Friday, September 29, 2006

Promises from Campaigns Past...

I've been a bit busy, or I would have blogged a few days ago on something that is eating at me in the Georgia Governor's race. The problem is the spate of idiotic promises that both major candidates are offering. Neither is well thought out, and they are all designed to pull in support on Nov. 7. Normally, I don't pay much attention to promises made in a campaign, as I view most of them as cheap ploys to get votes from people who don't think about the world around them.

This year's Georgia gubernatorial race, however, is like an LSD flashback to Virginia Governor's races past. First up is hysteria about criminals and crime. Atlanta has had the fewest number of murders this year since 1969, but you wouldn't know it from looking at Sonny's and Mark's ad. Actually, it's not violent crime, but child molesters who are out to get us all. This is probably fed from the news stories of the last year from Dateline NBC and other outlets about the child molesters in our midst who use the internet to seduce our children. This is a serious problem, and it shows that pedophilia is more common than anyone would be comfortable with. I have no problem cracking down kiddie porn, arresting people who possess or trade in child porn, or being damn tough on convicted child molesters. Speaking as someone who was molested by a stranger in a movie theatre as a child, I know what kind of damage it can do to a child's self-esteem and psyche. I emerged pretty unscarred, but I immediately told the police and my parents what happened after what I felt to be the immediate danger passed. But for years, I thought the molestation was my fault, because I had just entered puberty and my hormone laden fantasies and dreams were definitely of the homosexual variety. I figured God was punishing me for my homo desires (thanks Southern Baptist Convention!). Anyway, I think there is a special place in hell for anyone who would abuse a child.

Sonny and Mark came out with child molester ads within days of each other, so I'm not sure who was first. Sonny's ad also started the nauseating "Sonny Do" commercials which I expect to be subjected to through November. It starts on a clear morning with Mrs. Perdue looking absolutely stricken as she gazes out of a kitchen window. Sonny places an arm around her while a Levitra ad plays over his shoulder, and Mrs. Perdue cries out about her worry over the children of Georgia and all those child molesters out there! You can practically see Sonny slap her ass as he tells her it will be all right, because he's worried too, and he's starting a Georgia CSI unit (Child Sex Investigation, not Crime Scene, like the TV show) with the state police. Mrs. Perdue's eyes glisten and remarks what a great idea that is ... and that she'll put that on his "Sonny Do" list.

Not to be outdone, Mark Taylor came out with an add that promises the death penalty for any repeat child offenders...assuming the victim was under 14. I guess it wouldn't be worth death if you molest a 12 yr old and follow up later with the statutory rape of a 15 yr old. Mark promises that with him as governor, child molesters will FRY (or be put to sleep since Georgia uses lethal injection). Can't beat death in the "who's tougher on child molesters" sweepstakes.

Sonny's commercial is a stunt. He's already ordered this new unit in the state police to be started, which is a good thing. The problem with internet predators is long standing, so why did it take an election to get his attention? With Mark's proposal, I'm not certain that is legal. Yes, other states have the same kind of law...but I don't think it's been tested yet. No one's met the criteria for it to be tested in the courts. Death penalty jurisprudence has evolved to the point where death is imposed only when someone else dies AND there's aggravating factors. If you rape and kill a 12 year old, that would get you the death penalty TODAY if a jury was willing to impose it. I'm not convinced that the 8th amendment would allow a repeat child molester who did not kill his/her victims to be put to death without it being a violation of cruel and unusual punishment. There's definitely an argument to be made that it's no more cruel or unusual than what the molester does to his/her victim, but the law has a way of looking at things with the emotion stripped away. Besides, it's VERY expensive to put someone to death, more expensive than keeping them alive for life behind bars. You also would have to expand death row, I imagine. How will Mark pay for that and his proposals to reinstate the $1 billion Sonny cut from education or to expand PeachKids to all children under the age of 18, regardless of income? If you say "higher taxes", I will show you a GOP General Assembly that will not let that happen, no matter how sound the proposal.

Two other promises I've heard in connection with Taylor's campaign is a promise to a) eliminate the property tax on personal vehicles and b) to eliminate parole. That move is straight from the playbook of George Allen in 1993 and James Gilmore in 1997 when they won the Virginia governor's mansion. George Allen promised to eliminate parole and ended a 12 year Democratic reign in Richmond as a result. Parole was ended for anyone convicted after June 1994 in Virginia. The sentence you got is the sentence you would serve, by damn! It worked quite well, except for the fact that the prisons quickly became overcrowded. The solution to that was to cut higher education to fund building more prisons. George Allen chose prisons over schools, and Mark Taylor is setting himself up to make the same kind of choice.

In 1997, Gilmore promised to eliminate the property tax on vehicles. The problem is that this tax was not levied by the state; it was levied by the counties and cities. In Virginia, all sovreignity resides with the General Assembly, and counties/cities can only do what the General Assembly gives express permission for them to do. However, take away the tax on vehicles, and you decimate the local governments. Their budgets would virtually disappear overnight, and things like sewers, fire, police, and local roads would have no funding whatsoever. The way around this was to have the state reimburse the localities for the tax, and freeze the millage rate at where it stood in 1998. The problem is that SUVs and other expensive cars became hugely popular around this time, so the cost estimates for this program (much like the Bush estimates for the Medicare prescription drug program) were wildly under-stated. The program had to be frozen because it was bankrupting the state, and when the recession of Bush's first term caused a fiscal crisis in Virginia, Democrat Mark Warner was forced to freeze the program at 80% of the tax being covered by state funds. Mark Taylor should know that this program, while popular, will be extremely expensive, and money has to come from somewhere. How will he pay for it? This is a program for which Sonny has said "me too" so it looks like we'll be facing some kind of car tax relief in 2007. Again, the choice to cut the tax will have consequences, so the question is what will Georgians sacrifice to avoid that nasty birthday tax on our cars?

My point in all this is that choices have consequences. Bush has tried to sell the American people on the notion that you can have something for nothing, but that's irresponsible. It's the best way to bankrupt our society and government. Luckily, states can't run deficits, although rainy day funds do allow some extra spending in hard times, which is appropriate. We can't have everything we'd like, so we have to make choices. The hard decision comes when we have to decide whether to invest in our children or in housing our criminals. In pulling Georgia out of the education cellar or in getting a tax break on our cars. Virginia made these choices in the 1990s, and paid a price for it. Georgia would be wise to look at Virginia's experience before going down the same road.

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