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The Arrogance of Power

[The Vile History of the CIA and Crimes against Humanity]

 

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES:  The British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens had 200 or so detainees.  And Churchill said, “We don‘t torture.”  Churchill understood: you start taking short-cuts, and over time, that corrodes what‘s—what‘s best in the people.  It corrodes the character of a country.

Keith Olbermann show, 2009

 

Introduction

The people of the United States are at a crossroads of morality and conscience where torture policy in America is concerned. Much harm has been done to the reputation of this country as a civilized people, due to the expediency of policies during the Bush Administration believed to aid and assist the job of National Security. A secret policy of torture was promoted by the Bush Administration ostensibly to counter international terrorism. Subsequently, every “MOW-RON” and his brother came out of the woodwork to euphemistically describe torture as, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”

While it’s one thing for a misguided, uneducated general public to miss the historical, religious, social, legal, sociological and psychological basis for prohibiting torture, there really is no excuse for former members of the government to do so, many of whom knew it was wrong from the start.

In recent weeks, the primary motivation of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and others who promoted an after-the-fact dismissal of national and international law, including the Geneva Convention, was self-preservation, and the fear that they might one day soon be prosecuted and incarcerated for crimes against humanity.

Since we now have President George W. Bush’s confession on tape, broadcast on the Keith Olbermann MSNBC show in 2009, the country knows that there was approval at the highest levels of government to commit these war crimes. Those guilty of war crimes did reach all the way from “lackey” levels in the CIA to military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, and finally to the Bush White House itself.

More blatant rationalizations came recently from ex-vice president Dick Cheney. He appears on the television networks as the primary defender of torture. Cheney, who never went beyond his freshman year of college, seems to lack any understanding of law and shows absolutely no remorse for initiating and promoting torture and crimes against humanity.

How soon do the American people forget history? At the end of World War II many public servants, low-level bureaucrats, military officers, Nazi SS elite, judges, and high-level government officials were brought to the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal and tried for crimes against humanity. Where German military and concentration guards were concerned, they were not allowed to defend themselves with rationalizations like “We were only following orders,” or “let’s put this all behind us and look to the future” (sound familiar?). The Japanese also were tried after WWII for war crimes, including those who used waterboarding to torture prisoners. Many were sentenced and put to death by hanging for Crimes against Humanity.

Crimes against humanity were viewed as great violations of this country’s values to respect life and humanity in general. Policies of torture rob our nation of both dignity and respect. If we fail to act responsibly now as a nation, and fail to bring to justice all those involved in initiating an American torture policy or promoting or carrying out war crimes in the name of the United States, the consequences of a dishonored nation with a double standard will taint the American image, and thus taint the American people forever more. According to Alfred W. McCoy in his important book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, concluded:

 

“Finally, as we learned from France’s battle for Algiers in the 1950s and Britain’s Northern Ireland conflict in the 1970s, a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an even more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion.”

 

 

 

Background

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been involved in torture, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail and murder since its official inception in 1947 when the CIA was organized from its predecessor, The OSS—Office of Strategic Services. Both agencies have had a long and vile history. Individuals responsible for these violations of national and international law have never been held accountable because of the veil of secrecy and the alleged compromise to American intelligence gathering and national security. Because of this the public ends up not knowing whether the CIA did their clandestine activities out of a legitimate need for protecting the nation’s security, or was it a bogus smokescreen to cover up criminal behavior, including murders committed on behalf of the agency?

 

With more and more revelations every day that the CIA engaged in a long rogue program of illegal activity bordering on treason (any act of betrayal or disloyalty—in this case the undermining of the laws, values and ideals of the American people, it is imperative that the crimes not be stonewalled or met with impunity.

 

In addition, the violation of civil and human rights (decade after decade) warrants a long overdue charge of “Crimes Against Humanity” directed at individuals responsible including the chief architects of such programs.

 

It is now clear that in order to regain any shred of national respect and honor in the eyes of the American people and the rest of the world, those responsible must finally be brought to justice. Such vile human conduct of the last 71 years must not be whitewashed or swept under the rug of obscurity. The CIA has castrated the Declaration of Human Rights worldwide and, at home, stripped all moral authority of the United States to promote human rights anywhere in the world.

 

The CIA has used mind control drugs on unwitting experimental subjects, been a party to, over the last seventy one years, the murder or attempted murder of international democratically-elected political figures, and has been directly involved in training 56,000 South American soldiers (School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia) in methods of torture. Torture methods taught were eventually used against innocent civilians (men, women and children), political figures, militant rebels, and military combatants and detainees, all sponsored on behalf of the CIA of the United States government.

 

A Long and Vile History

 

The following quote from the late Steve Kangas describes the underlying motivation of just a few of the hundreds of atrocities and crimes committed by the CIA and its predecessor since 1943.

 

“CIA operations follow the same recurring script. First, American business interests abroad are threatened by a popular or democratically elected leader. The people support their leader because he intends to conduct land reform, strengthen unions, redistribute wealth, nationalize foreign-owned industry, and regulate business to protect workers, consumers and the environment.

 

So, on behalf of American business, and often with their help, the CIA mobilizes the opposition. First it identifies right-wing groups within the country (usually the military), and offers them a deal: “We’ll put you in power if you maintain a favorable business climate for us.” The Agency then hires, trains and works with them to overthrow the existing government (usually a democracy). It uses every trick in the book: propaganda, stuffed ballot boxes, purchased elections, extortion, blackmail, sexual intrigue, false stories about opponents in the local media, infiltration and disruption of opposing political parties, kidnapping, beating, torture, intimidation, economic sabotage, death squads and even assassination.

 

These efforts culminate in a military coup, which installs a right-wing dictator. The CIA trains the dictator’s security apparatus to crack down on the traditional enemies of big business, using interrogation, torture and murder. The victims are said to be “communists,” but almost always they are just peasants, liberals, moderates, labor union leaders, political opponents and advocates of free speech and democracy. Widespread human rights abuses follow.

 

This scenario has been repeated so many times that the CIA actually teaches it in a special school, the notorious “School of the Americas.” (It opened in Panama but later moved to Fort Benning, Georgia.) Critics have nicknamed it the “School of the Dictators” and “School of the Assassins.” Here, the CIA trains Latin American military officers how to conduct coups, including the use of interrogation, torture and murder.

 

The Association for Responsible Dissent estimated that by 1987, 6 million people had died as a result of CIA covert operations. Former State Department official William Blum correctly calls this an “American Holocaust.”

 

The CIA justifies these actions as part of its war against communism. But most coups do not involve a communist threat. Unlucky nations are targeted for a wide variety of reasons: not only threats to American business interests abroad, but also liberal or even moderate social reforms, political instability, the unwillingness of a leader to carry out Washington’s dictates, and declarations of neutrality in the Cold War. Indeed, nothing has infuriated CIA Directors quite like a nation’s desire to stay out of the Cold War.

 

The ironic thing about all this intervention is that it frequently fails to achieve American objectives. Often the newly installed dictator grows comfortable with the security apparatus the CIA has built for him. He becomes an expert at running a police state. And because the dictator knows he cannot be overthrown, he becomes independent and defiant of Washington’s will. The CIA then finds it cannot overthrow him, because the police and military are under the dictator’s control, afraid to cooperate with American spies for fear of torture and execution.

 

The only two options for the U.S at this point are impotence or war. Examples of this “boomerang effect” include the Shah of Iran, General Noriega and Saddam Hussein. The boomerang effect also explains why the CIA has proven highly successful at overthrowing democracies, but a wretched failure at overthrowing dictatorships.”

 

 

“Since 1949 the United States government has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On the one hand, the U.S. government was a signatory to the United Nation’s Geneva Convention and Declaration of Human Rights. More recently, during the Clinton administration, the government was a signatory to the 1994 Torture Statute. The statute basically said that any US citizen involved in torture outside the United States would be charged with a crime and prosecuted under the statute when they return.

 

When all of the scandals hit the news media on Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and secret torture prisons outside the United States run by the CIA, the graphic pictures of abuse shocked the nation. Many Americans began to see for the first time the clandestine, repulsive side of its government—Mr. Hyde.

 

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney were not the first politicians to ever pervert American values and the ideals of human rights. Every CIA Director going back to 1947, have kept their dirty little secrets. The uncanny similarity to Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 1940s is unmistakably frightening.

 

The German people also turned a blind eye and were caught up in the rhetoric of charismatic heads of state and taken in by false propaganda, lies and deceit. Few people remember that the CIA operated a top-secret program called, “Operation Bluebird.” It was approved by the CIA Director on April 20, 1950.

 

This was a behavior modification program jointly undertaken with the Pentagon. Bluebird was a continuation of a Nazi program that had been conducted at Dachau concentration camp. CIA scientists, many of whom were former Nazis, used human guinea pigs at the Pentagon’s chemical warfare base in Edgewood, Maryland.”

 

Now move forward in time to the 21st Century. It is now estimated that 100 detainees during the Bush/Cheney years died in custody. Of these, 8 died while being tortured.” And, please remember this—there is no Statute of Limitations on murder or manslaughter. So ask yourself this question—why aren’t they being tried in a criminal court for these criminal acts?

 

Society’s Inner Conflict over Torture

 

Ultimately, there are now serious long-lasting value conflicts going on between various segments of American society over the issue of torture. Since things went public, there are those who find torture the epitome of evil incarnate—a violation of human decency, abhorrent criminal behavior that has now put our troops at extreme risk, morally wrong and reprehensible conduct unbecoming of professionals, the likes of which have never been seen before. In effect, it is the perversion of American’s highest ethical standards. It is ironic that the very people who are supposed to be protecting our national security are the very ones who are the greatest threat to the American people and, as it turns out, a major threat to the Congress of the United States as well.

 

They also view a national policy around torture as the promotion of despicable acts not worthy of the highest ideals a people can hold; it dishonors the importance of human rights and dignity, and tarnishes the character of the American people.

 

There are some in our society today who, reacting under the pressures of terrorist potential attacks, psychologically and morally cave in to these pressures by turning a blind eye to such public disclosures as a national torture policy. Fear and anxiety over potential terrorist attacks dominate and rule these people’s beliefs, however unfounded or useless the “ticking Bomb Scenario” might be.

 

There is still a small percentage of the American public that has no moral qualms where human suffering is concerned, and would give our government a free pass to torture whomever they want.

 

While the above fearful type may be thought of as pragmatic whose approval of torture is highly conditional (the ticking bomb scenario), the latter group would allow the government to torture anyone they saw fit and exempt government from any control whatsoever. The fearful and anxious group of citizens needs education. Those giving government a free pass to conduct torture under any circumstances are not in need of education. Education probably won’t help them. What they need most is a psychiatrist.

 

The greatest problem facing both of these latter groups is that they have not taken the time to carefully think things through in any systematic or careful way. One of the key ideas that haven’t been thought through at all by these societal groups is our own system of laws and history of American jurisprudence in the United States.

 

At the top of the list is the country’s century old domestic problem of law enforcement—beating confessions out of detainees (The Third Degree). You will recall Brown versus Mississippi (1936) in which Negro defendants were whipped in order to coerce a confession.

 

Lynching and murder was the mainstay of a desperate south trying to protect its repressive social order. One-by-one the legal system has slowly purged law enforcement its legacy of violence against the citizenry. When the Rodney King incident occurred in 1991, society was relatively swift to punish law enforcement personnel who engaged in beating Rodney King. But over the decades there have been cases of law enforcement personnel who engaged in other criminal acts such as torture, rape or murder of suspects or jailed individuals without cause.

Or, in the case of police officers committing child abuse or spousal abuse, there is no longer hiding from the consequences of such criminal acts. More recently no one looks the other way or hides their head in the sand when police officers commit unjustified homicides. Just consider all the national and local protests of law enforcement murdering unarmed black men in this country.

 

And, for those who do bring nothing but shame and dishonor to themselves by such acts, the word cowardice does come to mind.

 

The Problem of the EIT (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) Timeline

 

Some politicians (like Dick Cheney) have been suggesting that EIT were responsible for protecting Americans against terrorist attacks on American soil between 2001 and today.

