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The Candidates 2016 and Domestic Policy - Page 2

This week, we're going to be covering four very hot issues in 2016: education, healthcare, drug policy, and immigration. This is not the entirety of the domestic policy spectrum, but rest assured we will get to things like economics, civil rights, and energy in future posts.



Drug Policy

militarized police
SWAT is well-armed to combat the demon weed and take the homes of those who sell it
The War on Drugs has been a miserable failure in terms of improving the quality of life of the citizenry, but it has been an enormous boon for law enforcement, which now enjoys more unilateral power than ever, in large part due to drugs. I have long believed that prohibition is counter-productive, that it doesn't remove the existence of a thing, doesn't stop people from using it, and inevitably leads to a police state where liberty is sacrificed for a vague illusion of security. I'll talk more about law enforcement and the current issues there in a future entry (it's covered under civil rights), but sufficed to say, I'm a fan of decriminilization, harm reduction, and compassionate treatment when it comes to drugs, not property seizure and incarceration to a prison population already stuffed to the gills with people who's only crime was selling something somebody else wants.

In several speeches over the last year, Hillary Clinton has stressed that she believes substance abuse to be "a disease, not a moral failing," and she has repeatedly called for a stronger emphasis on treatment as opposed to punishment as part of a larger reform of the entire criminal justice system. She wants to fund programs dedicated to awareness, prevention, support, and care, especially at the local, community level, by increasing the Substance Abuse Prevention block grant by 15%, aggressively investigating insurance and pharmaceutical companies that don't comply with her initiatives, and "promulgate guidelines" to improve addiction prevention within Medicare and the VA. She has also gone on the record in support of states that have legalized or are trying to legalize marijuana at the local level.

Gary Johnson has been a emphatic supporter of marijuana legalization (and regulation) for at least the last seventeen years, and his discussion of the topic on his website is fairly simple: end the War on Drugs, remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, and promote rehabilitation and harm-reduction. Similarly, Jill Stein has also called for an end to the War on Drugs, legalizing marijuana, regulating it at the state level, and treating the issue as a health problem as opposed to a criminal one. She has made some odd statements about scientifically determining which drugs are harmful and only legalizing the ones that aren't, but aside from that, she's pretty much on the same page as Johnson.

Donald Trump doesn't support legalization of drugs or ending the drug war. He's okay with "studying" legalization, but not implementing it until it is proven safe. However, he does support medical marijuana exemptions. He's been a bit wishy-washy on the subject of states like Colorado (which he says has "big problems") that have tinkered with the possibility of recreational use legalization, never firmly committing to either enforcing federal law or ignoring it.

It really feels like the culture has changed and that our leaders are more and more open to the idea of ending prohibition, at least in principle. I applaud Clinton, Johnson, and Stein for wanting to treat substance abuse as a medical issue instead of a criminal one--and so all three get a point here--but I worry that Clinton's plans are too reliant on the power of the state and the application of increased federal funding. Still, that's an ideological and economic difference of opinion about a subject that I largely agree with her on. However, when it comes to Donald Trump, I worry that he's not receptive to any of that, and his firm refusal to even consider legalization for anything but medical purposes is impossible to overlook.



Immigration

Marshall Park vigil
Either rapists and murderers or poor, homeless potential voters, depending on who you ask
Entering this country legally and becoming a citizen is too hard, but entering illegally is too easy. I don't understand why this is so difficult for our leaders to work out, because they once seemed to be on the same page, just with a different interpretation of priorities. Now, though, the problem has festered so long that it's gotten exponentially worse, because now we have the question of what to do with a veritable sea of illegal immigrants, with Republicans strongly in the camp of kicking them out of the country and Democrats strongly in the camp of granting them immediate citizenship and a DNC registration slip. Both camps are so dead-set on their opposite goals that they are immunized to compromise, and so the problem with continue to fester for another generation, when it will be even worse. I'd be willing to vote for anyone--anyone--who wants to compromise, who wants to be firm but compassionate, and who wants to address legal immigration as well as illegal immigration.

Hillary Clinton promises to submit to Congress "comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship" within her first hundred days in office. She defends the president's executive actions on immigration and promises to build on them "if Congress keeps failing to act." She also wants to end the practice of family detention, grant healthcare to illegals, and offer free waivers to offset the high cost of naturalization.

The immigration plan of Gary Johnson is built on a principle of "incentivizing assimilation," meaning that he wants to make it simpler, more efficient, and more beneficial to immigrate legally or apply for citizenship. He has called for streamlining the visa process, improving background check requirements, and creating a path to citizenship for any immigrant who has no criminal record. He strongly opposes a border wall, and believes that security comes through better legal immigration.

Jill Stein wants to extend the DREAM Act to those over the age of 30, to prohibit "secure communities," to halt deportations of "law-abiding undocumented immigrants," to create a path to citizenship, and to "demilitarize" all border crossings.

I probably don't need to tell you that immigration has been Donald Trump's signature issue for the vast majority of this presidential campaign. He wants to make Mexico pay for a wall along the southern border, triple the number of ICE officers, have a zero-tolerance deportation policy for aliens with criminal convictions, enhance penalties for overstaying visas, end birthright citizenship, and impose a blanket ban on Muslim refugees entering the country.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying things, but these four offer very distinct ideas: Clinton promises to use executive power to grant universal amnesty; Johnson promises to fix legal immigration first; Stein wants to practically do away with borders altogether; and Trump wants to destroy our economic partnership with Mexico over a stupid wall that won't work. I think they're all wrong for one reason or another, but I could work with Johnson's position. Johnson might just be on to something, and he might be able to circumvent the partisan divide by focusing almost entirely on legal immigration instead of beating the drum on the amnesty/security false dichotomy. Stein's position is similar, but goes much too far by doing things like extending the DREAM Act, halting deportations, and weakening our borders. As for Clinton and Trump, I loathe both their positions because they are both reliant on authoritarian power, ridiculous promises, and ideological rigidity.



The Scorecard

CLINTON:
1

JOHNSON:
4

STEIN:
1

TRUMP:
2


When it comes to domestic policy, it is hardly a surprise that I am aligned more with Gary Johnson than the other three, but it is startling how he managed to sweep all four of the subjects I've covered this week. He believes in a competitive free market approach to education and healthcare, which is something we desperately need; he opposes the War on Drugs, possibly the initiative most hostile to liberty in the last half-century; and he is willing to take a moderate approach to immigration. I absolutely agree with him, so this week, it's not even close.

-e. magill 9/1/2016


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