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Journal Bowling Moses's Journal: Oregon, taxes, and crime

I was off getting lunch today and flipped through the Register-Guard*, the local newspaper for where I live, Eugene, OR. In it I saw this article where they at the "...behest of Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner, published a survey questionnaire on Monday asking readers to rank the importance of four categories of low-level nonviolent crimes. Gardner said he intends to consider the results in deciding where to cut prosecution to deal with a $425,000 budget reduction." We're being asked what crimes the police should bother going after since there aren't enough resources available to go after everything.

That reminds me of this article in the same paper about a retired couple out in the country who had everything--including their safe that was embedded in the floor in concrete--stolen from their house. The sheriff's department flatly told them they were on their own and to report it to insurance, since the deputies were stretched so thin they can't hardly cover violent crime. It's never been a better time to be a criminal in Oregon--as long as it isn't violent crime or drugs, you are immune from prosecution because there aren't enough resources to combat nonviolent crime.

Back to the article--the Register-Guard published some sample responses it received from readers here. Some were in total denial of the problem: "You should be ashamed. Get to work. Get organized. Quit wasting time on things like this." was one idiotic response. Most of the rest focused on one major problem: drugs. A few comments simply wished drugs weren't around or suggested ramping up the drug war, even though ignoring the problem or throwing more money that we don't have down the drug war rat hole won't solve the problem. Many however pointed out that some drugs such as methamphetamine are much more of a danger to society than others, such as marijuana, and should be handled differently. Having had the experience of living with pothead roommates and with a roommate battling a meth addiction this is pretty obvious to me.

As a graduate student at the University of Oregon I make just under $20,000 a year, but I'm in the top bracket for state income tax. We have three tax brackets, the top bracket starting at $6,500 a year. They were last adjusted in the 1930's. An easy fix to the state's budgetary problems would be regraduating the state income tax system to make the rich pay their fair share for a change. However the anti-tax activists are very well organized and despite the fact that the "fat" we're cutting from the state budget is things like funding for protection against nonviolent crime there probably will be another effort to lower taxes (primarily for the rich and the corporations, naturally) on the next ballot. But here's the rub: fiscal conservatives may be bringing about a fundamental shift in public attitudes about the war on drugs simply by forcing people to decide whether they'd like drug users to be prosecuted or whether they'd like to be protected against burglary. The response seems to indicate that the public appreciates the difference between essentially harmless marijuana and much more dangerous methamphetamines, and a desire to handle them differently. For the first time in the history of the drug war we could be on the verge of making a step in the right direction.

* I hardly ever read the "Republican-Guard" as the locals put it. It's a total rag, heavily and openly biased towards the conservatives, and has been trying to kill its union for at least the last decade. They can't give the paper away--I've seen them try around campus. Not only can you not even wrap a fish up in it since you'll end up with ink all over your catch, it doesn't even burn good as a friend of mine found out on a camping trip.
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Oregon, taxes, and crime

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