Earlier this month, Donald Trump directed federal officials to find a rationale for cutting government funding to certain cities controlled by Democrats. It's a plainly politically motivated move that seems unlikely to hold up in court, but Attorney General Bill Barr, more than happy to oblige, delivered a verdict Monday on which cities were on the chopping block: New York, Seattle, and Portland—all liberal-leaning cities run by Democrats in Democrat-controlled states. Surprise, surprise.
"The U.S. Department of Justice today identified the following three jurisdictions that have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities: New York City; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington," claimed a Justice Department press release.
In a statement, Barr accused state and local leaders of endangering "innocent citizens" by impeding their own law enforcement officials and agencies from doing their jobs. Clearly, too little tear gas, violence, and military "heat ray" technology has been unleashed on citizen protesters exercising their First Amendment rights for Barr's tastes. "It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens,” Barr said.
But this is all too tame for Barr's twisted version of justice. Barr originally wanted to prosecute Portland officials for their handling of nightly protests outside a federal courthouse in the city. And Barr, of course, has already presided over deploying unmarked federal militia to cities led by Democrats to kidnap people off the streets, whisk them away in unmarked vehicles, and detain them for questioning without cause—which is illegal.
The protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd have been, and continue to be, overwhelmingly peaceful, with any violence usually limited to exceedingly small areas and clusters of people. In fact, the biggest threat of violence to Americans comes not from liberal protesters but right-wing extremists—a fact that Trump and his top administration officials have worked diligently to cover up even as the threat to law-abiding Americans mushroomed during Trump's tenure.
Though conservative and even mainstream news outlets have played isolated incidences of violence on a loop, these cities are not engulfed in flames (other than in Portland, where devastating wildfires due to climate change have been knocking on city’s door). In fact, below is a picture of New York’s violence-ravaged streets taken on Monday.
On top of the Trump administration’s disinformation campaign, the notion that the federal government is going to withhold federal funds from three of its top contributing cities is ludicrous.
All three cities rank in the top 10 per capita income for the 25 most populated cities in the U.S.: Seattle was second, Portland eighth, and New York 10th. Because states and cities with a larger share of higher income residents contribute more to the federal government, these three cities alone likely contribute more tax dollars to federal coffers than most red states, which have been feeding at the federal trough for decades while contributing far less money to its bottom line. New York and the northeastern states, in particular, are "giver" states, while most red states, especially in the southeast, are "getter" states, according to a Rockefeller Institute of Government study.
But now that Barr has homed in on the cities he wants to target and delivered supposed criteria for determining which cities fall into that category, the next step, according to Trump's presidential memo, is for the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, to issue guidance to the heads of certain agencies on "restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of federal grants.”
Again, such a direction will undoubtedly be challenged in court and tied up until long after the election. So at this point, it's nothing more than another lawless effort by Trump to target cities run by Democrats in order to gin up and delight his "getter" constituency in the red states.
If Joe Biden wins, this ridiculous presidential directive will obviously fall onto a scrap heap of other lawless Trump directives targeting Democrats, liberals, and certain demographic groups purely for Trump's political benefit and pandering to his supporters.
But if Trump manages to somehow steal this election, the directive is simply one more reason why we could see a serious effort by Democratic states to leave the union. There's absolutely no reason for those states and their densely populated liberal cities to stick around for Trump's presidential harassment while the federal government bleeds them dry.