Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Proposed New Constitution Article 12, Ending Class Bias in the Law

Also at
Article 12-Ending Class Bias in the Law

1. All crimes must be punished. No president may pardon or give clemency to any in their own administration, or the administration of other presidents of their party, and all such previous pardons are overturned. The guilty shall never be allowed to profit from their crimes. The guilty must pay back all wealth from their crimes and pay for all damage done to others.”

Class bias, as much as racial bias, does great harm to American society and persons. But unlike racism, class bias is rarely addressed in America. It is far too often invisible or unspoken, an enormous pretense made that classism does not exist or can easily be overcome.

There is an enormous class bias in the legal system. A criminal (even an unarmed one) who steals five hundred dollars from a convenience store is far more harshly punished than a bank president embezzling millions. White collar crime is far less punished than “street crime.” Not only far shorter sentences, but white collar prisons have a notorious reputation for soft treatment, just country clubs with high fences where the well off do their time by working on their tennis game.

Such bias goes all the way to the top. Corrupt presidents have only rarely been punished, and far more often, false charges of corruption are only used as a smear by the opposition. Nixon and Reagan were never punished for their crimes, while dozens of faux scandals were invented to smear Clinton and Obama. One Clinton administration member was actually forced to resign over a single pair of low value football game tickets. Notably, the worst thing each president did, Clinton choosing to not halt genocide in Rwanda and Obama's drone assassination program, were not objected to by most members of either party.

Presidents have also misused their pardon power to prevent officials of their own party and even own administration from being punished. Ford pardoned Nixon, the man who appointed him, in what was widely regarded by most as a corrupt deal that cost Ford the next election. George Bush Sr. pardoned those convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal for lawbreaking that later evidence showed he himself took part in. Clinton pardoned wealthy campaign donors, de facto bribery in every way but name. GW Bush gave leniency to “Scooter” Libby for his part in leaking the name of a CIA agent, when some evidence points to Bush himself leaking the agent’s name. This abuse must be ended. Presidents should always be barred from pardoning their own party and administration members, since it's a clear conflict of interest and a way to protect their own criminal actions and associates.

Wealthy criminals are rarely punished equal to the crimes they commit. Bank presidents and CEOs who embezzle or defraud routinely negotiate deals allowing them to walk away with most of what they have stolen. The list of scandals of the last 30 years is disturbingly long: The Savings and Loan Scandals, BCCI, Worldcom, subprime loans, underwater mortages, Enron, Bernie Madoff's Ponzi schemes, Lehman Brothers, Cendant, MF Global, Fannie Mae, HealthSouth, Tyco, Allen Stanford, Qwest, Arthur Andersen, Bear Stearns, IMClone, and Adelphia.

All the scandals named involved billions of dollars, sometimes tens of billions. Punishment has been limited and rare. Only Madoff received any substantial prison time, and that is because his victims were all wealthy elites like Steven Spielberg. A good illustration of the double standard was Martha Stewart, who got only a few months in a cushy “prison” for insider trading that gained her about $45,000. Her business also did not suffer, nor did most of her customers or the public condemn her the way they would a petty thief, much less one stealing $45,000. By contrast, most ex-convicts guilty of minor “street” crimes have a hard time even finding minimum wage work. Many are barred from some workplaces.

The principle this nation and society should follow is simple: No one should benefit from crime. Any punishment should at least be equal to what was stolen or gained, plus the harm done to victims. Full restitution should be standard practice. That is even more important than prison sentences. The prospect of instant poverty will deter millionaire and billionaire serial criminals. It will also end much of the worship of wealth, the Mammon so common in mainstream America, a sickness that in its most extreme form is no different from admiring gangsters just because they are wealthy.

2. All fees, fines, and taxes must be progressive, based on ability to pay. Regressive taxes, where the wealthy pay a proportionately smaller amount, are expressly forbidden and must be immediately made progressive.”

Social Security is one of the great accomplishments of American society and government. It changed seniors from the poorest age group to the wealthiest. But the way it was enacted and maintained is striking. To keep the wealthy from opposing it, the Social Security tax is among the most regressive in America. Only the first $110,000 is taxed. Someone making $110,000 and Bill Gates, worth over $60 billion, pay the same amount.

Sales tax, compared to taxes on sales of stocks, is regressive as well. The single mother buying groceries to feed her family pays higher taxes on most of her food, up to 10%, than the speculator who pays only 0.0034% when buying stocks. Until transaction taxes and sales tax match, this is a formula for class warfare, wealth redistributed upwards from workers to elites. Ideally, the transaction tax would be between 0.5 and 1%, and so would sales tax. A great intended side benefit would be its reducing speculation in the stock market, one of the biggest reasons for instability in the economy since the start of the century.

Fines for lawbreaking should also be tailored to income and wealth. A fine of $500 devastates someone on minimum wage, and the unemployed have no choice but to serve jail time. But to the wealthy, such a fine is not even pocket change. In essence, many of the poorest go to jail for lack of money, while the wealthy are not deterred from lawbreaking. Were fines made progressive, on a sliding scale as income tax is, the average cost of fines would decline for most.

Far better to make all fines a percentage of combined income and wealth, say 0.5% of one’s annual income from all sources and value of all property and other wealth for a traffic fine, or one year's income and wealth for a fine handed down for a felony conviction. Thus (in addition to prison time) someone making the minimum wage with no other real assets would pay a $10,000 fine for a felony, while someone making $1 million a year with $2 million in property would pay $3 million in fines.

