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Cheney Shoots a Texas Liberal
Posted on Feb 13, 2006
By Molly Ivins
UPDATE: Check out Truthdig’s extensive and continuing coverage of the heart attack of Cheney’s shooting victim.
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Not that I accuse Harry Whittington of being an actual liberal—only by Texas Republican standards, and that sets the bar about the height of a matchbook. Nevertheless, Whittington is seriously civilized, particularly on the issues of crime, punishment and prisons. He served on both the Texas Board of Corrections and on the bonding authority that builds prisons. As he has often said, prisons do not curb crime, they are hothouses for crime: “Prisons are to crime what greenhouses are to plants.”
In the day, whenever there was an especially bad case of new-ignoramus-in-the-legislature—a “lock ‘em all up and throw away the key” type—the senior members used to send the prison-happy, tuff-on-crime neophyte to see Harry Whittington, a Republican after all, for a little basic education on the cost of prisons.
When Whittington was the chairman of Texas Public Finance Authority, he had a devastating set of numbers on the demand for more, more, more prison beds. As Whittington was wont to point out, the only thing prisons are good for is segregating violent people from the rest of society, and most of them belong in psychiatric hospitals to begin with. The severity of sentences has no effect on crime.
Texas still keeps the nonviolent, the retarded, senior citizens, etc. locked up for ridiculous periods—all at taxpayer expense. If we could ever get to where we spend as much per pupil on education as we do per prisoner, this state would take off like a rocket. In 2003, we spend nearly $15,000 per prisoner, while average per-pupil spending was just over $8,000.
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Which brings us to one of the many paradoxes of the Bush administration, which claims to be creating “the responsibility society.” It’s hard to think of a crowd less likely to take responsibility for anything they have done or not done than this bunch. They’re certainly good at preaching responsibility to others—and blaming other people for everything that goes wrong on their watch.
Of course the Cheney shooting was an accident.
Is it an accident if you are born with a clubfoot and your parents are too poor to pay for the operation to fix it? Is there any societal responsibility in such a case?
Is it an accident when your manufacturing job gets shipped overseas and all you can find to replace it is a low-wage job at the big-box store with no health insurance, and your kid breaks his leg, and you can’t pay the bill, so you have to declare bankruptcy under a new law that leaves you broke for good, with no chance of ever getting out of debt? Or was all of that caused by deliberate government policy?
His head still tilts over more to the right when he lies.
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