I. GOP Concern for the Less Fortunate Wanes
According to the Pew Research Center, during President Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans agreed that government has the responsibility to help the less fortunate; today, only 40 percent believe that. The Earned Income Tax Credit was expanded in Reagan’s second term and is one reason that 47 percent of taxpayers paid no income tax in 2008. The drop of about one-third in Republican compassion for the poor or near-poor helps explain why GOP-engineered tax-cuts are skewed so heavily toward the wealthy; for istance, the Brookings Institute has calculated that under the Romney tax plan, millionaires would get a $87,000 tax cut and just about everyone else would get a a $500 a year increase.
II. Military Suicides
As many as a quarter of veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and up to a quarter may have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Suicide has been rampant: according to the Center for a New American Security, between 2005 and 2010, service members took their own lives approximately once every 36 hours.
A milestone was reached earlier this year when the number of suicides of the active military exceeded, over a few months, those killed in combat. (1)
III. Industry Money and Jobs
Economists have long been telling us that government spending on the military is one of the poorest ways to create jobs. More recently, we have some evidence of the correlation of job loss to more funding for defense contractors. The Project on Government Oversight found that the five largest defense contractors — Lockheed, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics — received $17 billion more government money in 2011 than they received in 2006, yet employed 10 percent fewer workers: that is, they received 10 percent more money and employed 10 percent fewer workers.
Lockheed’s machinists struck in 2011 to fight plans to reduce pension plans. During that period, the average pay for CEOs for the top five contractors rose to $21.5 million. Lockheed spent nearly 20 percent more on lobbying in 2011, or $15 million more.
IV. Solitary Confinement
Inmates deemed a threat to the security of California’s 33 prisons are shipped to one of the state’s five Security Housing Units (SHUs), which hold nearly 4,000 people in long-term isolation. Overcrowding has caused doubling-up in cells. (2)
In the SHU there is no work, drug treatment nor religious services. Also, no phone calls nor contact visits. (3)
Indicators of what psychiatrist Stuart Grassian calls “SHU syndrome” include confusion, hallucinations,overwhelming anxiety, the emergence of primitive agressive fantasies and sudden violent outbursts. (4)
A sidebar in the same Mother Jones article, by Ryan Jacobs, is entitled “42 Years of Solitude.”
81,622 – Number of prisoners in solitary confinement across the United States in 2005, the last year for which the federal government released data.
11,730 – Number of inmates held in isolation in California prisons today.
7 – Percentage of California inmates who are in isolation.
39 – Percentage of inmate suicides that happen in isolation units.
78 – Percentage of Security housing Unit (SHU) inmates not classified as gang “leaders” or “members.”
$12,317 – Extra annual cost to taxpayers for each prisoner in the Pelican Bay SHU.
11’7″ x 7’7″ – Dimensions of a SHU cell at Pelican Bay.
6′ x 8′ – Dimensions of the average American’s walk-in closet.
51 – Percentage of Pelican Bay SHU inmates who have spent at least five years in isolation.
89 – Number who have been in solitary for at least 20 years.
1 – Number who have been there for 42 years.
(1) Adam Weinstein, “Unbreakable,” Mother Jones, September/October 2012.
(2) Shane Bauer, “No Way Our,” Mother Jones, November/December 2012.