 

But there is a strange bit of twisted logic in that assumption. Between 2001 and 2009 such CIA tactics as torturing were ostensibly used to acquire intelligence information. The information obtained through torture was then allegedly used to prevent such attacks.

 

However, enhanced interrogation techniques came to an end in 2009 when President Obama gave an executive order that enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA were to be stopped immediately.

 

But alas here is the rub or distortion of logic. Between 2009 and today there also have been no attacks on American soil. If EIT protected us, why then was the country unharmed between 2009 (five years) and today in the absence of EIT? EIT obviously had nothing to do with why the country has been unharmed during the last 13+ years. Let’s be clear: CIA rationalizations around the alleged value of torture are being used to protect those at the highest levels in the government from being prosecuted for Crimes against Humanity and quite possibly Treason.

 

Not all Fear of Terrorism is Irrational

 

Although terrorist attacks have not occurred in the United States since 2001, the fear isn’t entirely abnormal or irrational. That is, there have been worldwide several terrorist attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mumbai, India and the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Bali, Madrid, Paris, London, and a continuous stream of threats from Al-Qaeda against the United States. When these events occurred, people became easily manipulated by an exaggerating press.

 

Add to this the continued fear-mongering by members of the previous Bush administration, there is a rush to judgment as to what ought to be done about terrorist activities worldwide.

 

Promoting a national torture policy is shortsighted to say the least. Homeland Security’s effort to police cargo shipping, ports of entry, airports, aviation schools, and other transportation venues along with security measures to identify all people coming into the country legally and illegally has probably gone a long way toward protecting our country than some clandestine CIA and military program to torture incarcerated detainees.

 

Dick Cheney in particular wanted the public to be fearful so as to justify, in his mind, the Bush administration’s decisions to ignore national laws prohibiting torture, and international laws, including the 1994 Torture Statute and the earlier Geneva Conventions.

 

Why then is there such a double standard when it comes to torturing foreign military combatants, or prisoners in detention, in places like Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib? Besides fear, anxiety, and an unwillingness to consider the legal, historical, moral, intellectual, humanistic, philosophical, psychological and sociological basis for not adopting policies of torture, there are two other reasons that seem to block the mental ability of some to think things through: (1) An underlying element of ethnic and religious prejudice, bigotry and racism towards detainees or enemy combatants, and (2) lack of foresight into what might be called, “The Opening of Pandora’s Box.”

 

In the next section I want to take the reader on a conceptual trip into the Abyss of torture and potential human suffering. This is largely hypothetical but I ask each reader to contemplate what could happen or might have happened if the United States had suffered additional terrorist attacks between 2001 and now.

 

 

The Abyss of Pandora’s Box

 

a·byss [ə bíss]

(plural a·byss·es)

n

  1. Chasm: a chasm or gorge so deep that its extent is not visible 
  2. Endless space: something that is immeasurably deep or infinite 
  3. Terrible situation: a situation of apparently unending awfulness 
  4. Hell: hell thought of as a bottomless pit 

 

[14th century. Via late Latin abyssus < Greek abussos “bottomless” < bussos “bottom”]

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 

One of the reasons for writing this Blog is simply that people I meet just have not thought through this issue with any degree of logic and reason. Just as it took the entire 20th century to minimize or lessen the use of torture and violence by law enforcement in the United States, it now seems some people want to reverse that trend by starting to compromise where enemy combatants are concerned. It is easy to dismiss such people as being, “Not Too Bright.”

 

Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. Those supporting torture are not necessarily stupid (although a psychiatrist might help them). Although reason and logic isn’t their strong suit, such people are mostly ordinary, well-meaning people like your neighbor, a family member, or a close friend. This makes their missing the mark all the more befuddling and stupefying. A logical analysis of the torture issue asks a very simple question. That is, where do you draw the line? If 9% of those surveyed give carte blanche to government to torture, then what else lies beyond that line?

If nothing but irrational emotion and value judgments rule the day, then who or what will ever put a limit on buffoons in government from crossing the line to absolute extremism and national insanity?

 

Consider the following as a hypothetical example of how this might occur.

 

Let’s say this is 2016 and the fear-mongers (mostly conservative republicans and Tea Party members are in control of Washington, and the “loose-cannon media are looking for an exaggeration high to be filled.” Let’s further hypothesize that three more attacks on American soil have occurred killing an additional 10,000 of our good citizens.

Ultra-conservative politicians want blood and revenge for these attacks and the public is clamoring and demanding action as well. The Vice President gets the assignment. Being overwhelmed and stressed out, he turns to his two confidants, the director of the CIA and the Secretary of Defense. They advise the Vice President to bring in Homeland Security, more senior CIA staff, and the Pentagon to discuss options. They propose to re-institute the 2009 phased-out Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. They want to again torture detainees and re-institute renditions and secret torture prisons overseas.

 

Always anxious to impress his bosses, a lower level lackey inside the CIA comes up with a proposal that promotes an old concept of graduated responses (like we did in Vietnam) where responses would be in direct relationship to the number of attacks on our soil.

 

Four levels of response are proposed.

 

They include a program of cruelty, brutality, savagery, and genocide. The VP looks at the rest and says, “We once supported a policy of “cruelty” i.e., waterboarding, sexual humiliation, nudity, walling, facial slaps, abdominal slaps, dietary manipulation, wall standing, water dousing, and sleep deprivation. And, at least 8 detainees were murdered by their captors and torturers; well, we’ve got to do more than that!”

 

The Vice President then wants to know what else can one do. The lackey tells the VP that the previous program of cruelty was very satisfying and successful. But there is level 2, 3, and 4. The VP inquires, “What are levels 2, 3, and 4?”

The lackey tells the VP level 2 is designated “brutality,” “level 3 is savagery,” and level 4 is “genocide,” where individuals are no longer singled out. Instead this last response is directed toward killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, including non-combatant men, women, and children.

 

He tells the VP that brutality (level 2) is whipping and beating a detainee to a near-death state, cigarette burning and use of acid on a man or woman’s genitalia, and (level 3) savagery involves skinning the detainee, burning flesh with branding irons, convulsive electro-shock, blinding the subject, heating pins/nails and forcing them under fingernails, and of course, cutting off a man’s penis and slicing and dicing a women’s breasts. When all else fails to get a detainee to talk, we forcibly hold a detainee’s mouth open and force a poisonous snake to enter his or her body (See the Schwarzenegger movie, Collateral Damage) for this grisly way to put someone to death. And, like the Nazis following the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, hundreds of German officers and government officials, who were alleged to have been part of the plot, were hanged with razor-thin wires making their suffocation and suffering last so much longer.

 

The VP begins to salivate at these ideas, but he wants to know more about the idea of genocide. The CIA director, with his lackey employee, smile in gleeful anticipation of the answer the lackey will provide.

 

The VP is told the following:

 

“Let me give you an example of how this could have worked in our previous war in Afghanistan. We controlled the cities in Afghanistan with troops, sir.

 

What we couldn’t control was the countryside and the tribal areas of Afghanistan. (Level 4) is an operational plan to use biological warfare (killing microbes) that could have been used to wipe out everyone in these tribal areas.”

 

“That’s fabulous,” said the VP.

“But, sir,” said the lackey, “that will also kill more than just Taliban, Al-Qaida, or ISIS. It will also kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent men, women and children.”

 

“To be honest,” said the VP, “we’ve already committed crimes against humanity with our torture/cruelty program. What are a little more torture, and a little more Collateral Damage?  “I want all 4 levels implemented right away.”   

 

     This has been just a hypothetical example. However, if push comes to shove and the terrorist attacks were to continue within the United States, do you really think four levels of response wouldn’t be considered by our government?

 

 

Let the Generals Speak

 

October 29, 2008

Retired Generals Condemn Use of Torture

 

On October 23, 2008, at the University of Virginia Law School retired military leaders Lieutenant General Harry E. Soyster and Lieutenant General Charles Otstott discussed the importance of using interrogation methods that are effective, lawful and humane, and the importance of the commander-in-chief setting the highest standards for all U.S. personnel in the treatment of prisoners.

 

“It doesn’t matter what they do, it’s what we do. We don’t lower ourselves to the level of this terrible enemy we are fighting. It’s about what our standards are.”

 

General Soyster

 

“The rules are the same, and should be the same. All the Machiavellian work that has been done to get around those rules is detestable, and I can’t believe we are doing that as an official policy in the United States of America.”

 

General Otstott

 

In an article on August 27, 2009, “CIA probe shields architects of US torture regime,” its author Bill Van Auken reported on the Obama’s administration’s cover-up, reluctance to prosecute, and its substantial censorship of the CIA Inspector General’s Report on torture.

Given the number of murders that were perpetrated by the CIA, it is flabbergasting that the Obama Administration, which promised “accountability”, would fail the American people so miserably in this way.

 

Bill Van Auken reported that,

 

The censoring of information on similar torture deaths means that the Obama administration is acting to ensure that those who planned, ordered, and executed the torture program under Bush are literally allowed to get away with murder.

 

Nor is this a matter restricted to the three deaths concealed in the report released Monday. Human rights groups have unearthed information on at least 100 detainee deaths during interrogations, and given the cover-ups carried out by the military and the CIA, there is ample reason to believe that there are many more.

 

An indication of the widespread character of such fatal abuse was given by retired US Army General Barry Richard McCaffrey during an interview on MSNBC television news last April, following President Obama speech to CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

 

In that interview General McCaffrey said, “We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees,” said McCaffrey, who made repeated inspection tours of US-occupied Iraq on behalf of the military’s Central Command. “We tortured people unmercifully,” he added. “We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the Armed Forces and the CIA.”

 

 

 

Judgment at Nuremberg Revisited

 

 

In 1961 a movie was released called Judgment at Nuremberg. The actual Nuremberg trials took place in 1945-46 in Nuremberg, Germany. Although a movie, the final speech by Spencer Tracy spoke volumes to the ramifications of what these trials meant and the long-term impact of crimes against humanity would have on the world.

 

These trials cut through the rationalizations of citizens following orders of a corrupt and evil dictator. The rationalization, “I was only following orders” carried no weight in the end. Individuals were held responsible for their own acts and were punished or sentenced accordingly. Half of the original 22 defendants were hung.

 

Current and former members of the CIA, U.S. Army, or higher up political figures will not be allowed to hide from their crimes against humanity by shifting responsibility to “good intentions” or uncertain pragmatic beliefs about results. All that is irrelevant; what matters is that the United States Justice Department bring criminal offenders to justice and set an example of a democratic country doing what is morally, legally and ethically just.  

As you read ahead, empathetically place yourself inside the mind of Judge Haywood. In the movie Spencer Tracy played Judge Haywood. As you read his words, see the striking connection to what took place this last decade, in particular compared to the United States at the end of World War II in 1945. One can easily see that society today needs to be reminded of the Nuremberg trials because, indeed, history does seem to repeat itself and governments don’t seem to learn from either history or its mistakes. Individuals have memories; institutions do not.

 

Speech by Judge Haywood Prior to Sentencing

 

“The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

Heir Rolfe, in his very skillful defense, has asserted that there are others who must share the ultimate responsibility for what happened here in Germany. There is truth in this. The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization. But the Tribunal does say that the men in the dock are responsible for their actions, men who sat in black robes in judgment on other men, men who took part in the enactment of laws and decrees, the purpose of which was the extermination of humans beings, men who in executive positions actively participated in the enforcement of these laws — illegal even under German law. The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime — is guilty.

Heir Rolfe further asserts that the defendant, Janning, was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country. There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen.

There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

 

 

Final Comments

 

The issue of torture and the war crimes committed by members of the government in our name isn’t going to go away. The choices are simple. The end does not justify the means and no amount of rationalization is ever going to alter that. No matter how many times someone tries to gloss over it, torture is a crime against humanity.

 

Those who have initiated policies to institutionalize interrogation techniques involving torture, otherwise promoted it, or carried it out, should receive the harshest of punishment, namely death or life in prison. It is not important what position an individual held in our government; those guilty of war crimes need to be brought to justice.

 

It is an unacceptable act of betrayal and disloyalty to the values of the American people that misguided buffoons in our government led us down the path toward everlasting national dishonor and disgrace.

 

Given the failure of the United States to follow the principles of international law, and the failure of a sizeable minority of American citizens to comprehend the gravity of a democratic country promoting torture, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” are now in serious moral trouble.

 

 

References

Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, New York: (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, LLC), 2006.

Steve Kangas, Timeline of CIA Atrocities, 1996, online @ http://www.serendipity.li/cia/cia_time.htm available October 9, 2009. The timeline used in Kangas’ article is from another source: Primary data source was All history concerning CIA intervention in foreign countries is summarized from William Blum’s encyclopedic work, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995. Sources for domestic CIA operations come from Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen’s The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1997.

 

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part IV

Child Kidnapping

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Introduction

As mentioned in Part I of this series, the journey children must make between infancy and adulthood may be their most difficult time of life. It is a journey fraught with many obstacles and dangers along the way.

While we all have to endure many inevitable difficulties growing up, no child growing up should ever be put unwittingly in serious danger of their health and well-being. While the nation comes to grips with the tragedy of Sandy Hooks Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there must be recognition that mass murder is only the tip of the iceberg where violence against children is concerned.

Below is a reminder of the many sources of violence children too often confront in their long journey of growing up. Like an old, “salty” U.S. Navy Chief Boson’s Mate I want to “square away” my cyberspace audience with knowledge as to what these many dangers children potentially might face.

As a Reminder: Sources of Violence toward Children

During their formative years children can be victimized in a variety of ways including:

gun violence such as drive-by shootings, homicide and school shootings, physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, neglect and starvation, sibling abuse, criminal acts such as assault and battery by strangers, being drawn into the drug addiction world and victimized, child sex trafficking, kidnapping, bullying,  corporal punishment in schools (20 states still sanction acts of violence hurting children that they euphemistically rationalize as discipline), and finally—mass murder, the ultimate victimization.

 

Focus of Part IV

This is the last segment in my four-part series on Taking Aim at Violence against Children. In many ways this has been the most difficult to write in terms of generating new and innovative ways to deal with violence against children. Recommendations, policy directives and/or legislative proposals are needed that seriously address all of the subject matter mentioned or written about during this four-part series.

As a former researcher and criminologist, I wish I had all the answers and could give you original ideas for dealing with all the various aspects of violence against children. I don’t. But, I suggest that individuals or organizations concerned with these issues strongly consider a four-pronged strategic attack.

The four-prong strategic approach I recommend includes:

  • Encouragement (letter campaign) of political decision-makers to do their job and get involved with the issue one is concerned with
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Where applicable, development of powerful, hard hitting, no holds barred, legislation at  the federal, state and local levels

Change in society always takes courage and a tenacious attitude if anything is ever to get done. We are all drawn in so many different directions during our lives. Time can be our friend or our worst enemy; it’s always difficult to stay focused for any length of time. Once again everything comes down to values and the assumptions and decisions we make with scarce resources. It can all seem overwhelming at times—–but we must persevere.

What follows ahead after the segment on Kidnapping is an effort to bring, beyond generalizations, more specific recommendations, policy directives, and/or needed legislation to bear on many of the major categories of violence previously described.

Kidnapping

The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART) have placed cases into five categories:

1. Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges.

2. Non-Family Abductions – Attempted abductions, for example luring of a child for the purposes of committing another crime. There is coercion and unauthorized taking of a child into a building, a vehicle, or a distance of more than 20 feet, and the detention of a child for a period of more than one hour.

3. Runaways – Children that have left home and stayed away overnight. These child runaways unquestionably expose themselves to harm at night in unfamiliar and therefore dangerous surroundings. These runaways also include those who have run away from a juvenile facility.

4. Throwaways – These are children who have experienced any of the following situations:

The child was told to leave the household.

The child was away from home and the parent/guardian refused to allow the child back.

The child ran away, but the parent/guardian made no effort to recover the child, or did not care whether or not the child returned.

The child was abandoned or deserted.

5. Lost, Injured, or Otherwise Missing:

This category relates to children missing for varying periods of time, depending on their age, disability, and whether the absence was due to an injury.

Statistics

The first step in protecting your child from potential abductors is to know what you’re dealing with. Here are some important, and potentially surprising, facts about child abductions in the United States:

  • Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted.
  • The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) estimates that 85 to 90 percent of the 840,279 people reported as missing or abducted in 2001 were children. The vast majority of these cases are resolved within hours.  This amounted to about 2,000 a day.
  • Based on the identity of the perpetrator, there are three distinct types of kidnapping: kidnapping by a relative of the victim or “family kidnapping” (49 percent), kidnapping by an acquaintance of the victim or “acquaintance kidnapping” (27 percent), and kidnapping by a stranger to the victim or “stranger kidnapping” (24 percent).
  • Family kidnapping is committed primarily by parents, and  involves a larger percentage of female perpetrators (43 percent) than it does in other types of kidnapping offenses; It occurs more frequently to children under 6, equally victimizes juveniles of both sexes, and most often originates in the home.
  • Acquaintance kidnapping involves a comparatively high percentage of juvenile perpetrators, has the largest percentage of female and teenage victims, is more often associated with other crimes (especially sexual and physical assault), occurs at homes and residences, and has the highest percentage of injured victims.
  • Stranger kidnapping victimizes more females than males, occurs primarily at outdoor locations, victimizes both teenagers and school-age children, is associated with sexual assaults in the case of girl victims and robberies in the case of boy victims (although not exclusively so), and is the type of kidnapping most likely to involve the use of a firearm.
  • Only about one child out of each 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. However, about 20 percent of the children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in nonfamily abductions are not found alive.
  • In 80 percent of abductions by strangers, the first contact between the child and the abductor occurs within a quarter mile of the child’s home.
  • Most potential abductors grab their victims on the street or try to lure them into their vehicles.
  • About 74 percent of the victims of nonfamily child abduction are girls.
  • Acting quickly is critical. Seventy-four percent of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction.
  • One in five children 10 to 17 years old receive online messages that involve un-wanted sexual solicitations.
  • In a 1998 study of parents’ worries by pediatricians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, nearly three-quarters of parents said they feared their children might be abducted. One-third of parents said this was a frequent worry — a degree of fear greater than that held for any other concern, including car accidents, sports injuries, or drug addiction.

Sources: Federal Bureau of Investigation; National Crime Information Center; U.S. Justice Dept.; Vanished Children’s Alliance; Redbook, February 1998; State of Washington’s Office of the Attorney General; United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Juvenile Justice Bulletin, June 2000

 

Recommendations to Combat Violence against Children

 

Gun Violence

 

The President’s comprehensive plan for stemming gun violence was presented in Part I of this series. The only type of recommendation missing seemed to be connected with mass shootings in a business or governmental office by a recently fired or terminated employee. It must be pointed out that often times a former employee who returns to the work site with a gun may have already killed family members. This would suggest that mass murder involving job sites is more than about just losing a job.  Rather, it is based on a complex set of psychiatric factors that predisposes someone to go over the edge and commit murder, regardless of setting.

Someone who is under pressure and loses a job just as easily might carry out mass murder in a bank, shopping mall, or a Coney Island setting. There is simply no way to predict in advance (even with patients being treated by clinicians, psychologists and/or psychiatrists) such acts of violence.

This does not mean however that there aren’t steps of a preventive nature that can be taken that can help alleviate, in business and governmental settings, pressures people experience from losing a job, regardless of reason for the termination.

Recommendation # 1

The federal government should make available very low interest loans to businesses to develop and/or augment existing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s). In all likelihood this would require legislation, primarily affecting the Small Business Administration. If a business is large enough, they should provide, upon termination of an employee, counseling and assistance to help them acquire unemployment compensation from their state’s Department of Employment. In addition, EAP programs in both the private and public sector need to start re-tooling.

Something new might include psychiatric services to all employees, and screening of new employees who might have family, psychiatric or mental health problems. A pro-active caring business just might develop loyalty that otherwise might not have ever developed. Businesses must tread lightly by protecting the confidentiality of every employee and offer such services on a voluntary basis. This will be fine for most employees. However, what does a business do with the “bad apples” among recalcitrant employees who appear to need such services, but whom refuse to take advantage of such services? For example, what does a manager do if an employee is bi-polar and can’t get along with anyone because of a brain that is not firing on all cylinders for sociability?  While only a small percentage of bi-polar individuals are ever given to violence, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that, given enough personal stresses, violence could occur by this type of person.

My recommendation is for a business to incorporate psychological services at some point in the “disciplinary process.” At this point such services would not be voluntary but required to keep one’s employment. This assumes that the offending employee has not committed so egregious an offense as to require immediate termination. If an employee needs to be summarily fired on the stop, then it is up to that business whether to “beef up” security services following such termination. If threats are made by the employee law enforcement should immediately be contacted.

 

Recommendation # 2

Small businesses might simply combine or pool their resources to make available psychiatric services to all employees working in any of the small businesses. At the very least, small businesses might create, for all employees, a pamphlet of information on where to go for help during a personal medical or psychiatric emergency.

Child Abuse

Prevention is the best hope for reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations in every community. The following resources discuss the framework for child abuse and neglect prevention, provide information on what to do when children are at risk for abuse or neglect, and link to State, Federal, and national organizations that support prevention initiatives. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families has put forth the following recommendations relating to prevention of child maltreatment:

Framework to Prevent Child Maltreatment

Professionals working to prevent child abuse and neglect have incorporated ideas and information from other disciplines, including public health, education, and mental health, to influence and guide practice. However, public health has had the greatest influence in organizing a framework of prevention services. That framework consists of three levels of services: primary prevention programs, directed at the general population (universal) in an effort to prevent maltreatment before it occurs; secondary prevention programs, targeted to individuals or families in which maltreatment is more likely (high risk); and tertiary prevention programs, targeted toward families in which abuse has already occurred (indicated).

Distinctions among primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention do not necessarily reflect the way prevention-related services are actually organized and provided. Rather than sorting prevention initiatives into mutually exclusive categories, prevention is increasingly recognized as occurring along a continuum. A comprehensive system of care for improving outcomes for children and family needs to include strategies that coordinate resources across the entire continuum, from primary to secondary to tertiary prevention.

  • Primary prevention
  • Secondary prevention
  • Tertiary prevention

The following pages provide more information on both an ecological framework and a protective factors framework for prevention.

  • Ecological framework for prevention
  • Protective factors framework

Primary prevention

Primary prevention activities are directed at the general population and attempt to stop maltreatment before it occurs. All members of the community have access to and may benefit from these services. Primary prevention activities with a universal focus seek to raise the awareness of the general public, service providers, and decision-makers about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment. Universal approaches to primary prevention might include:

  • Public service announcements that encourage positive parenting
  • Parent education programs and support groups that focus on child development, age-appropriate expectations, and the roles and responsibilities of parenting
  • Family support and family strengthening programs that enhance the ability of families to access existing services, and resources to support positive interactions among family members
  • Public awareness campaigns that provide information on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect

Secondary prevention

Secondary prevention activities with a high-risk focus are offered to populations that have one or more risk factors associated with child maltreatment, such as poverty, parental substance abuse, young parental age, parental mental health concerns, and parental or child disabilities. Programs may target services for communities or neighborhoods that have a high incidence of any or all of these risk factors. Approaches to prevention programs that focus on high-risk populations might include:

  • Parent education programs located in high schools, focusing on teen parents, or those within substance abuse treatment programs for mothers and families with young children
  • Parent support groups that help parents deal with their everyday stresses and meet the challenges and responsibilities of parenting
  • Home visiting programs that provide support and assistance to expecting and new mothers in their homes
  • Respite care for families that have children with special needs
  • Family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families living in low-income neighborhoods

Tertiary prevention

Tertiary prevention activities focus on families where maltreatment has already occurred (indicated) and seek to reduce the negative consequences of the maltreatment and to prevent its recurrence. These prevention programs may include services such as:

  • Intensive family preservation services with trained mental health counselors that are available to families 24 hours per day for a short period of time (e.g., 6 to 8 weeks)
  • Parent mentor programs with stable, non-abusive families acting as “role models” and providing support to families in crisis
  • Parent support groups that help parents transform negative practices and beliefs into positive parenting behaviors and attitudes
  • Mental health services for children and families affected by maltreatment to improve family communication and functioning

Child Sex Trafficking

Recommendations

After first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.

1. Learn the red flags that may indicate human trafficking and ask follow up questions so that you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, and federal employees.

2. In the United States, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 (24/7) to get help and connect with a service provider in your area, report a tip with information on potential human trafficking activity; or learn more by requesting training, technical assistance, or resources. Call federal law enforcement directly to report suspicious activity and get help from the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 (24/7), or submit a tip online at http://www.ice.gov/tips, or from the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581 from 9:00am to 5:00pm (EST). Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.

3. Be a conscientious consumer. Discover your Slavery Footprint, and check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies, including your own, to take steps to investigate and eliminate slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains and to publish the information for consumer awareness.

4. Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant [example].

5. Join or start a grassroots anti-trafficking coalition.

6. Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community, and ask what they are doing to address human trafficking in your area.

7. Distribute public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.

8. Volunteer to do victim outreach or offer your professional services to a local anti-trafficking organization.

9. Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization in your area.

10. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.

11. Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival.

12. Encourage your local schools to partner with students and include the issue of modern day slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.

13. Set up a Google alert to receive current human trafficking news.

14. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about human trafficking in your community.

15. Start or sign a human trafficking petition.

16. Businesses: Provide internships, job skills training, and/or jobs to trafficking survivors. Consumers: Purchase items made by trafficking survivors such as from Jewel Girls or Made by Survivors.

17. Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university or secondary school club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Professors: Request that human trafficking be an issue included in university curriculum. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.

18. Law Enforcement Officials: Join or start a local human trafficking task force.

19. Mental Health or Medical Providers: Extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations. Train your staff on how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims.

20. Attorneys: Look for signs of human trafficking among your clients. Offer pro-bono services to trafficking victims or anti-trafficking organizations. Learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the legal benefits for which they are eligible. Assist anti-trafficking NGOs with capacity building and legal work.

 

Bullying

Recommendations

Bullying can threaten student’s physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying.

  • Getting Started

Assess school prevention and intervention efforts around student behavior, including substance use and violence. You may be able to build upon them or integrate bullying prevention strategies. Many programs help address the same protective and risk factors that bullying programs do.

Conduct assessments in your school to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether your prevention efforts are working.

It is important for everyone in the community to work together to send a unified message against bullying. Launch an awareness campaign to make the objectives known to the school, parents, and community members. Establish a school safety committee or task force to plan, implement, and evaluate your school’s bullying prevention program.

Create a mission statement, code of conduct, school-wide rules, and a bullying reporting system. These establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. Disseminate and communicate widely.

Establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, newsletters to families, the school website, and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness.

Build bullying prevention material into the curriculum and school activities. Train teachers and staff on the school’s rules and policies. Give them the skills to intervene consistently and appropriately.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Recommendations

  • Enact federal legislation to end all federal monies to school districts that have established corporal punishment.
  • Provide additional federal monies to improve education in those school districts that ban corporal punishment in the schools.
  • The ACLU and Human Rights Watch (ACLU/HRW should bring a lawsuit before the United States Supreme Court for the disproportionate use of corporal punishment in 20 states based on race and disability status of students based on the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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  • In the law, the U.S. Congress should enact legislation to end inequality of assault and battery offenses based on age of the victim. The federal government should enact legislation to end state’s rights where corporal punishment is concerned based on discrimination and arbitrary use of it.
  • Federal legislation should be enacted to deny Social Security, retirement pensions, or any other benefits to all teachers and administrators who use corporal punishment.

 

Kidnapping

General Tips

Child abduction by a stranger usually ends badly.  Each year, approximately 58,000 missing children are abducted by non-family members. Typically, strangers who kidnap children commit their crimes with intent to harm their young victims. In nearly half of the non-family child abduction cases, the victim is sexually assaulted.

Every day, these offenders lure unsuspecting children into vehicles and homes. Most of these kids are not prepared for the reality of “stranger danger” and, therefore, tend to trust unknown adults.

Most abducted children are eventually recovered, but the majority of these children return home with visible or emotional scars. A small number of kidnapped children are never located. And, in rare instances, some abducted children are murdered by the stranger who betrayed their trust.

Despite the grim statistics, you have the ability to reduce the likelihood of child abduction. By joining other parents and collectively teaching your kids the importance of stranger danger, you can stop these appalling crimes before they happen.

     Get your child a passport. A passport is important for your child because it’s harder for somebody else to get one if they take them. If someone else is attempting to get a passport for your child, the process will take some time, and the time will work in your favor.

Travel to school with your child every few weeks. Check out the route and observe the individuals who come in contact with your child. Typical abductors are people who see your child every day, and your child may even speak to this person.

Teach your child to ask Mom or Dad before assisting or going with another adult. Children need to know they can tell their parents anything.

GPS is not a good protector of children, because predators are familiar with these devices. Get an ID bracelet for your child and put the child’s name, the word “reward” and your phone number on the backside. Tell your child if someone tries to take them, remove the bracelet and throw it on the ground. Someone will find it and contact you. Law enforcement will strengthen their search once they have a clue.

If your child is missing, make sure to tell authorities about the tactics you’ve taught your child. They can incorporate those clues in their search.

  • Tell your children to always walk or play in groups. Predators search for isolated targets such as children who are walking alone or playing alone. Share this important lesson with other parents. If you see a friend or neighbor’s young child walking alone, make sure to include that particular neighbor in your stranger-danger strategy. For instance, you could suggest a buddy or carpool plan to get neighboring children to and from school.
  • You should always know where your kids are going, even if they leave the house with another trusted adult. If your children spend time at their friends’ homes, you should discuss a mutual child-watch plan with other parents. If your children are young, explain to these parents that you do not allow your children to play outside unsupervised. Promise to keep a similar close watch on their children when they play at your house. If your children walk or ride their bikes to other nearby houses, designate safe places for them to run if threatened by a stranger.
  • Keep a list of phone numbers of other nearby parents and offer your number to these parents. You can quickly check on the location of your children if needed.
  • Teach your kids about strangers. Tell them that a stranger is any adult they do not know. Introduce your children to other parents you trust. Meet the children of these parents, so you will become a familiar face to the kids. Ideally, these children will be able to pick out a few friendly adults in a crowd of strangers.
  • In addition to other parents, your kids should know which strangers are safe. Store clerks, police officers, teachers, people who are behind desks in office buildings, mail-carriers, and mothers with children are generally safe strangers. Explain to your children that they can trust these strangers if they ever need help and they cannot locate an adult they recognize. Teach your children that stores, schools, libraries, and restaurants are all safe public places where they can run if they are in jeopardy.
  • Practice a secret code word with your children. Choose a word that would not be easy for a stranger to guess. Use this code word when another adult is required to transport your child. Tell your kids they should never get into a car with someone who does not know the code word. Share the code word with your children and other adults you trust. Change the word as often as needed. Instruct other parents to develop their own family code words.
  • Teach your kids about the common lures used by abductors. Often, a kidnapper appeals to victims by asking for help in finding a lost animal. Sometimes, the stranger will ask a child for directions. Occasionally, abductors know the child’s name or the names of the child’s parents. Perpetrators attempt to use this knowledge to gain the child’s trust. You should tell your children that adults ask other adults for help when they are truly searching for lost pets or when they need any other type of assistance. Also, repeat to your children the importance of the family code word. If a stranger knows the child’s name, but does not mention the code word, that stranger is probably a threat.
  • Practice screaming with your children. If a stranger attempts to talk to or grab your children, your children should know to shout, “No!” or “Fire!” Try to recruit the help of other parents. The group of children can rehearse screaming at strangers by role-playing.

For more information on ways to keep your child safe, please see the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also, please consider aiding law enforcement officials in finding missing children by signing up to receive AMBER Alerts.

 

 

The following tips come from Jaime A. Heidel, a Yahoo contributor on How to prevent kidnapping on “Seven Tips to Keep Your Child Safe [What You and Your Child Need to Know].”

Each year tens of thousands of children are kidnapped. Children disappear on their way home from school, during a trip to the grocery store and sometimes right out of their own backyards.

Tip 1 – Never Talk to Strangers

Children are naturally open and friendly and while it is an endearing characteristic, a child that is too trusting may fall into the hands of a smooth-talking stranger. Teach children never to speak to strangers and explain to them that if they are approached by a stranger to run away immediately and tell you or another known, trusted adult. It is also important to explain to children about “safe strangers” such as policemen, firemen and store clerks so they know whom to trust should they become lost or need help.

Tip 2 – Teach Awareness

With all the gizmos and gadgets around to distract children on a day-to-day basis, it is important to remind them to be aware of their surroundings. If your child walks home from the bus stop alone with an MP3 player on his or her ears, he or she will make an easy target. Let your children know how important it is to take note of a strange car or anybody following them on foot. Tell them in order to do this, they need to turn the music off and stay alert.

Tip 3 – Be Buddies

In a crowded store, you’ve always got one eye on your child. Reinforce this “buddy system” by teaching your child to watch out for you. Let him or her know that if he or she loses sight of you to call out. This is another way to be proactive and teach awareness.

Tip 4 – Self Defense

Your child doesn’t need to take a martial arts class to learn some basic self-defense. Though most children are reluctant to be rude to an adult, it is important to explain to your child that if a stranger grabs him or her that all bets are off. Teach your child to kick a stranger in sensitive areas like shins, knees and groin. Tell your child to scream, “You’re not my mommy or you’re not my daddy” as loud as they can and do everything in his or her power to draw attention to the scene and get away.

Tip 5 – Lock Your Doors

Sometimes children are kidnapped right out of their own homes. Though it’s tempting to leave doors open with just a screen on a warm summer day, your child at play on the living room floor can be an easy target, especially if the door opens to the backyard. Be sure to close and lock all doors if your child is playing alone.

Tip 6 – Safety in Numbers

Teach your child that there is safety in numbers. If your child is old enough to go to the park, playground or mall with friends, teach your child not to wander out of eyesight of the group. Kidnappers usually prefer to abduct children who are alone and will rarely target a child with two or three buddies around, especially in a crowded place.

Tip 7 – Internet Safety

These days, almost every child is online. Keep your child safe by explaining that everybody he or she does not know in real life is a stranger, even if he or she has spent time “chatting” with an online friend. Tell children never to give out any personal information over the Internet, including last name, telephone number, street address or school they attend. That thirteen-year-old boy from the next town over your daughter has made friends with could be an adult in disguise attempting to target children. Anybody can be whomever they wish to be online and it is important to explain this. No offline meetings should ever take place without an adult being present in a public setting.

It is important to reinforce what you’ve taught by using “role-play”. Practice how to respond if approached by a stranger. This will increase child confidence and encourage him or her to ask any questions he or she may have. These tips on how to prevent kidnapping should go a long way in keeping children safe.

 

Post Script

This concludes my four-part series on “Taking Aim at Violence against Children.” The events in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 brought the nation to tears, anguish and despair. People on the streets were incredulous that a lone killer had the temerity to commit such heinous acts as the murder of 20 first graders and 6 adults. This event, and the President’s demand for action, produced a Title Wave of public sentiment—that now was the time for change. As the dust settled in the weeks following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the main issue around the country, and in the halls of Congress, became crystalized around the pressing issue of gun violence.

However, what has been largely overlooked by the public during this debate on gun violence, despite its current importance, is the larger contextual nature of violence directed toward children in this society. Gun violence is simply the “tip of the iceberg” where violence against children is concerned.

Cognitive Dissonance, as a psychological concept, often suggests, where human and social behavior is concerned, that there is a huge gap between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior. This is certainly the case where violence against children is concerned. People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one of our beliefs conflicts with another previously held belief?

