slightly, but 51% of Americans still rate it as “poor,” according to a recent New York Times/Siena poll.

Wall Street Journal reporter Aaron Zitner: “There’s a striking disconnect between the widely shared pessimism among Americans and measures that show the economy is actually robust. Consumers are spending briskly—behavior that suggests optimism, not retrenchment. Inflation has tempered. Unemployment has been below 4% for 24 straight months, the longest such stretch since the 1960s.”

While the consensus is the economy is in good shape, there are counter arguments coming from the left and right.

4. The Criminal 1%

The New York City Police Department has expressed frustration with the justice system’s lackluster response to repeat offenders. (TND)

The NYPD made over 13,600 arrests in the subway system last year. 124 of the people arrested were arrested 5 or more times in the subway in 2023. Those 124 individuals have a combined total of over 7,500 arrests in their lifetimes.

NYPD transit chief Michael Kemper: [Where] is the accountability & consequences for these repeat offenders? How is this happening? Look no further than the other stakeholders in the justice system … prosecutors, judges, and city & state lawmakers … whose decisions, in large part, determine the outcomes and consequences for every arrest we make and whose decisions have such far reaching impact on the safety of our subway system.”

Research has shown a relatively small percentage of the population is responsible for a large share of crime, especially violent crime.

  • A 2014 study found just 1% of people account for 63% of violent crime convictions.

  • According to criminologist Rafael A. Mangual, 2% of all U.S. counties account for 50% of the nation’s homicides.

  • Other studies have found most crime in cities tends to be concentrated in certain neighborhood “hot spots.”

Even though violent crime has dipped over the past year, there’s currently a backlash to criminal justice reform and progressive policies viewed as “soft on crime.” Blue states and cities across the country are rolling back decriminalization measures and calling for more police and tougher criminal penalties.

Bubba’s Two Cents: The debate about crime can get pretty heated between right and left. But maybe one point of common ground can be found in locking up the small share of people who are the most violent and responsible for the most crime. A big problem Democrats have with their messaging is they’re perceived as being sympathetic to violent criminals. They can hem and haw about the nuances of criminal justice reform, but at a certain point, it just looks like you’re favoring offenders over victims.

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