Monday, October 13, 2014

If It's Something They Want, Money Doesn't Matter






The Wall Street Journal last week reported

The White House is drafting options that would allow President Barack Obama to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by overriding a congressional ban on bringing detainees to the U.S., senior administration officials said.

Such a move would be the latest and potentially most dramatic use of executive power by the president in his second term. It would likely provoke a sharp reaction from lawmakers, who have repeatedly barred the transfer of detainees to the U.S....

The core obstacle standing in the White House’s way is Congress’s move in 2010 to ban the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. That legislation was passed after the administration sparked a backlash when it proposed relocating detainees to a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill.

The administration hopes to tamp down controversy by reducing the inmate population by at least half through quickly transferring Guantanamo detainees cleared for release....

Part of the administration’s strategy for reducing political opposition to lifting the ban on transferring detainees is to whittle the number in Guantanamo to the point where the cost of maintaining the installation is unpalatable. The annual cost per inmate is $2.7 million, in contrast with $78,000 at a supermax prison on the mainland, officials say.

Steve M. is not sanguine about the likelihood conservatives' will be satisfied because the President's plan will save money. He responds

You can raise heartlanders' blood pressure to dangerous levels just by telling them about a federally funded cow-flatulence study that cost taxpayers $50,000 (even if the study is very useful in understanding the spread of atmospheric toxins), but millions, billions, even trillions of dollars spent defending America against The Other is just money well spent. Defense spending is free! Everyone knows that! It adds nothing to the debt or deficit!

To a lot of Republicans, neither does anything else aside, from measures to help the less fortunate. Politico observed

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defended his voter ID law Friday night during the first gubernatorial debate with Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

Walker said that the voter ID law, which the U.S. Supreme Court just blocked from being enforced, is worthwhile if it stops one person from fraudulently casting a ballot.

“It doesn’t matter if there’s one, 100 or 1,000,” Walker said. “Amongst us who would be that one person who would like to have our vote canceled out by a vote that was cast illegally?”

That one vote would be one vote out of 500,000.  A report authored by Justin Leavitt for the Brennan Center for Justice found (p. 25)

The 2004 election was hotly contested in Wisconsin and various irregularities led to inflated claims of widespread fraud. The allegations yielded only seven substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casing invalid votes that counted- all persons with felony convictions. This amounts to a rate of 0.0025% within Milwaukee and 0.0002% within the state as a whole. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

Obviously, in terms of cost, there is no comparison between voter suppression efforts and war. But then, the "war on terrorism" is a far bigger deal than keeping Democratic constituencies from voting.   In both cases, cost is no object.  We hear little about the tax money or borrowing money from abroad when it applies to the new and improved bombing campaign in the Middle East, conducted to the tune of  $200-$320 million per month.  Lauren McCauley of Common Dreams notes "the costly drums of war are being beaten by the same Congress that in February slashed $8.7 billion from federal food stamp funding."

Nor is the cost of "voter security," preventing 0-1 fraudulently cast votes in his state, any concern of Governor Walker (AP photo, below).  "One, 100, or one thousand"-  or, more likely, zero.

So if and when Administration officials, in one form or another, reveal that keeping in custody an inmate in a maximum security prison in the U.S.A. is approximately 29% as expensive as at Guantanamo, or that keeping a guy in Cuba costs the taxpayers roughly $2,622,000 more than holding him in this country, it will fall on deaf ears.  

The left supports it because it's the right thing to do.The right opposes it because people scared of their own shadow are afraid of allowing U.S. prisons to hold criminals and well, Obama and all that.  And the right knows how to rile up independents almost and its own.  House Speaker Boehner:

Even as Islamic jihadists are beheading Americans, the White House is so eager to bring these terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the United States that it is examining ways to thwart Congress and unilaterally re-write the law.   Not only is this scheme dangerous, it is yet another example of what will be this administration’s legacy of lawlessness.

Whether to keep unwanted people from voting, scaring voters about terrorists, or dropping bombs from the air and killing hundreds of The Other, money is simply not a consideration.









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