Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the Senate floor: "We cannot condone the violence we see in Baltimore, but we must not ignore the despair and hopelessness that gives rise to this kind of violence. So let’s condemn the violence, but let’s not ignore the underlying problem."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): "I hope the investigation into illegal behavior will be be concluded soon and those who've been engaged in criminal behavior will be promptly pursued and charged."
Presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham about his own ride through the city: "I came through the train on Baltimore last night. I'm glad the train didn't stop," he said while laughing.
MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle (speaking on "Morning Joe") cited his frequent Amtrak rides through the city in assessing the Baltimore situation: "It’s a huge minority population in Baltimore City, especially in West Baltimore. You can see if you take the Amtrak train from Washington to New York when it rolls through Baltimore, you can see a visible display, out of both sides of your window, of poverty, of decaying neighborhoods that have been there for decades."
A few days later Joe Scarborough ("Morning Joe") reiterated Mike Barnicle's point: "As Mike said a couple of days ago, get on Amtrak, drive through Baltimore, parts of that city look like a war zone and it has now for 40, 50 years. And you talk about the hopelessness that sets in after all of that time, it is a complete and total failure of public policy over the last past half-century."
The very first thing that came to mind after first seeing the burning buildings and cars, the looting, the vandalism, the anger (etc) in Baltimore was the Watts riots in L.A. — and that it was their poor economic conditions that was the main driving force behind most of the rebellion — and the treatment by police was only the fire that lit the fuse. How many people with steady middle-class jobs, or kids who come from solid middle-class families, usually loot liquor stores to steal whisky and cigarettes?
Obama tied neglected and impoverished communities as both the source of frustrations that drew rioters into the streets and part of the reason police have a tough job, urging a broader focus to address those root causes. Obama urged the need to go beyond new trainings for police officers and also to build a political movement around policies to help those communities — from early childhood education to infrastructure building to drug sentencing reform.
In condemning the riots, Obama focused on the negative impact that destruction — including that of a CVS — has on that community:
"It's counterproductive...it hurts communities that are already suffering. These are our communities that get torn up, so whoever was working at that CVS, they right now are wondering are they going to get a paycheck. That family that needs their prescription filled...they're now wondering how far do I have to drive, and how much do I have to spend to get a prescription for grandma. People have a tendency when the fires are put out, once the cars aren't being tipped over...then folks want to go back and focus on whatever reality TV thing is going on. We've just got to make sure that we don't brush this aside after the crisis has passed."
With continued offshoring, technology (robots, etc.), and H-1B insourcing, maybe one day we will all be out of work, poor and just as desperate as those people in Baltimore.
Via Edward Gibbon: The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight.
Via Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke: An economy based upon slave labor precluded a middle class with buying power. The Roman Empire produced few exportable goods. Material innovation, whether through entrepreneurialism or technological advancement, all but ended long before the final dissolution of the Empire. Meanwhile the costs of military defense and the pomp of Emperors continued. Financial needs continued to increase, but the means of meeting them steadily eroded. In the end, due to economic failure, even the armor and weaponry of soldiers became so obsolete that the enemies of the Empire had better armor and weapons as well as larger forces. The decrepit social order offered so little to its subjects that many saw the barbarian invasion as liberation from onerous obligations to the ruling class.
Via Bruce Bartlett: He traces the beginning of debasement to the reign of Nero. He claims that the emperors increasingly relied on the army as the sole source of their power, and therefore their economic policy was driven more and more by a desire to increase military funding in order to buy the army's loyalty.
Via Bryan Ward-Perkins: The empire's demise was caused by a vicious circle of political instability and reduced tax revenue (Sounds like the U.S. today).