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions and evaluations. Becoming aware of how conflicting beliefs impact the decision-making process is a great way to improve your ability to make faster and more accurate choices.

If one really believes or desires to protect children from harm shouldn’t one come to grips with the problem of all violence or harm against children? Addressing mass murder and gun violence is important, but it does not address the larger issue of violence against children. People believe that children should be protected from harm, yet fail to recognize or do anything about violence against children in various other social contexts. In order to eliminate or reduce cognitive dissonance one can either alter one’s beliefs, or change one’s behavior, in order to achieve consistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actual behavior.

If I’ve done anything constructive during this four-part series it has been to put the spotlight on many of the issues confronting children as they grow up. I am a social scientist, not normally concerned with advocacy. But I can clearly see my own inconsistency between wanting to become a child advocate and being a person who dwells in the comfortable, sometimes erudite and esoteric, house of social science. Perhaps the time has come for all of us to change our lives and get involved in helping those we really care about the most—our children and grandchildren.

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children

Part III

Child Sex Trafficking

Bullying

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

 

Introduction

Part III of this four-part series is about child sex trafficking, bullying, and corporal punishment in the schools.  All of these areas pertain to violence perpetrated against children in the United States. Some predators in this country are out there lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to harm children. Some of these predators are in plain sight like the classroom of many schools. Some of these are simply bullies on the playground, or who also use the internet as a proxy for bullying. Some predators are pragmatic, looking to lure or abduct children for sex trafficking.

School is supposed to be a safe haven for children where learning and educational growth takes place. Unfortunately, what the public believes about schools is not what really takes place there. Predators of all kinds are in waiting for your child to come to school. There are administrators and teachers who are sexual predators by molesting children under their charge. There are female teachers who have been added to state sex offender registration files following arrest and conviction for having sex with their students (usually teenage boys). There are male teachers and coaches who have also been arrested for molesting children (Does Pennsylvania State University and Sandusky come to mind?). School is supposed to be safe for children; sometimes it isn’t.

Child Sex Trafficking

Child sex trafficking is the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying or selling of a child through force, threats, fraud, deception, or coercion for the purposes of exploitation, prostitution, pornography, migrant work, sweat shops, domestic servitude, forced labor, bondage, peonage or involuntary servitude.

Child sex trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. UNICEF values the global market of child sex trafficking at over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. Trafficking children into the sex industry is done because there is a demand. Predators seek out vulnerable victims and lure them under false pretenses into situations they cannot escape. No matter the reason, children have become sexual commodities to be bought and sold for the pleasure of exploiters. These children are scarred for life and need help.

Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand.  Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.

Those committing sex trafficking frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry.

Child Trafficking Statistics

  • Child/Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world. Child/ human trafficking is the  world’s second largest criminal enterprise, after drugs. U.S. State Department
  • The global market of child trafficking is over $12 billion a year with over 2 million child victims. UNICEF
  • As many as 2.8 million children run away each year in the US. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one-third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution and pornography. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
  • The average age of entry for children victimized by the sex trade industry is 12 years. U.S. Department of Justice
  • Approximately 80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50% are minors.  U.S.State Department
  • The average number of victims for non-incestuous pedophiles who molest girls is 20, for pedophiles who prefer boys 100! The Association For the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)
  • 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. U.S. Department of Justice
  • 600,000 – 800,000 people are bought and sold across international borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. U.S. Department of State, 2004, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, D.C.
  • An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. U.S. Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons
  • An average serial child molester may have as many as 400 victims in his lifetime. Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Study
  • Child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States right now.  Nationally, there has been a 2500% increase in arrests in 10 years. FBI
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which helps to identify and locate children in pornography photos and videos, says its staff reviewed more than 10.5 million images in 2009 alone.
  • Reports of exploited children grow every year. In 2009, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children received more than 120,000 reports on its cyber tip line. In 2010, the number grew to over 160,000 with the vast majority being from child pornography.

Worldwide, 5.5 million children are victims of forced labor and child trafficking. They have been bought and sold, forced into prostitution, or made to work at grueling, dangerous jobs with little or no pay.

To Report Human Trafficking Crimes in Your Area:

For questions, referrals, resources or to report a tip in your area, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or email the organization at NHTRC@PolarisProject.org

 

Bullying

It has been a rather eye-opening experience writing this four-part series to realize sadly that people of all ages and persuasions in our society can really be quite unkind to one another. Bullying isn’t just about children on the playground at school. All throughout one’s life bullying can occur in a number of social contexts including: Cyber bullying, Disability bullying, Gay bullying, Legal bullying, Military bullying, Parental bullying, Prison bullying, School bullying, Sexual bullying, and even Workplace bullying in such areas as academia, blue collar jobs, information technology, medicine, nursing, and teaching.

Because of space limitations, and my emphasis on children, I’m only going to discuss definitions of bullying, psychological characteristics of those who bully, parental bullying, school bullying and discuss the effects of bullying.

In Part IV I will set forth a set of recommendations on how to more effectively take aim at this form of child abuse. Some of the ideas will be my own, but others will come from organizations that want to do something about it.

Definition of Bullying

Bullying is defined as the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a “target.” Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.

Bullying is detrimental to students’ well-being and development. And, it can take many forms and occurs in many different contexts. A bullying culture can develop in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. For purposes of this Blog, emphasis will be placed on bullying within the school and its effect on children.

U.S. National Center for Education Statistics suggests that bullying can be classified into two categories:

  1. Direct bullying, and
  2. Indirect bullying (which is also known as social aggression).

Psychological Characteristics of Those Who Bully

Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, bullies can also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered. Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied. Some have argued that a bully reflects the environment of his home, repeating the model he learned from his parents. Sometimes kids who are dominated by their parents often transfer their anger and bully other kids at school or in the neighborhood.

Researchers have identified other risk factors such as depression and personality, as well as quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others’ actions as hostile, concern with preserving self-image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions. A combination of these factors may also be causes of this behavior. In one recent study of youth, a combination of antisocial traits and depression was found to be the best predictor of youth violence, whereas video game violence and television violence exposure were not predictive of these behaviors.

According to some researchers, bullies may be inclined toward negativity and perform poorly academically. Dr. Cook says that “a typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically. He or she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward him or herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative, and is negatively influenced by peers.”

Parental Bullying

Parents who may displace their anger, insecurity, or a persistent need to dominate and control, upon their children in excessive ways have been proven to increase the likelihood that their own children will in turn become overly aggressive or controlling towards their peers.

The American Psychological Association advises on its website that parents who may suspect that their own children may be engaging in bullying activities amongst their peers, should carefully consider the examples which they themselves may be setting for their own children, regarding how they typically interact with their own peers, colleagues, and children.

Do the parents typically motivate their peers and their children with positive and self-confidence building incentives, or do they most often attempt to motivate their peers and children with certain “threats” of one form of “punishment” or “reprisal” or another (emotional or physical blackmail)?

Research indicates that adults who bully have authoritarian personalities, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a prejudicial view of subordinates can be a particularly strong risk factor.

School Bullying

Bullying can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it may occur more frequently in physical education classes and activities, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and while waiting for buses, and in classes that require group work and/or after school activities.

One factor that is often overlooked is that the bully has an overall inferiority complex.  No matter what the social context, the bully often is actually a coward masquerading as a tough guy.

Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim. These bullies may taunt and tease their target before physically bullying the target. Bystanders may participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next victim.

Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself: There is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse such as passive aggression, humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.

Effects of Bullying on Those Who are Targets

Mona O’Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, “There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide.” Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.

Bullying has also been shown to cause maladjustment in young children, and victims of bullying who were also bullies themselves exhibit even greater social difficulties. In the long term it can lead to posttraumatic stress syndrome and an inability to form relationships.

There is evidence that bullying increases the risk of suicide. It is estimated that between 15 and 25 children commit suicide every year in the UK alone, because they are being bullied. Bullied students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Since then, bullying has been more closely linked to high school violence in general.

Serial killers were frequently bullied through direct and indirect methods as children or adolescents. Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer and diagnosed psychopath, said the ridicule and rejection he suffered as a child caused him to hate everyone. Kenneth Bianchi, a serial killer and member of the Hillside Stranglers, was teased as a child because he urinated in his pants and suffered twitching, and as a teenager was ignored by his peers.

Corporal Punishment in the Schools

Incidence of Corporal Punishment in the United States

In 2008, 223,190 students received corporal punishment in schools in the 20 remaining states that allow hitting or hurting students. The top ten states in administering corporal punishment included:

Texas (49,197)

Mississippi (38,131)

Alabama (33,716)

Arkansas (22,314)

Georgia (18,249)

Oklahoma (14,828)

Tennessee (14,568)

Louisiana (11,080)

Florida (7,185)

Missouri (5,159)

The top five states listed above accounted for 72.4% of the number of children who were victimized by corporal punishment. All five top states in corporal punishment in 2008 were Red States in the 2012 presidential election. Of the top 10 states in corporal punishment 9 out of 10 of these states were Red States in the 2012 election.

Impact of Corporal Punishment

One area of logical importance is to answer the question, what impact does Corporal Punishment have on academic success of students? On April 15, 2010 a joint HRW/ACLU statement was made in a hearing before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities. The title of their statement fits in very nicely with my question. The title of the statement was “Corporal Punishment in Schools and Its Effect on Academic Success.”

I. Introduction

Dear Chairperson McCarthy, Ranking Member Platts, and Members of the Subcommittee:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), its over half a million members, countless additional supporters and activists, and fifty-three affiliates nationwide and Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, we applaud the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities for conducting a hearing concerning the ongoing corporal punishment of American public school children and its impact on their educational success.

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization working daily in courts, Congress, and communities to defend and preserve the civil rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.  For thirty years, Human Rights Watch has investigated human rights violations wherever they occur, including in the United States, exposed the perpetrators, and advocated for change. We are pleased to submit this written statement for the record on the issue of corporal punishment in public schools – a vitally important issue affecting children’s access to high-quality education and a safe and supportive learning atmosphere.

II. The Ongoing Use of Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment in public schools.[1]  Despite the many problems associated with the hitting or paddling of students, corporal punishment is a legal form of school discipline in 20 states.[2]  Of these, thirteen states have reported that corporal punishment was inflicted on over one thousand students[3] — and eight states reported its use against at least ten thousand students[4]— during the 2006-2007 school year. While significant, these numbers do not tell the whole story.  These statistics only reflect data which has been reported to the Department of Education and they only include the number of students who are subjected to corporal punishment during the school year, not the total number of times that an individual student has been hit over his or her educational career.[5]

Aside from the infliction of pain and the physical injuries which often result from the use of physical punishments, these violent disciplinary methods also impact students’ academic achievement and long-term well-being.[6]  Despite significant evidence that corporal punishment is detrimental to a productive learning environment, there is currently no federal prohibition on the use of physical discipline against children in public school.  In fact, children in some states receive greater protections against corporal punishment in detention facilities than they do in their public schools.[7]  For this reason and others, the ACLU and HRW are encouraged that this subcommittee is seeking to address the problems stemming from corporal punishment in schools.

