Police Forced Out Due to Budget Crisis

“We had to do something drastic,” says Jerry Flowers, a city councilman in Alto, Texas.

Lately, we’ve find ourselves in the curious habit of collecting stories of impending calamity from around the nation. This morning is no different.

“The police department,“ the curiously named Mr. Flowers goes on, ”being a nonmoney-making entity, was the easiest to get rid of while we catch our breath and build up some cash.”

And just like that, Alto did away with its police force.

The chief and his four officers put a padlock on their offices two weeks ago today. They’ll be back in six months, assuming the town’s balance sheet gets the love it needs.

In the meantime, for protection against ne’er-do-wells, petty thieves and outright criminals, citizens of Alto will have to rely on the Cherokee County sheriff’s office, headquartered 12 miles away.

“I’m going to try,” commented the county sheriff when notified, “but I can’t guarantee you there will always be an officer in the town.”

Until recently, drastic cutbacks like this were the province of down-and-out medium-sized cities like Camden, N.J. – where half the police force has been let go. Or Oakland, Calif. – where the cops no longer answer burglary calls.

Alto’s population in the 2000 census was 1,190. Yet “Everybody’s talking about ‘bolt your doors, buy a gun,” says Mayor Monty Collins.

There’s no dramatic story about how things got to this point – no boondoggle sewer system as in Jefferson County, Ala., no six-figure city salaries as in Bell, Calif.

It’s simple: The economy’s hurting, property and sales tax revenues are down and the city’s chief source of revenue – a natural gas distribution plant – needs expensive repairs, for which city fathers obviously didn’t save up. Now the cops have been sent home.

“Can you imagine,” we ask in a new special report, “being the victim of a robbery… and knowing the police won’t be there to answer your 911 call?”

Big city, small town, doesn’t matter. It can happen almost anywhere. But how vulnerable are you, exactly?

Your best defense is knowledge – knowing how deeply your state is in debt, how much it gets in handouts from Washington, how steep are its future pension obligations. We lay it all out in the aforementioned special report, titled American Oases. Details on how you can get your copy on Friday.

Half a world away from Alto, the parliament in Greece agreed today to bind itself in another round of debt servitude.

Violent demonstrations notwithstanding, members approved another round of tax increases and spending cuts to keep Europe’s own extend-and-pretend game going a while longer.

Think of Greece as one of your hapless neighbors – maxed out on five credit cards, taking on a second part-time job, holding yard sales and applying for a sixth card just to keep up minimum payments on the other five.

Ahhh… deep breath, everyone.

For now, Greece can keep up its minimum payments to the European banks. Which is good because then European banks won’t show up on the doorstep of the American banks to collect on their credit default swaps.

(Not that any of the US banks have the resources to pay, anyway.)

“US deficits and debt as a percentage of GDP are at the same level today as what Greece displayed just a few years ago,” reminds Euro Pacific Capital’s Michael Pento, bringing our focus back stateside.

“But that fact – if it is being acknowledged at all – is quickly dismissed, because we are also told that the US has a single currency and a printing press that can save us all…

“Once the bond vigilantes come to America and bond yields surge, our saving grace is going to be inflation? Yep, that’s our government’s long-term strategy. To boost GDP growth, strengthen our dollar, increase foreigners’ faith in our debt market and lower our borrowing costs, we are going to use Al Capone’s printing press.”

Addison Wiggin
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning