Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Will the Tea Party Debate Pass the Test of 'Limited Government, Free Markets, and Fiscal Responsibility'

UPDATE IV: It's been almost three months since the questions was first posed, but Ron Paul finally said it: "the federal war on drugs is a total failure . . . it undermines our civil liberties, it magnifies our problems on the borders -- we spent like over the last 40 years a trillion dollars on this war and, believe me, the kids can still get the drugs. It just hasn't worked." Read Sentencing Law and Policy, GOP candidate Ron Paul assails Obama pot policy and garners applause calling federal drug war "a total failure".

UPDATE III: You might also ask about the federalization of law enforcement.

"For centuries, a bedrock principle of criminal law has held that people must know they are doing something wrong before they can be found guilty. The concept is known as mens rea, Latin for a 'guilty mind.'

This legal protection is now being eroded as the U.S. federal criminal code dramatically swells. In recent decades, Congress has repeatedly crafted laws that weaken or disregard the notion of criminal intent. Today not only are there thousands more criminal laws than before, but it is easier to fall afoul of them.

As a result, what once might have been considered simply a mistake is now sometimes punishable by jail time."

Read the Wall Street Journal, As Federal Crime List Grows, Threshold of Guilt Declines.

UPDATE II: Another GOP debate, another chance to ask questions "about incarceration policies and the drug war:

Instead of putting our tax dollars into prisons, why not put them into rehabilitation centers for those who get caught with drug possessions?

America has the largest prison population per capita of any country in the world. Do you believe that we are arresting too many people?

Would you back a law to make prison time mandatory for anyone that employs illegal aliens, no exceptions?

The Federal Government spends $500 per second on the war on drugs, adding to the 90% of federal prisoners incarcerated for non-violent crimes. This is overshadowed by the cost of The War on Terror. As President, would you let these costly wars go on?

What will it take to end, in a timely decisive manner, the Global Drug War; a scheme of American Prohibition and world-wide U.S. Imperialism, that funds not only domestic violence and international terrorism, but also the Prison-Industrial Complex?

I am not especially confident that any of these questions will get posed tonight or at any of the forthcoming GOP debates, but I will continue hoping these issues might eventually get some attention at some point in this political/election cycle."

Read Sentencing Law and Policy, Hoping (perhaps foolishly, yet again) latest GOP debate addresses crime and punishment.

UPDATE: Something to remember as you watch the debates:

"The tea party was described as the new kid on the block of American politics, when in fact it was the extension of forces long at work in the political system.

It was described by some of its grass-roots organizers as a movement driven by principle whose members swore no allegiance to either party. That, too, has been shown to be wrong as its roots in the Republican Party have become more evident."

Read the Washington Post, What the tea party is — and isn’t.

Interesting questions and commentary from Sentencing Law and Policy:

"[A]nyone with a truly serious and sustained commitment to 'limited government, free markets, and fiscal responsibility' must start asking a number of tough questions about huge federal and state government spending on the drug war and mass incarceration. Here, as just a couple of examples, is how these tough questions might find expression in the tonight's Tea Party Debate:

Do you support the bill introduced by Ron Paul and Barney Frank to get the federal government out of the marijuana regulation business (basics here)? Would you sign or veto such a bill as president if it came to your desk?

Do you consider the modern 'War on Drugs' — a federal government program started by Richard Nixon and increasingly funded at the federal level by every President since — to be a classic example of a failed big government program or a notable example of big government success?

According to a Pew Center report in 2009, state criminal correction spending has quadrupled in the past two decades, outpacing budget growth in education and transportation (basics here). Meanwhile, the Justice Department recently wrote to the US Sentencing Commission about federal prison spending and overcrowing (basics here). Does this data concern you and what do you think this nation's president can or should do about the pure economic costs to taxpayers of modern mass incarceration?

Though I would love to hear the GOP candidates' response to all of these questions, I will be pleasantly surprised if even a single question about the drug war or big-government criminal justice spending comes up tonight. If there are not any such questions during the Tea Party Debate, I will continue to [wonder] if the 'core principles and values of the tea party movement' really are 'limited government, free markets, and fiscal responsibility.'"