Admittedly, sometimes I comment on an issue and then a few hours later or the next day, realize I failed to develop an important angle, or entirely overlooked what ought to have been a key aspect. (This is bound to happen to those who blog as a hobby on top of working and other responsibilities.)
Sometimes I will go back and revise a blog, adding or tweaking a few sentences. But regarding the recently hot issue of confrontations between white police officers and black suspects, further insights demand separate treatment.
One of my topics pertains to the heavy-handedness of intrusive government and how it creates the type of police confrontations that liberals despise. Yes, the same liberals who embrace big government but seldom contemplate the ham-handed techniques authorities use to enforce government mandates. This is something I already had in mind, then heard Rush Limbaugh comment on it a day or two later. I’ll delve into this shortly, but first let’s look at the other important element of the incident involving Eric Garner's death in New York City.
Taxes and the revenue they generate often become the tail wagging the dog. For years, tobacco has been heavily taxed throughout the nation as a disincentive to smoking. So when a pack of cigarettes costs over $10 as in New York City, naturally, “entrepreneurs” such as the late Mr. Garner will produce their own cigarettes to sell to smokers of modest income who cannot afford to fund the nanny state.
The fact that our nation’s largest city deemed it necessary to have FIVE officers tied up trying to bust ONE MAN selling cigarettes on the black market underscores New York’s lust for tax revenues. Think about it: When you add the wages and benefits of five officers for an hour or however long they were involved with Garner, that constitutes a significant amount of money. Not to mention A) the other, more serious criminal activity from which Mr. Garner kept them diverted; and B) the can of worms opened up – Mr. Garner’s death. First and foremost, a human life was lost; family, relatives and friends are heartbroken. And this also leads to unfavorable publicity, violent street demonstrations, testimony of officers and witnesses, investigations, possible suspensions and other disciplinary action, lawsuits, attorney fees and court costs. And it all stems from the government aggressively trying to collect “sin taxes.”
It happens all the time when misguided legislation distorts markets: People find ways to circumvent outrageous expenses they cannot afford. In Detroit, for example, where carjackings and auto theft are off the charts, auto insurance is so exorbitant that thousands of drivers simply drive uninsured. Doubtless, everyone pays the price with higher premiums whenever there’s an accident involving an uninsured driver. Granted, driving sans insurance is a response to Detroit's sky-high crime problem and how that impacts auto owners. But it is also closely related to Michigan’s awful no-fault insurance system, which jacks up rates ridiculously for everyone. I swear the insurance industry must have every single Michigan lawmaker in its vest pocket!
And here's another exampe: I’ve mentioned before that the ill-advised “luxury tax” of the early 1990s depressed sales of automobiles and yachts, thus leading to thousands of layoffs in the boatbuilding industry and causing the wealthy to purchase their yachts overseas, buy used vessels or simply not buy at all. When all was said and done, the luxury tax raised a tiny pittance in extra revenues, but the depressed tax revenue from laid off workers and money shelled out for unemployment proved to be a much greater sum. Economics is about human nature and cause-and-effect far more than it is about fancy-schmancy formulae, theorems, analytics and indexes. Mostly, it is about common sense. Sadly, this is lacking in liberal politicians, and even among many so-called conservatives. But I digress. Back to the police...
I reiterate what I stated a few days ago: Police departments need to show restraint and prudence when enforcing laws against non-violent offenders. With GPS, surveillance cameras seemingly everywhere, drones all about, the Internet and sophisticated data bases, it is EASY to catch someone who flees and eludes or does not cooperate when confronted committing a misdemeanor such as that in which Garner was engaged.
Now let's skip the segue and abruptly switch topics (because I haven't had enough coffee and am just not in the mood for finesse!) The heavy-handed response to Eric Garner seems to be replicating itself across the federal government. Reasonable people can disagree whether there really is a problem with the “militarization” of local and state police (much of that stems from the Department of Homeland Security handing out grant money like Santa Claus hands out presents on Christmas, and if you can get it and must use it or lose it, GO FOR IT! BUY THOSE SHINY TOYS!)
But what’s alarming is that government agencies that ought to have no business going the heavy-handed Rambo route are doing so. The Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI and other agencies definitely need the capability of aggressively barging in on bad guys. But many agencies do have SWAT-style units when it seems they have no business going that route, e.g., the Department of Education, EPA, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Food and Drug Administration. (What, if someone gets way behind on their student loans, the jack-booted thugs will beat down the door in the middle of the night and come screaming into his apartment?)
Customs and Border Protection definitely needs such forces, since they deal with dangerous felons such as drug dealers and human smugglers. But the potential for abuse is always there, as we witnessed with Elian Gonzalez in spring 2000, when Border Patrol agents burst into a residence in a pre-dawn raid that was obscenely heavy-handed.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our pathetic, abysmal “journalists” would stop parroting the administration’s talking points, restrain themselves from indulging in sensationalism, and quit “running with the pack” on what constitutes an important story. Instead, if reporters would independently dig into our federal government’s increasing tendency to trample on civil rights, millions of Americans would be better informed and thus outraged. Huge chunks of our population are unaware of how their tax dollars are being misused.
Finally, a few words on body cameras for police officers. This seems to the feel-good “flavor of the month” panacea among liberals. They think this technology will magically put an end to violent confrontations between police officers and young black suspects. But it simply expands Big Brother’s spying capabilities, and could end up providing lots of incriminating evidence against defendants that otherwise might not have survived cross-examination in court. In other words, the complications and ramifications might just prove more problematic than the reason for the cameras in the first place. We need to think this through, but will we?
Life gets more complicated by the minute, and technology is the rock on the accelerator.