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Reimagining Public Safety

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Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich breaks down what it means to "defund the police" and prioritize social investment.

Social-control societies put substantial resources into police, prisons, surveillance, immigration enforcement, and the military. Their purpose is to utilize fear, punishment, and violence to divide people and keep the status quo in place — perpetuating the systemic oppression of Black and brown people, and benefiting no one but wealthy elites.

Social-investment societies put more resources into healthcare, education, affordable housing, jobless benefits, and children. Their purpose is to free people from the risks and anxieties of daily life and give everyone a fair shot at making it.

Trump is the culmination of forty years of increasing social control in the United States and decreasing social investment – a trend which, given the deep-seated history of racism in the United States, falls disproportionately on Black people, indigenous people, and people of color.
The more societies spend on social controls, the less they have left for social investment.

American taxpayers spend $107.5 billion more on police than on public housing. And 15 states now spend $27,000 more per person in prison than they do per student.
The last weeks of protests and demonstrations have exposed what’s always been true: social controls are both deadly and unsustainable.

They require more and more oppressive means of terrorizing communities and they drain resources that would ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive.

This moment calls on us to relinquish social control and ramp up our commitment to social investment.

It’s time we invest in affordable housing and education, not tear gas, batons, and state-sanctioned murder. It’s time we invest in keeping children fed and out of poverty, not putting their parents behind bars.

It’s time to defund the police, and invest in communities.

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