III. The Disproportionate Use of Corporal Punishment

Students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to corporal punishment, hampering their access to a supportive learning environment.  According to the Department of Education, while African Americans make up 17.1 percent of public school students nationwide, they accounted for 35.6 percent of those who were paddled during the 2006-2007 school year.[8] In A Violent Education and Impairing Education, two joint reports published by the ACLU and HRW detailing the effects of corporal punishment in public schools, interviewees noted the disproportionate application of corporal punishment:

  • One Mississippi high school student described the administration of corporal punishment in her school this way: “every time you walk down the hall you see a black kid getting whipped. I would say out of the whole school there are only about three white kids who have gotten paddled.”[9]
  • A Mississippi teacher also noted the racial disparity in the administration of corporal punishment: “I’ve heard this said at my school and at other schools: ‘this child should get less whips, it’ll leave marks.’ Students that are dark-skinned, it takes more to let their skin be bruised. Even with all black students, there is an imbalance: darker-skinned students get worse punishment. This really affected me, being a dark-skinned person myself.”[10]

Evidence shows that students with disabilities are also disproportionally subjected to corporal punishment. The Department of Education has reported that although students with disabilities constitute 13.7 percent of all public school students, they make up 18.8 percent of those who are subjected to corporal punishment.[11]  In many of these cases, students were punished for exhibiting behaviors related to their disabilities, such as autism or Tourette’s syndrome.[12]  The effects of corporal punishment on students with disabilities can dramatically impact their behavior and hamper their academic performance. In Impairing Education, parents and grandparents of students with disabilities noted the changes in behavior and barriers to educational achievement stemming from the use of corporal punishment:

  • A grandmother of a student who has Asperger’s syndrome withdrew him from his Oklahoma school in part because of the hostile environment stemming from frequent use of corporal punishment: “It made him much more introverted. He very much didn’t want to go to school . . . No one’s supposed to go to school to be tortured, school is supposed to be fun.” [13]
  • A mother of a student with autism reported that her son’s behavior changed after he was struck in his Florida school: “He’s an avoider by nature, before he was never aggressive. Now, he struggles with anger; right after the incidents he’d have anger explosions.”[14]

Hitting any student should be an unacceptable practice, but the disproportionate application of corporal punishment further undermines the educational environment for minority groups and students with disabilities.[15]  A federal prohibition on corporal punishment in public schools is necessary to protect students from the discriminatory impact and the academic harms which it brings.       

IV. The Impact of Corporal Punishment on Students’ Academic Performance

Harsh physical punishments do not improve students’ in-school behavior or academic performance.  In fact, one recent study found that in states where corporal punishment is frequently used, schools have performed worse academically than those in states that prohibit corporal punishment.[16]  While most states demonstrated improvements in their American College Testing (ACT) scores from 1994 to 2008, “as a group, states that paddled the most improved their scores the least.”[17] At the same time “the ten states with the longest histories of forbidding corporal punishment improved the most” with improvement rates three times higher than those states which reported frequent use of corporal punishment.[18]

Many children who have been subjected to hitting, paddling or other harsh disciplinary practices have reported subsequent problems with depression, fear and anger.[19]  These students frequently withdraw from school activities and disengage academically.[20] The Society for Adolescent Medicine has found that victims of corporal punishment often develop “deteriorating peer relationships, difficulty with concentration, lowered school achievement, antisocial behavior, intense dislike of authority, somatic complaints, a tendency for school avoidance and school drop-out, and other evidence of negative high-risk adolescent behavior.”[21]  One Mississippi student interviewed for A Violent Education described the effects of corporal punishment on his attitude towards school:

  • “[Y]ou could get a paddling for almost anything. I hated it. It was used as a way to degrade, embarrass students. . . I said I’d never take another paddling, it’s humiliating, and it’s degrading. Some teachers like to paddle students. Paddling causes you to lose respect for a person, stop listening to them.”[22]

Corporal punishment places parents and teachers in positions where they may have to choose between educational advancement and students’ physical well-being.  For instance, some parents who learn that their children are being struck at public school find themselves without recourse, unable to effectively opt-out from the practice, and unable to obtain legal or other redress when their children have been paddled against their wishes.  Ultimately some parents find that the only way they can protect their children from physical harm is to withdraw them from school altogether.[23]  Similarly, teachers who work in schools where corporal punishment is administered are often reluctant to send disruptive students out of the classroom because they are afraid the students will be beaten.[24]

Moreover, a public school’s use of corporal punishment affects every student in that school, including those who are not personally subjected to hitting or paddling.  The prevalent use of physical violence against students creates an overall threatening school atmosphere that impacts students’ ability to perform academically.[25]  Often, children who experience or witness physical violence will themselves develop disruptive and violent behaviors, further disturbing their classmates’ learning as well as their own.[26]

Corporal punishment is a destructive form of discipline that is ineffective in producing educational environments in which students can thrive. Rather than relying on harsh and threatening disciplinary tactics, schools and teachers should be encouraged to develop positive behavior supports (PBS), which have proven effective in reducing the need for harsh discipline while supporting a safe and productive learning environment.[27] The Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 2597) would help states and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) create positive learning environments by allowing them to use Title I funds to develop PBS practices.  This bill would also require the Department of Education to provide assistance and support so that states may fully realize the potential of supportive and flexible behavior discipline practices. By abandoning ineffective and brutal disciplinary practices, and by encouraging the adoption of PBS methods, our nation can provide opportunities for all students to achieve academic success in a supportive and safe school environment.

V. Recommendations

In order to prevent the continued use of violence against children in our schools, we recommend that Congress:

  • Introduce and pass federal legislation prohibiting the use of corporal punishment in public schools, conditioned on the receipt of federal funding.
  • Define corporal punishment as any punishment by which physical force is used with the intention of causing some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.
  • Promote the use of positive behavioral supports by passing H.R. 2597, and provide teachers and school administrators with the tools and resources necessary to develop safe and effective methods for encouraging positive student behavior
  • Provide students and their families with a private right of action to enforce their rights to be free from physical punishment and to a safe and supportive learning environment in administrative or judicial actions.
  • Require all schools and LEAs to report all instances where corporal punishment is used, not just the number of students who are punished in a given year. This data should be collected and disaggregated by student subgroups to assess disproportionate application.
  • Provide funding to those states which implement PBS practices so that teachers may be effectively trained to create safe and supportive school discipline plans.

VI. Conclusion

The use of violence against students is never an acceptable means of punishment – it harms students physically, psychologically and academically.  The use of corporal punishment in schools is interfering with students’ right to be treated with dignity and, as a result, is interfering with their right to a quality education.  By prohibiting the use of corporal punishment and helping states to develop safe and effective behavioral practices, this Congress could help to ensure that our nation’s children are able to achieve their full educational potential in a supportive learning environment.

Research Findings on Youth Violence

There are many reasons why violence and corporal punishment is psychologically and sociologically connected in American society. This and the next section will clarify what that connection is. Sadly, the data will show that there is even a correlation between corporal punishment and school shootings. What follows are some highlights of these connections based on a review of the research literature.  Numerous reports in the popular media have speculated on plausible causes for such extreme youth violence—guns were too available; parents were not involved; boys are socialized to repress emotion; violence permeates the culture; and children are desensitized to the effects of violence by television, movies, and videogames. Causal factors have been suspected across all of the nested systems that Bronfenbrenner (1979) described as composing the ecology of child development and all aspects of what Super and Harkness (1986) have termed the developmental niche. However, there have been relatively few empirical investigations of the cultural contributions to youth violence.

In one such study, Lynch and Cicchetti (1998) examined neighborhood influences in the development and functioning of 7- to 12-year-olds. They found that children displayed more externalizing problems when they had a history of abuse and also lived in neighborhoods characterized by high levels of violence. Said another way, aspects of children’s direct experience (abuse) and the larger environment in which it occurred (violence in the neighborhood, not necessarily involving the child or family directly) interacted to predict levels of externalizing or “acting out” behavior.

Regionally based differences in the cultural sanctioning of violence are evident within the United States. Cohen and colleagues, for example, found Southerners to be more accepting of interpersonal violence in certain circumstances. Compared to students from the North, college students from southern states were more likely to respond with physiologic arousal (increased cortisol and testosterone levels and aggression) to insults and perceived threats to their honor [Cohen et al., 1996].

Southern white males, in particular, tended to endorse the use of violence for protection, defense, and the socialization of children (Cohen and Nisbett, 1994).

 

Research on Corporal Punishment

Of particular relevance to this Blog is the alleged socialization of children by violent means such as corporal punishment, i.e., the intentional infliction of physical pain in the service of discipline. The application of corporal punishment in schools by individuals serving in loco parentis is described. The research on corporal punishment by parents or other caretakers was described in Part II on child abuse. The practice in schools varies regionally.

Physical punishment has been an integral part of American education since its earliest days (Hyman and Wise, 1979). As recently as 1976, only Massachusetts and New Jersey prohibited school officials from using corporal punishment to discipline students. Currently, school corporal punishment is banned in 30 states and permitted in 20.

The practice is widely allowed by state statute or local district policy in 13 states (AL, AR, CO, ID, IN, KE, LA, MS, MO, NM, SC, TN, TX). Although it is permitted in 10 states, the majority of students attend school in districts that have adopted a ban on corporal punishment (AZ, DE, FL, GA, KS, NC, OH, OK, PA, WY) (National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in the Schools [NCACPS], 1997).

Southern states are overrepresented among permitting states (62% compared with 32% of total), and northeast states among the prohibiting (30% compared with 18% of total).

Several sources of evidence suggest that this policy may be linked to violence at school and beyond.

Hyman (1995) argued persuasively that the infliction of corporal punishment on children in schools is part of a larger web of punitiveness and authoritarian beliefs in American society. Not only does this cultural dependency on punitive measures for societal control mitigate against efforts to ban corporal punishment from the schools nationally, it may also amplify negative consequences for children who are so punished. Strauss (1994) described this phenomenon as a “cultural spillover,” arguing that the spillover of violence from one cultural domain to others accounted for observations that statewide homicide rates and assault rates by children in schools varied with the level of school corporal punishment allowed by the state.

Additional empirical evidence has linked corporal punishment to child abuse and extreme punishment. Maltreatment rates in countries such as Sweden, where corporal punishment of children in any setting is legally banned, as well as in countries such as Finland, China, and Japan, where the practice is rare, are significantly lower than in the United States (Belsky, 1980;Strauss, 1994; Zigler and Hall, 1989).

Within the United States, higher rates of child abuse fatalities occur in states that permit corporal punishment in the schools (Arcus and Ryan, 1999). Finally, Streib [cited in Hyman, 1995] found that states reporting the 10 highest rates of school paddlings were also those with the greatest number of youths awaiting capital punishment in the state judicial system.

Although the correlational nature of these data limits causal inference, critics of school corporal punishment have argued that it encourages aggression by (1) promoting the merits of applying violent responses to children’s behavior, (2) framing violence as an acceptable phenomenon, and (3) modeling its use by authority figures (e.g., American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997; Hyman and Perone, 1998; Society for Adolescent Medicine, 1992).

The chief rebuttal criticism hinges on the complexity of the issue and numerous confounding factors. Three major correlates of the endorsement and use of corporal punishment—poverty, religious views, and geographic region—are also interwoven with each other and with aggression and violence.

The southern region of the United States, overrepresented among states permittingschool corporal punishment and often referred to as the “Bible belt,” has historically been associated with low per capita income and a high prevalence of fundamentalist religious denominations.

The chronic stresses of impoverishment may exacerbate aggressive tendencies in individuals living under such conditions. Poverty in families has been associated with authoritarian parenting and the physical and emotional neglect of children (Tonge et al., 1975). Additionally, families in poverty in which there are also several young children, male children, and drug or alcohol problems, are among those with the highest rates of physical child abuse (Wolfner and Gelles, 1993).

Poverty is also related to religious affiliation. Fundamentalist or conservative Christian denominations are overrepresented among the poor (McDowell and Friedman, 1979), and these religious traditions promote punitive childrearing strategies that endorse the use of corporal punishment (Ellison et al., 1996; Grasmick and McGill, 1994; Greven, 1991; Kilbourne, 1999).

Prevailing fundamentalist childrearing philosophies may also influence public school education, and they have been used as a basis for opposition to reform initiatives stemming from constructivist (e.g., Piagetian) learning models (Berliner, 1997). Hence, any investigation of the association between school corporal punishment and school violence needs to account for at least these correlated factors.

 

Opposition to Corporal Punishment

People reading this Blog should seriously ask this question: Would you want your children or grandchildren enrolled in a school where they run the risk of being hit or hurt? Even as long ago as 230 years, people felt this was a very bad idea and highly unacceptable. Poland in 1783 was the first country in the world to abolish corporal punishment.

In the United States New Jersey outlawed corporal punishment in 1867. Our southern and mid-western states appear, in the 21st Century, to be a “Wee-bit-slow” to get rid of corporal punishment.

