Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Would I Run the Country? (Part One)

This is not a dream exercise. It's a way of stating my policy preferences. Okay, some of these policy prescriptions might not be adopted nationwide in my lifetime or even my children's, but since political campaigns tend to obscure the truth or dilute it beyond recognition, I thought I'd take a break from my usual political screeds to attempt something of actual substance. Here goes, in somewhat random order: (Update. I've decided to handle one topic at a time, starting with the law.)
The Law: I'd actually enforce it, most particularly when it comes to white-collar crime, which in dollar terms vastly outpaces petty crime or even armed robbery.
  • Stiffen regulations on banks, securities firms, and insurance companies and be prepared to use the laws to criminally attack our highly corrupt financial sector.
  • Fully fund any state and federal agency charged with investigating bank and securities fraud of any kind. March the perps in front of the courthouses and the cameras in shackles whenever they're indicted, which should be often.
  • Relax sentencing guidelines on all non-violent crimes, especially involving victimless crimes. We lock up too many of our citizens at considerable unnecessary expense. Even financial fraud crimes don't require 20-year sentences. If you convict a banker of $5 billion in mortgage fraud, take all his money and all the money his associates got for helping in the fraud until all of them are flat broke. With this money, create a victims fund that specifically helps the crime's victims. Then, after a suitable amount of time -- say, 3 years -- release the banker back into the wilds. Line up a job for him at his old firm as an entry-level cashier. Don't let his wealthy friends give him a consultant job for $10 million or more (see Michael Milken/Ted Turner). In fact, don't let convicted fraudsters back into the profession in which they committed their fraud.
  • Decriminalize most drug use or possession. Turn it from a legal problem into a health problem. Legalize marijuana outright, treating it similar to alcohol. Allow it to be prescribed for medical use as it is now in many states. Look into ways of turning hard drug use, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine into a regulated activity instead of a criminal activity by making it available only from licensed facilities that require counseling and rehab opportunities in order to participate. Look to Portugal's experience in decriminalization for guidance.
  • Ban all guns from private ownership except those guns directly related to hunting, such as single-action rifles and shotguns. Regulate them severely, with gun sales only through licensed dealerships with brick-and-mortar addresses, and require proper training and regular re-registration similar to motor-vehicle use and registration. No one who owns a gun should be anonymous or untrained, again as with motor-vehicle use.
  • Police should be equipped to enforce the law and not to be the law. Police agencies should not be allowed to become paramilitary powers with paramilitary equipment. We need community policing, not community shock troops. The Department of Homeland Security should not help every borough and hamlet to have their own highly weaponized attack squads with tanks, Humvees, and troop carriers. Police should be trained to deal non-violently with acts of non-violent civil disobedience.
  • Fully fund the courts! Depoliticize the appointment of judges! Speedy trials mean speedy trials! Having a right to an attorney means just that, not to some ne'er-do-well has-been who sleeps through capital cases! Right? Right.
  • Prosecutorial misconduct should have harsher sentences than the ones that were served by the suspects whose rights were trampled. Send a man through misconduct to jail improperly for 24 years, do 24 years. Maybe that's a dream, but no prosecutor, judge, or police officer should be allowed to get by without severe and permanent punishment including jail and loss of livelihood.
  • End the death penalty, period, no exceptions.
Clearly, policy is very complicated. Just dealing with the law took a long time, and I didn't cover everything. But the thrust of my approach is clear: don't allow criminals in suits to live better than criminals in T-shirts and Levis. Don't lock everybody up for such a long time. Don't let our citizenry end up so armed and dangerous; don't let them be armed at all. The damage bleeds all over the place. Don't let law enforcement and justice systems act as criminal enterprises. Restore justice through common sense and with a common sense of community and old-fashioned stern mercy. We can become a civilized society again. (Hint: we aren't one right now.)

Next: Heath care.

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