Both suffer the same just and equal fate, being reduced to zero financially for their crime. An added bonus would be that the law now has far more incentive to go after wealthy lawbreakers, when now the reverse is true. Thus all the extremely wealthy lawbreakers in the scandals listed before would have paid billions or tens of billions in fines, exactly what they deserved, not a single penny of profit from their crimes.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Proposed New Constitution Article 11, Ending Institutional Support for Hatred

Article 11- Ending Institutional Support for Hatred

1. No government body, law, or regulation will sanction or reward racism or ethnic hatred, religious bigotry, sexism, or other hatreds based on linguicism (hatred or discrimination based on language) or national or regional origin, whether intended or claimed to be unintended.”

The start of doctors' Hippocratic Oath is “First, do no harm.” For most of American history, government deliberately did actively harm nonwhites, and the US system was openly white supremacist. Besides the obvious African slavery and genocide against American Indians, the earliest immigration laws in the US restricted citizenship to whites only. A racist immigration quota system was kept in place until the late 1960s. Interracial marriage was banned and an elaborate system of segregation put in place. Asians, starting with Chinese, faced a series of Exclusion Acts. Native Hawaiians saw their language banned as late as 1986, American Indians were punished for speaking Native languages, and indigenous ceremonies were banned. Social Security in the beginning did not cover farm workers or other professions with a high number of Blacks, Latinos, and Natives. There were special taxes aimed at Black businesses in the south, and against Chinese and Mexicans in California (the Foreign Miner's Tax.) Sometimes discrimination was simply petty, such as a ban on Manchu hairstyles. Even most elementary schoolchildren know that nearly all minorities faced bans or limitations on voting.

Some of that discrimination continues today, with old fashioned gerrymandering and voter ID laws squarely aimed at discouraging minorities. Voting stations in inner cities are often old and underserved, leading to long lines, or far away in rural areas with mostly Blacks, Latinos, or Natives. At the same time, largely white suburban polling stations are lavish and easy to access quickly.

Other government sanctioned prejudices are far more recent than most Americans realize. The US Department of Agriculture systematically discriminated against Blacks and Natives, denied them credit and disaster relief, had almost no minority employees, and delayed civil rights claims as late as 2004. The number of Black and Native owned farms dropped dramatically, forcing many into low paying labor. The state of Georgia currently sells a special license plate that directly funds a white supremacist group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans. There are numerous de facto whites-only college practices, such as legacy scholarships and admissions, that continue today.

Government must no longer and never again be an institution for inequality or be used by the bigoted to enforce their prejudices. This must be safeguarded not only because of a long odious past, but because of an equally ugly present, and a potentially ugly future. A number of current presidential candidates call for a wall on the border with Mexico, and some states have passed laws against the mythical threat of Sharia law. A tide of intolerance could return, as it did after September 11 when 80,000 males from 24 Muslim nations were forced to register with the government. (Supposedly done to prevent terrorism, not a single suspect was caught from this profiling.) This article will act as a safeguard.

2. Nor shall any government fail to provide redress for longstanding discrimination based on the previous.”

Those who would try to use the previous clause to undermine government or public efforts to end hatred and the harm it brings must be blocked. One could easily see the ignorant, willfully blind, or maliciously racist or sexist trying to use this article to claim Affirmative Action or Title IX (aimed at preventing discrimination against women in education) must end. Such an argument is not just false, it is bigoted. Anti Title IX or Affirmative Action arguments assume that all better jobs or benefits naturally “belong” to white males and that women and minorities have inferior abilities.

This clause goes beyond the previous one. The government is committed to not only never causing or worsening bigotry, but to actively ending such bigotries.

3. Any person or institution taking part in or promoting discrimination based on the previous will result in that person or institution's permanent inability to receive government jobs or benefits, including licenses, grants, subsidies, retirement including pensions and Social Security, tax deductions or credits, eligibility for public assistance, student or business loans or credit.”

Much like proposed Article 10, a bigot's First Amendment rights are not being infringed upon by this proposal. All that is changing is that such prejudices will no longer be supported by the state and public money. A Klansman should not be a cop. A neo Nazi should not be allowed to be a soldier. A Nation of Islam member should not be teaching history at a public high school. For obvious reasons it is dangerous and destructive to allow them to do so. Those dedicated to the destruction of a large part of the people of this nation should not benefit from its institutions, or be allowed to use those institutions to harm others.

By extension, the state and the public have the right to deny benefits to members of the public based on their harmful actions. The obvious precedent is drug laws. Federal law does not allow those with drug convictions to receive federal student loans. One way this proposal could be immediately used is to end public money going to groups trying to “cure” gays of being homosexual.

Simply having a private bigoted opinion will not result in being cut off. But being a member of a hate group, media or other corporation promoting and making money off hatred, or actively promoting discrimination and hatred either as an individual, or part of a hate group or corporation promoting hatreds, should lead to sanctions from society and government against you.

The biggest benefit to society will not be from preventing a militia terrorist from getting military training, or even from keeping racists off police forces. The biggest gain will be from blocking corporations from profiting at public expense when they spread stereotypes. Hollywood and news media will be punished by this article far more than the far right, for they do far more harm and spread far more hate. Politicians also will face sanctions, for they will lose public funding for a pattern of preaching bigotry.

Contrary to some claims, changing behavior can and often does successfully change even the deepest of bigoted opinions. Ending many forms of legal segregation showed that. Whites who previously feared or hated minorities discovered the world does not end when one shares the same lunch counter. The percentage of Americans holding bigoted opinions has dropped sharply. Where nearly nine-tenths of the public opposed interracial dating and marriage in the 1960s, today less than a fifth do. Racism can go the way of feudalism, as a system and mindset we have to explain to students used to exist.