Economist warns of Baltimore money crisis

Originally published in FOX45 News

MPPI in the News Liz Ortiz May 18, 2020

BALTIMORE (WBFF) -- In the midst of this pandemic, one economist with The Maryland Public Policy Institute is shining light on what officials are saying versus what they can actually do.

It comes from a recent blog post called "Foolishness-as-Usual in Batimore."

In a recent tweet, City Council President Brandon Scott addressed the re-opening of Baltimore, saying in part, "We must ensure the safety of Baltimoreans at all costs."

Chief Economist Steve Walters referred to the statement as "very foolish."

Walters says the problem is that those in leadership are not evaluating the trade offs carefully when making these statements.

"When we say, 'I'm going to guarantee your safety at any costs', I'm kind of going to lock you in a room and not let you do anything ever because there's no off switch for risk," said Walters. "Pretty much everything we do in life involves risk, and you've got to understand that what policy makers, what city leaders, state leaders, and national leaders have to do is they have to actually weight different kinds of risks."

City leaders have been responding aggressively to risks from the coronavirus.

However, Walters believes they need to be more focused on doing a better job of maintaining the economy, in a safe way., that doesn't make the city's poverty, crime and financial problems worse.

Last year, there were 348 homicides in Baltimore and the city is on pace to reach that same mark this year, even through the pandemic.

"We're talking about a $43 million deficit in the current budget, another $100 million deficit in next year's budget, that's going to cut back on a lot of social programs, it might cut back on a lot of police recruitment efforts," said Walters. "That's risky, that might cost lives, so if you simply say well, I've got to ensure safety at all costs, and you ignore all those costs, you're really not leading very effectively."

City Council President Brandon Scott provided FOX45 with the below statement:

The science is clear. We can take strong measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. Health experts, the Governor, the Mayor, and the vast majority of Americans all agree on this. When the time comes to begin to loosen restrictions and reopen the economy, we should. Hopefully that day will come soon. In the meantime, I will continue to advocate for every precious life in Baltimore, for our seniors and communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus (like African Americans, who account for 70% of the deaths in our city to date).