The 3 Biggest Myths Blinding Us to the Economic Truth
1. The “job creators” are CEOs, corporations, and the rich, whose taxes must be low in order to induce them to create more jobs. Rubbish. The real job creators are the vast middle class and the poor, whose spending induces businesses to create jobs. Which is why raising the minimum wage, extending overtime protection, enlarging the Earned Income Tax Credit, and reducing middle-class taxes are all necessary.
2. The critical choice is between the “free market” or “government.” Baloney. The free market doesn’t exist in nature. It’s created and enforced by government. And all the ongoing decisions about how it’s organized – what gets patent protection and for how long (the human genome?), who can declare bankruptcy (corporations? homeowners? student debtors?), what contracts are fraudulent (insider trading?) or coercive (predatory loans? mandatory arbitration?), and how much market power is excessive (Comcast and Time Warner?) – depend on government.
3. We should worry most about the size of government. Wrong. We should worry about who government is for. When big money from giant corporations and Wall Street inundate our politics, all decisions relating to #1 and #2 above become rigged against average working Americans.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that President Obama and former President George W. Bush “got lucky” by not being arrested for smoking marijuana as young adults:
“Look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky. But a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys. They go to jail for these things. And I think it’s a big mistake.”
Earlier this week Paul introduced a bill with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would relax the mandatory minimum sentences handed out to marijuana offenders who do not pose a violent threat to the public. The bill has gained the support of some influential conservatives, including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
1. Oliver Slams Mandatory Minimums and Mass Incarceration
Just last week, Oliver piggybacked off the news of President Obama’s 46 commutations and pivoted to our country’s insane mandatory minimums and their role in making the US the world leader in incarcerating its people.
2. Oliver Blasts the U.S. Bail System for Locking up Poor People Regardless of Guilt
Oliver recently took on the U.S. bail system pointing out that it has increasingly become a way to lock up the poor, regardless of guilt. Oliver referenced a report by the Drug Policy Alliance that found nearly 40 percent of the jail population in New Jersey is held solely because they don’t have the money for bail, which can be a little as a few thousand dollars. The average length of time people wait in jail is 10 months. It won’t surprise you that the vast majority of those locked up are poor people of color.
3. Oliver Shows How Law Enforcement Can Steal Your Stuff: Civil Assets Forfeiture
Oliver brilliantly showed how the police, thanks to the war on drugs, can basically steal your stuff, even if you have never been convicted off a crime. And then it is up to you to prove that you are innocent. Law enforcement gets to keep everything they seize.
4. Oliver Explains How Racist Drug War Fuels Mass Incarceration
Oliver delivered a devastating critique on our racist drug law enforcement, the role it plays in fueling mass incarceration and the inhumane treatment and abuse people face behind bars. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, but nearly 25 percent of the world’s people behind bars.
Imprisoning a staggering number of our people is
wrong. The way our nation does it is even worse.
We must end mass incarceration, now.
If I’m walking down the street with a Black
or Latino friend, my friend is way more likely to be stopped by the police, questioned, and even arrested. Even if we’re doing the exact same thing—he or she is more likely to be convicted and sent to jail.
Unless we recognize the racism and abuse of our criminal justice system and tackle the dehumanizing stereotypes that underlie it, our nation – and our economy – will never be as strong as it could be.
Please take a
moment to watch the accompanying video, and please share it so others can understand what’s
at stake for so many Americans.
Here are the facts:
Today, the United States has 5
percent of the world’s population, but has 25 percent of its prisoners, and we spend more than $80 billion each year on prisons.
The major culprit is
the so-called War on Drugs. There were fewer than 200,000 Americans behind bars as recently as the mid-70’s. Then, a racially-tinged drug hysteria swept our nation, and we saw a wave of
increasingly militant policing that targeted communities of color and poorer
With “mandatory minimums” and “three strikes out” laws,
the number of Americans behind bars soon ballooned
to nearly 2.5 million today, despite widespread evidence that locking people up doesn’t make us
Unconscious bias and
cultural stereotypes lead to discriminatory enforcement of the laws – from who
gets pulled over to where police conduct drug sweeps.
Even though Blacks, whites, and Latinos use drugs at similar rates, people with black and brown skin are more likely to be pulled over, searched, arrested, charged with a crime, convicted, and sent to jails and prisons where they can be subject to some of the worst human rights abuses.
As a result, black people incarcerated at a rate five times that of whites,
and Latinos incarcerated at a rate double that of white Americans.
Even if you’ve “served your time,” you never escape the label.
A felony conviction can bar you from getting a student loan, putting a roof over your head, or even from voting. It might even disqualify you from getting a job which can make it impossible for people with felony convictions to pull themselves out of poverty. And many who end up in prison were living in chronic poverty to begin with.
