Sunday, July 31, 2011

Passing Thoughts on The Debt Ceiling

Every time a school year draws to a close and I send another class away from the relative safety of a high school environment, I start to despair. I look at those kids with their graduation day smiles and their unending optimism, and I wonder how the hell they're going to survive in the world that they're going to inherit.

The hysteria over the debt ceiling is starting to disgust me. All I see on TV is finger-pointing and political theater as democrats and republicans try to paper over the government's financial problems, stick some future generation with paying for it, and look like heroes doing it. They will succeed on all three counts.

What burns me up the most is the talk about defaulting. The government will default on its debts if the ceiling isn't raised! Something must be done! I have news, folks. The government defaults on its obligations every day. It has defaulted on its centuries-old obligation to maintain our freedom. Freedoms promised us in the Bill of Rights; freedom to make a living how we want; freedom to travel; freedom to make our own choices in what to buy or sell, freedom to plan our own retirements; and freedom from crime, endless war, and rules that regulate nearly every human behavior.

Of course I understand that liberty doesn't mean squat to the average American. But the government does default on its pecuniary obligations as well. It defaults every time it devalues its currency, but it also assures default by making impossible promises which other people are expected to pay for. The tab for these promises grows by the minute, and at some point, that bag will be too big for some generation to be left holding.

Think this will never happen? Do you really believe we can continue like this for another fifty years? Whose problem do you think it will be when our government's creditors stop lending it money? It sure as hell won't matter to guys like Boehner and Obama; they'll be long gone when this happens. No, the rug's coming out from under our children in the form of either crushing taxation, runaway inflation, or promises that will never be kept. And then things are going to get ugly.

We're still at a stage where things can be fixed with a minimum of pain. They could refuse to raise the debt limit, forego their own paychecks, admit that most of the promises government has made are illegitimate, and start having a real transparent discussion about how to renege on those phony untenable promises in the least painful way possible. But that will never happen. Ever.

Instead, all I hear about is some vague talk about debt limit increases, tax cuts over ten years, and bipartisan compromise. It's the compromise that scares me, because all it means is that both political parties get what they want, and government continues to grow. The only thing that will be compromised will be our posterity's standard of living if we continue to elect the same people who've been squandering our resources and labor for decades.

Maybe the lesson to take away from this is that the importance of independence can't be overstated. Turn off the TV, stop taking every political promise at face value, and start looking for ways to be more independent. Let this and future debt ceiling "debates" remind you that the less your fate is in the hands of politicians, the better; and pass this message on to your children as I try to pass it to my students.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony Walks

Where this trial came from or how it turned into some cult news sensation, I have no idea. It's especially peculiar because while some people have been obsessing over it, others haven't even heard of Casey Anthony.

It was usually on TV where I live, so I caught bits and pieces of the trial over the last few weeks. It seemed to be a little ponzi scheme of hype- it was big news because HLN insisted it was big news. Evidently, a lot of people bit.

I don't think there was anything particularly spectacular about the trial itself, aside from the media frenzy (breaking into other programs for updates on this or that) and the media's pronouncing the defendant guilty of murder from the outset. If you watched the trial during one of its breaks or when they cut to the anchors, it was like a nonstop cheerleading session for the prosecution.

I started to wonder how many people even noticed it. I also wondered how much being constantly told someone is guilty might potentially sway someone's opinion. Some say the media has liberal slant, some say it has a conservative slant- I say the media has a pro-government slant, and the Casey Anthony trial is a good example.

The overwhelming consensus of the TV audience is that she was guilty. If you noticed that all of your friends suddenly turned into armchair lawyers in the hour or so following the verdict, it's because in the end, Mrs. Anthony was acquitted on all counts of murder.

I keep my eyes open, and I see more injustice than the average person ever gets to see (anyone who reads Reason Magazine generally does). I've read stories of men serving time for crimes they didn't commit. I've seen men serve out sentences that were exponentially harsher than what their crime warranted. I've read stories of people getting exonerated while sitting on death row (having rotted there for years, and sometimes decades)- and with no compensation after the fact. Name anything about the American justice system, and I guarantee it has its disgraceful elements- from how juries are selected to how laws are written to how evidence is gathered to how due process is afforded the accused, all the way up through how sentences are carried out- and beyond. I could go on for some time. The deck is clearly stacked against defendants when the plaintiff is government.

I don't know the details of the Casey Anthony trial, and I certainly can't say beyond a reasonable doubt whether she did what they said she did (I'm glad I didn't have to). For whatever reason, neither did her jury, and that's why they let her skate. The defense convinced them that the government hadn't met its burden of proof and the verdict made many people unhappy. I'll say this: If the only price we have to pay for sparing innocent people from the jaws of a prison/death sentence is saddling the government with a stiff burden of proof- even if it's the same burden which, this time, let a guilty woman go free- we're getting a bargain. I'd let Casey Anthony walk ten times over if I knew the same judicial process afforded ironclad protections for the innocent.

Note that I do hate the idea of letting the truly guilty go free. But I despise the notion that people could be convicted on a mere probability of guilt, because I understand that the Probable Guilt Standard would inevitably apply to the innocent as well. Better the system be imperfect in favor of the guilty than against the innocent. Let this one slide. Can't win em all, folks.