At the current time a majority of thirty out of 50 states (60%) have abolished corporal punishment in their schools. What is it about our predominantly southern and mid-western bible-belt conservative states that cause them to tenaciously hold on to school policies that foster and promote child abuse?  Corporal punishment is often described by psychologists as “sloppy behaviorism” and, as an educational policy or tool, has neither scientific merit nor educational value.

Important prestigious national organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association (AMA), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA) are unanimous in opposing corporal punishment and institutionalized child abuse in the schools.

Here is an excerpt from the April 14, 2010 NEA letter to the House Education and Labor Committee on Corporal Punishment in schools. According to the NEA, “On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we write to express our position on corporal punishment and effective school safety strategies, in advance of this week’s Education and Labor Committee hearing on Corporal Punishment in Schools and its Effect on School Success…NEA believes that all educators and students have the right to work and learn in a safe school environment. Educators know that a positive, effective learning environment leads to successful student outcomes. We also know that there is no evidence to support the use of corporal punishment in schools as a strategy that leads to positive student engagement and learning. NEA categorically opposes the use of corporal punishment as a school discipline technique. It is more than ineffective – it is harmful.”

Another letter comes from the United Nations to end the corporal punishment of children. Because of its global importance, I have elected to present it in its entirety.

Statement by the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, at the event on Ending Corporal Punishment of Children

Geneva, Palais des Nations – Room XXII
 22 January 2013

Dear Ambassador,
Permanent Representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honored and delighted to join you in this discussion on how to end the corporal punishment of children.  I thank the Permanent Missions of Finland, Tunisia and Uruguay for organizing this event. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the work undertaken by civil society to bring this issue close to the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, and particularly the efforts by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

We have come a long way since the publication of the UN Study on Violence against Children in 2006, produced by Professor Pinheiro with the support of OHCHR, UNICEF and WHO. As we all know, the UN Study brought to light the tragic reality and magnitude of the problem posed by violence against children, confirming that it exists in every country and takes place in different settings, including the family, the school, institutions and the community.  While six years have passed since then, most of the findings and recommendations of the Study remain valid today. UNICEF’s report on “Child Disciplinary Practices at Home” confirms that violent disciplinary measures are extremely common and that more work is needed to fight violence against children, including corporal punishment, all over the world.

Certainly efforts have been made in a number of regions and countries to implement the UN Study recommendations, and we need to celebrate some of the positive steps. Six years ago, there were only 11 States that had prohibited corporal punishment in all settings. Today, more than 30 States have done so, and 18 others have made public commitments to follow suit.

The UN Study urged States to prohibit all forms of violence against children, in all settings, including all corporal punishment, harmful practices, such as early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and so-called honor crimes, sexual violence, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment, as required by international treaties, including the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The recently adopted General Comment No. 13 of the CRC, on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence, reinforces this recommendation.

In addition, this same recommendation has been reiterated by OHCHR in its different reports on child rights to the Human Rights Council. I would like to describe in more detail some references to corporal punishment that feature in our reports, and reflect OHCHR’s position on the matter.

In our latest report, which will be presented to the Council this March, on the right of the child to health, we stress that the burden of mortality and morbidity of children that is attributable to violence is high, particularly during early childhood and adolescence. The report also states that in light of the impact of corporal punishment on children’s health, including fatal and non-fatal injury, as well as psychological and emotional consequences, corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishments in all settings should be prohibited and eliminated.

We also recommend that States review national laws and policies and that comprehensive prohibition of all forms of violence against children be included in legislation. Given the interdependence and indivisibility of rights laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the child, the realization of the right to health is indispensable for the enjoyment of all other rights, and achieving the right to health is likewise dependent on the realization of many of the other rights contained in the Convention.   Thus, if the right of the child to be free from violence (article 19 of the Convention) is not realized, there will be an immediate and negative impact on the child’s right to health.

Similarly in our report on the rights of children in street situations we recommended prohibition of all forms of violence against children living and/or working on the street and implementation of the recommendations made by the UN Study on Violence against children.

Furthermore, in our joint report with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and UNODC on the prevention of violence in the juvenile justice system, we indicated that children in detention are frequently subjected to violence as a punishment for minor offences. We acknowledged that 116 countries have abolished corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions (a positive increase of 10 countries since the UN Study was finalized), but also noted that, despite abolition, violent practices in the juvenile justice system are found in both developed and developing countries. Apart from the use of caning and whipping, children may be punished through confinement in cells for lengthy periods, solitary confinement, food rationing or physical restraints.

Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a violation of the rights of the child. It conflicts with the child’s human dignity and the right of the child to physical integrity. It also prevents children from reaching their full potential, by putting at risk their right to health, survival and development. The best interests of the child can never be used to justify such practice.  Eliminating violence against children is not only a human rights imperative, but also a means to bring about social changes and attitudes. While appropriate legal frameworks are needed, little will be achieved if we do not work hand in hand to transform attitudes that condone and normalize violence against children, including corporal punishment. The need to promote the values of non-violence and awareness-raising among all those working with children is essential if we want this situation to come to an end.

Let me finish by reinforcing one of the main messages of the UN Study which, without a doubt, we will hear repeated many times today:  violence against children can never be justified and all such violence is preventable.

Many thanks

Connecting Corporal Punishment to Student Deaths in the United States

In 2002 a study was published in the Journal of Aggressive Behavior (28:173–183). Student deaths from school shootings were examined across all 50 states according to the state’s policy on the use of corporal punishment in schools. There was significantly more school shooting deaths found in states allowing school corporal punishment compared with those that do not. The odds of fatal involvement in a school shooting were greatest in states permitting school corporal punishment compared with those prohibiting it (odds ratio, 2.04) or restricting it to districts serving less than half the student population (odds ratio, 1.77). Moreover, the rate of school corporal punishment was moderately correlated with the rate of fatal school shootings both across all states and within the South, the region in which endorsement of school corporal punishment is most prevalent.

The study found evidence that the sanctioning of corporal punishment in the schools is linked with elevated levels of child-directed violence, even when accounting for associated differences in poverty and prevailing conservative Christian ideology both in the United States as a whole and within the Southern region.

Of significance was the finding that children and youths are more likely to die in school shootings in states permitting schools to practice corporal punishment than in states in which the practice has been prohibited. The more physically punitive discipline is practiced in the schools, the more likely students are likely to die in school shootings.

I had to ask myself: why is corporal punishment policy related to school shootings and student murders. The reasons pertain to the fact that corporal punishment policy is a by-product of a historically greater “culture of violence.” This culture of violence (a learned and socially transmitted set of beliefs and behavior from one generation to the next) permeates the social fabric of life in many southern and mid-western states. Any social environment that is more accepting of violence toward children, such as corporal punishment, produces a community over time that reflects deviant cultural norms. Give any profession a free pass to control and/or hurt your child and you open the door directly to exploitation and harm.

In California, prior to that state’s outlawing of corporal punishment, a former student reported that the only thing he learned from the experience of being paddled was to loathe the teacher who did it. Any educational system that reinforces hatred of authority, loathing and fear is highly suspect as not being ready for the all-important mission of education; namely, creating a positive, safe, sound, and valuable educational environment for learning and development.

 

Why Corporal Punishment?

Beyond poverty, backward fundamentalist attitudes, and specific regions of the country, what nexus of influential factors seem to precipitate or connect all the dots that link the philosophy of the region, and aggregate level variables associated with abuse, with those variables that cause teachers and administrators to commit acts of violence against children? What connects the larger structural characteristics of culture with individual acts of violence such as corporal punishment? Well, below is the answer.

There appears to this Blogger to be four major factors that cause teachers and administrators in southern and mid-western states to find corporal punishment rewarding where students are hit or hurt. These factors include: (1) Deviant Cultural Values, (2) History of the South, (3) Professional and Social Incompetence, and (4) Predators in School Settings. Some of the reasons relate to deviant social values reflected in these regions of the United States; other reasons pertain to the tainted philosophies of bible-belt religions (spare the rod and spoil the child and other antiquated nonsense).

Closer to the level of teachers and administrators there is professional and social incompetence (how they interact with young children and students). Finally, lack of school and district wide screening for predators, including sexual predators who wield a paddle, whip, or belt for sadistic or sexual stimulation and satisfaction. Given things like boring holes in paddles so as to increase pain, blistering, and longer-lasting suffering, it is clear that these degenerates are falling through the cracks. Screeners don’t suffer, children do.

Deviant Cultural Values

Institutionalized violence like corporal punishment often mask underlying deviant cultural values in predominantly southern and mid-western states. Corporal punishment has been outlawed in the nation’s prisons, jails, and adult and youth correctional facilities for decades (Supreme Court and District Court rulings). It is ironic in the 21st Century that children in school settings are deemed less important and possess less value for protection from harm— than do our offender populations. This goes back to the phenomena of cognitive dissonance discussed in Part I of this series. The decision of the United States Supreme Court in 1977 to allow corporal punishment in the schools as legal under the U.S. Constitution would be a lot different now. Given the disproportionate administration of corporal punishment to black students and disabled students, and the sexually deviant motivations of degenerate teachers and administrators who enjoy hurting children, it is very likely a Federal District Court or the U.S. Supreme Court would now invoke the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution to end corporal punishment. And, the courts would create remedies of criminal indictment in federal courts for all violators subsequent to their ruling.

One may wonder why do school districts in southern and mid-western states condone violence against children at all? Why do they continue to be an embarrassment before the rest of the nation? Are they really that uncaring, or simply not too bright? Why do they take an on-purpose “blind eye” to all the relevant educational and psychological knowledge available to them? What role have deviant cultural norms motivated school districts in the south and mid-west to deny scientific knowledge that corporal punishment has short and long term effects that are deleterious to a child’s health and well-being? What would cause some educators to bury their head in the sand where corporal punishment is concerned?

Social History of the South

Perhaps the most major reason of all for continuation of deviant cultural values, into the modern era, is rooted in their past. During the racism of “Jim Crow” there was a legacy of extreme violence over others where the murder, beating and whipping blacks occurred during slavery, but also continued in the Post-Construction era following the Civil War with the criminal acts of the Klu Klux Klan. The era of “Jim Crow” is dead, but its legacy lives on, evidently well into the 21st Century.

When the Civil Rights Movement began to exert its powerful influence in the 1960s, reinforced by the Courts, southerners began to feel impotent, lost status nationally and had to come to grips with the dishonor and shame of their past. Faced with the lasting taint of racism these communities and school districts found a way to have control in social life and continue their legacy of human dominance over others. This legacy still portends a disdain for liberalism, civil and human rights.

In southern and mid-western school districts that practice corporal punishment, it would be very instructive to know the race/ethnicity of students victimized by corporal punishment. Are blacks and Hispanics more likely to be victimized by corporal punishment than white students?

Professional and Social Incompetence

One might wonder why it is school districts that prohibit corporal punishment have much higher educational achievement levels on standardized tests than do school districts authorizing violence with corporal punishment.

These differences reflect more than student natural ability. It’s more about the schools involved and their ability (or lack thereof) to use the best teaching and motivational strategies that would achieve higher student scores. One might also wonder what is about the 20 states in the US that condone violence against children, why they fail to heed the overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment is sloppy behaviorism and lacks not even a scintilla of evidence to support it.

Predators in School Settings

At the current time the news headlines are filled with all sorts of school district scandals involving racketeering, corruption, and theft. In addition, it is no secret that teachers have committed serious moral and professional violations, and criminal acts that relate to sex scandals with students. All of this raises the issue of screening. Although not foolproof, this is an important role for school districts to carry out. The greatest failure of school districts around the country is inadequate screening of teachers and administrators or other employees before someone is hired. Screening of educational credentials for teachers is very common at a job interview. Seldom do school districts require psychiatric evaluation prior to someone being hired. This applies to coaching positions as well. Because of this lack of critical screening, sexual predators can find their way into the classroom.

Too many times in the last two decades students have had to endure the unwanted sexual advances of predatory teachers and administrators. Often these predators seek out their victims by going into professions where they can control and dominate their victims. These ready-made work environments include, but are not limited to, professions like teaching, nursing, or the military.