All of this means a lot of potential human talent is going to waste. We’re spending a fortune locking people up who could fuel our economy and build strong communities, in some cases just to increase the profits of private prison corporations.
So what do we do?
First, enact smarter sentencing laws that end mandatory minimums and transform the way we treat people who enter the criminal justice system. Instead of prisons and jails, we need well-paying jobs, and to invest in proven and cost-effective alternatives to incarceration, like job training and mental health and drug treatment programs.
Second, stop the militarized policing and end discriminatory policing practices such as “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” that disproportionately target communities of color.
Third, stop building new jails, start closing some existing ones, and begin to invest in schools, public transit, and housing assistance or local jobs programs. States are spending more and more on prisons, while cutting funding for schools. That’s crazy.
Finally, “ban the box” – the box on job applications that asks whether you have ever been convicted of a felony on a job application. Already, dozens of states cities, and counties have passed bills requiring that employers consider what you can do in the future, not what you might have done in the past.
Instead of locking people up unjustly, and then locking them out of the economy for the rest of their lives, we need to stop wasting human talent and start opening doors of opportunity – to everyone.
Prison Reform: '80s and '90s Laws 'Big On Retribution' Now Cost $16B/Year To Incarcerate Aging Prison Population
“All across the United States, prison populations are graying, growing old and infirm behind bars…. This is a man-made crisis that tracks back to the nation’s long obsession with retribution, which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. That’s when the ‘tough on crime’ and 'war on drugs’ ideologies reigned supreme, spawning mandatory minimum sentences and 'three strikes’ laws, among other things…. Spending on inmates ages 50 and older tops $16 billion annually…. Perpetrators and victims — and the public at large — could benefit from a system that recognizes retribution must be paired with earlier release and more support for re-entry, as well as repealing mandatory minimum sentencing laws and refocusing our energies on diversion, community supervision and community-based sanctions and services.” - Kate Cox of the Nation
Alton Mills was 25 years old in 1994 when he was sentenced to life without parole for his role as a lowly crack courier in a Chicago drug organization. Federal sentences for drug dealing are calculated based on the quantity of drugs involved rather than the dealer’s role in the organization. So someone like Mills can receive as much time as, or more time than, an elusive kingpin.
“Ooh lord,” says his mother, Marsha Mills. There’s not a “day that don’t go by that I don’t think about him.” Alton’s daughter was about 2 years old when he went to prison. He has missed graduations from kindergarten, eighth grade and high school. “It would be good if he could come,” says Marsha, to see her graduate from college.
Mills received the most serious penalty available under federal law short of death not because of the crack offense. That alone would have triggered the still-harsh 10-year mandatory minimum sentence that put so many behind bars for so long, especially black men like Mills. No, Mills got life because he had two prior drug possession convictions so minor that both resulted only in probation.
In the same way that not abusing a dog doesn’t make you a good person…Abstaining from moral atrocities should be the minimum of what is expected. Veganism should not be seen as some high point of a mountain top, or the end goal to a long “journey”, but as the mandatory MINIMUM that is to be expected of anyone who claims to live a morally consistent life.
We put a guy away for life without the possibility of parole for having a plastic baggie with drug residue NEAR him. If you think maybe justice would be better served by doing anything BUT this, you could share our campaign with the ACLU. Totally up to you though.
TOTALLY TRANSPARENT DISCLOSURE: We were paid to promote this content, but we only do that for things we think are actually Upworthy. Because we believe humans deserve better than this. We’re zany like that.
People of color make up only 14% of drugs users in the United States, but 56% of people in U.S. state prisons for drug offenses. People of colour are 3 times as likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white people motorists, 2 times as likely to be arrested, and almost 4 times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with police. Once convicted, people of colour receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders of the same crime, are 21% more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences, and are 20% more likely to be sentenced to prison, non-violent drug offenders of color serve virtually the same amount of time in prison as white offenders do for a violent offense.
The white face of the current heroin crisis, as has been reported in the New York Times and Atlantic, appears to be generating more sympathy for addicts and precipitating a move to handle addiction as a public health crisis instead of a criminal justice problem. Yet that new thinking doesn’t extend to dealers, who continue to be punished severely—and perhaps even more severely—because their victims are now often white.
The Harper government and the Supreme Court of
Canada do not mix, as the court’s new ruling against mandatory minimum
sentences for certain gun crimes confirms. The blandest metaphor I can
come up with is the two had a bad divorce, but of course they were never
married in the first place. The court has principles, the government
I’d go further. The Supreme Court is a panel
of nine judges backed by a thick wall of case law – they are mandated to
use it – and appearing before them is Stephen Harper, a man with rage
issues but little respect for legal precedent.