For the most part, Cenk is right about government-corporate schemes, but he is missing half the point. He touches on it when he discusses where the court fees go, then he goes on the diatribe about corporate involvement in government functions. The other half of the scheme is that the government sold out to the corporations and shaped government functions to generate revenue for themselves and their corporate friends by reaching into the public’s wallets for violations of ridiculous laws.

Mr. Uygur points out that Gina Ray ended up in jail because a $174 ticket turned into $3170 in legal fees, and ultimately a 40-day sentence. He then asks rhetorically who among us has never violated the speed limit, but fails to take the step of questioning the speed limit itself- or why Ray was ticketed if there was no damage or injury. He doesn’t ask why Hills McGee needed to be fined $270 for public drunkenness in the first place if he didn’t hurt anyone. Surely, if there were injury or property damage involved, it would have been reported (and there would be different, legitimate charge). If Gina Ray had never been written a ticket for the harmless “crime” of exceeding an arbitrary velocity mandated by the public-private police-industrial complex, the collection of the fine would become a moot point. Gina Ray would be going about her life peacefully just like you did last time you exceeded the speed limit.

What was the justification for the fines discussed?: Police lab equipment, victim assistance programs, the court computer system. The financial needs of the government apparatus for enforcing ridiculous fines are used to justify more ridiculous fines, and the system just feeds on itself. Would the judge be as eager to convict if part of Gina Ray’s fine wasn’t going into his retirement fund?

Being in the business of imprisoning one’s fellow citizens is deplorable- but even in a democracy, the majority wields the government’s monopoly on force over the minority at all times (via law enforcement agencies)… and this is paid for by tax money. Either way, some of your money is taken to pay some people to enforce the laws of your municipality. If these laws are determined each severally by a democratic vote rather than the universal policy of respect for individual liberty and the Bill Of Rights, the guns of law enforcement can still be trained on those who peacefully ingest certain substances (but not others!), swear in public, or any manner of things equally or less disruptive than public intoxication, as long as someone can get enough people to vote for it- and the government is accountable to no one but their corporate masters and the complicit majority.

If corporations are to be held accountable for their harsh enforcement of harsh laws, governments need to be held accountable for their drafting of such laws as well. Whoever has the guns of government, what we need from them is compassionate and measured law enforcement; and from our governments, sane legislation and practice with which to hold them responsible- and on all sides, more accountability to the public zeitgeist. We currently have none of these.

Expensive draconian punishment is not the sole domain of private corporations. Governments are happy to cooperate with them in its design and implementation. We don’t need to save our democracy, Cenk. We need to save our republic!

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