Positions where they can administer corporal punishment to students may also be linked to sexual predation as well, as mentioned above. Hitting and physically harming children in an institutional setting is as much to blame for the United States’ serious problem of child abuse as a parent is with inferior parenting skills. (See definition in Part II of what constitutes physical child abuse). Several states, including some among the 20 that allow it, have entered the names for life of individual teachers and administrators who commit corporal punishment onto their state’s Child Abuse Registry.

Post Script

Well, there are many factors collectively and individually that may be responsible for why corporal punishment still exists in these backward 20 states: (1) the possession of deviant cultural values, (2) a social history of racism and the need to dominate others, (3) lack of professionalism among the educational staff, or simply professional incompetence by failing to read and understand their own profession’s accumulated knowledge about successful student/teacher interaction and good teaching methods, and (4) teachers and administrators who derive pleasure hurting children and may derive sexual satisfaction or be sexually stimulated from hurting children (sadistic impulses). These latter individuals don’t deserve to be employed anywhere, much less in a profession as important as teaching our children. Finally, the surrounding local community or culture may possess or foster bible-belt religious philosophies that are repugnant to a modern culturally mature larger society.

Even in the 21st Century these backward pockets of extreme conservatism often culturally mask an underlying political outlook that is hidden, yet fraught with a lingering veil of racism and deviant values that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of all other Americans. Such a veil still continues to bring lasting shame to these areas of the country.

In Part IV I will report on what is known about the crime of kidnapping children. In addition, a full set of recommendations will be made to address Sex Trafficking, Bullying, and Corporal Punishment in the schools. Where school districts that promote corporal punishment is concerned I am seriously thinking the federal government must eliminate any federal economic help to school districts that promote corporal punishment in the schools. On the other hand, schools districts that ban corporal punishment would receive additional economic support. Teachers and administrators who continue to hurt students will also face arrest and criminal indictment by federal authorities.

If any infant is attacked and brutalized by an adult, law enforcement would be all over the offender lake a “Fly on do-do.” If an adult is attacked on the street and physically harmed, law enforcement will seek out and arrest the offender. When a teacher or administrator beats a child the only difference is a person’s age (school age children). But the behavioral outcome is the same—someone is getting hurt. Very young and adults are protected by the law; school age children don’t seem to be in certain parts of the country. It’s long overdue for such hypocrisy to end. It’s time for the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to apply to all citizens, old and young alike.

 

HRW/ACLU NOTES

 

[1] During the 2006-2007 school year, at least 223,190 students in the U.S. were subjected to corporal punishment.  See U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Civil Rights Data Collection 2006, http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Projections_2006.aspx (last accessed April 1, 2010) [hereinafter Civil Rights Data Collection].

[2] Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas,  Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, Impairing Education 27 (2009), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights/impairing-education-corporal-punishment-students-disabilities-us-public-schools   [hereinafter Impairing Education].

[3] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee & Texas. See id. at 27.

[4] Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. See id, at 27.

[5] Many school districts may fail to report corporal punishment data to the Department of Education, and many incidents may not be recorded in the first place. See American Civil Liberties Union & Human Rights Watch, A Violent Education 45-46 (2008), available at http://www.aclu.org/human-rights-racial-justice/violent-education-corporal-punishment-children-us-public-schools [hereinafter A Violent Education]; Impairing Education, at 30-31.

[6] See generally A Violent Education, at 57; Impairing Education, at 4-5.

[7] Corporal punishment of children in juvenile justice facilities has been prohibited by the Courts of Appeals in several Federal Circuits.  See Nelson v. Heyne, 491 F.2d 352 (7th Cir. 1974), cert. denied 417 U.S. 476 (paddling of children in juvenile detention was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment); Morales v. Turman, 562 F.2d 993, 998 (5th Cir. 1977) (corporal punishment and physical abuse in juvenile detention facilities subject to prohibition as a violation of Eighth Amendment), rev’d on other grounds, 535 F.2d 864 (5th Cir. 1976), rev’d and remanded, 430 U.S. 322 (1977).  See also, Santana v. Collazo, 533 F. Supp. 966 (D.P.R. 1982) (corporal punishment against juveniles in industrial schools and juvenile camps violates Eighth Amendment and is barred “for any reason”), aff’d in part and vacated in part, 714 F.2d 1172 (lst Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 974 (1984).  The American Correctional Association has also issued standards banning use of corporal punishment in juvenile facilities. See also Steven J. Martin, Staff Use of Force in United States Confinement Settings, 22 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 145 (2006).  In addition, corporal punishment and other harsh disciplinary practices are prohibited in publicly-funded non-medical substance abuse and long-term medical care facilities.  See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 290jj (banning corporal punishment in “non-medical community-based facilities for children and youth.”); 42 C.F.R. § 483.13 (banning corporal punishment in long-term medical care facilities).

[8] Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1. See also A Violent Education, at 5 (“In the same year [2006-2007], in the 13 states with the highest rates of paddling, 1.4 times as many African American students were paddled as might be expected given their percentage of the student population. Although girls of all races were paddled less than boys, African American girls were nonetheless physically punished at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts in those 13 states during this period”).

[9] A Violent Education, at 72 (interview with Abrea T., Dec. 10, 2007).

[10] A Violent Education, at 75-76 (interview with Catherine V., Nov. 7, 2007).

[11] In the 2006-2007 school year, 41,972 students with disabilities were subjected to corporal punishment during the 2006-2007 school year. See Civil Rights Data Collection, supra note 1.

[12] See Impairing Education, at 35-40.

[13] Impairing Education, at 44 (interview with Sarah P.  May 22, 2009).

[14] Impairing Education, at 43 (interview with Anna M., March 9, 2009).

[15] See A Violent Education, at 75.

[16] Michael Hickmon, Study: Paddling vs. ACT Scores and Civil Immunity Legislation (2008), available at http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=paddlingvsact.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 42-43.

[20] See A Violent Education, at 54; Impairing Education, at 43-44.

[21] Society for Adolescent Medicine, Position Paper: Corporal Punishment in Schools, 32:5 J. Adolescent Health 385, 388 (2003).

[22] A Violent Education, at 55 (interview with Sean D., Dec. 14, 2007).

[23] See Impairing Education, at 6.

[24] See id. at 5.

[25] See A Violent Education, at 25-29.

[26]  This is often because students who have been subjected to corporal punishment have learned through their experiences that physical violence is an appropriate way to handle conflict. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that “corporal punishment may adversely affect a student’s self-image and school achievement and it may contribute to disruptive and violent behavior.” American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on School Health, Corporal Punishment in Schools, 106:2 Pediatrics 343 (2000), available at http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;106/2/343.

[27] See, e.g., Stephen P. Safran & Karen Oswald, Positive Behavior Supports: Can Schools Reshape Disciplinary Practices?, 69:3 Exceptional Child. 361 (2003), available at http://www.casenex.com/casenex/cecReadings/positiveBehavior.pdf.

 

 

 

 

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part II Child Abuse

 [Research and National Statistics on Child Abuse]

Introduction

In Part I of this series I emphasized the need for a much broader contextual look at violence perpetrated against children in the United States.

Gun violence has certainly captured everyone’s attention since the cold blooded mass murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Nevertheless, there still exists a dire need to protect children beyond mass murder. We, as individuals, need to crystalize in our own mind two things: (1) Understanding the comprehensive nature of all violence toward children, and (2) What is needed in the way of recommendations, legislative proposals, and/or policy directives that would effectively address the widespread problem of violence directed against children.  During the course of this four part series both of these things will be laid out.

Child Abuse in America

Summary Statistics

In the United States children are suffering from an epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record among industrialized nations – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths.

The following data were obtained from two sources: Child Help which has programs for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse, and NCANDS which refers to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Child Help is a private program with a Child Abuse Hotline. NCANDS is a federally sponsored effort that collects and analyzes annual data on child abuse and neglect. The 1988 CAPTA amendments directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a national data collection and analysis program. The Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, collects and analyzes the data. In addition research findings from various studies will be presented.

The data are submitted voluntarily by the States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The first report from NCANDS was based on data for 1990; this report for Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2011 data is the 22nd issuance of this annual publication.

 Here are crucial national facts on child abuse in America:

  • A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
  • More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
  • Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
  • It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
  • More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
  • About 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 was $124 billion.
  • 14% of all men in prison in the USA were abused as children.
  • 36% of all women in prison were abused as children.
  • Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.  Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
  • Abused teens are less likely to practice safe sex that puts them at greater risk for STDs.
  • One-third to two-thirds of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree.
  • Children whose parent’s abuse alcohol and other drugs are three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.
  • As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.

Definitions of Child Abuse  

     Child Abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child or children. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department for Children and Families (DCF) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.

Child abuse can occur in a child’s home, or organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with. There are four major categories of child abuse:  physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect.

Different jurisdictions have developed their own definitions of what constitutes child abuse for the purposes of removing a child from his/her family and/or prosecuting a criminal charge. According to the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, child abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”.

Types of Child Abuse

     Physical abuse involves physical aggression directed at a child by an adult. Most nations with child-abuse laws consider the deliberate infliction of serious injuries, or actions that place the child at obvious risk of serious injury or death, to be illegal. Physical abuse is the intentional or non-accidental production of a physical injury. Bruises, scratches, burns, broken bones, lacerations, as well as repeated “mishaps,” and rough treatment that could cause physical injury, are the results of physical abuse. Beyond this, there is considerable variation.

Discipline and Child Abuse

The distinction between child discipline and child abuse is often poorly defined. Cultural norms about what constitutes abuse vary widely: among professionals as well as the wider public.  People do not agree on what behaviors constitute abuse. Some professionals claim that cultural norms that sanction physical punishment are one of the causes of child abuse, and have undertaken campaigns to redefine such norms. The misguided belief that physical punishment does not have consequences for children later in life is naïve. Both the physical health and psychological health of a child who is physically punished does have detrimental consequences later in that child’s life. Research has overwhelmingly proven this. Lack of knowledge about the short and long term effects of physical punishment on the child, but also knowledge how to raise a healthy and psychologically happy child, is little understood by the public at large.

It’s important here to take note of a common defense mechanism known as sublimation. What is the relationship between sublimation and child abuse? If one is really angry at a child sublimation can redirect those feelings (perhaps stress generated) into more acceptable ways of acting toward that child. By definition, Sublimation is a defense mechanism that allows us to act out unacceptable impulses by converting these behaviors into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kick-boxing as a means of venting frustration. Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity that allows people to function normally in socially acceptable ways.

     Where child abuse is concerned there may not be any sublimation that prevents the unacceptable acting out of impulses. However, failure to control one’s own negative impulses may come back later to haunt the abuser.

Revenge and violence by the child directed toward the abuser might take years to be revealed. The old expression “what goes around comes around” may have real consequences for the abuser later in life. Sometimes the abused child doesn’t wait; sometimes an angry child will set fire to a home killing both his/her parents and others in the process. If revenge is delayed, it may manifest itself when the abuser is at that stage of life when they become elderly and need care, and/or medical attention. And then, those needs are left unmet by the child abuse victim. Unfortunately, child abuse victims often become abusers themselves later in life. It can become a vicious cycle for both abuser and victim. 

     Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation. Sexual abuse refers to the participation of a child in a sexual act aimed toward the physical gratification or the financial profit of the person committing the act.

Forms of CSA include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact with a child, physical contact with the child’s genitals, viewing of the child’s genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce child pornography. Selling the sexual services of children is also sexual child abuse.

Effects of child sexual abuse include guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor’s visits, etc.), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, somatic complaints, depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and other mental illnesses including borderline personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder, propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, bulimia nervosa, physical injury to the child, among other problems.

In the United States, approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately10% of child sexual abuse cases. In over one-third of cases, the perpetrator is also a minor.

In a 1999 news story, BBC reported, “Close-knit family life in India masks an alarming amount of sexual abuse of children and teenage girls by family members, a new report suggests. Delhi organization RAHI said 76% of respondents to its survey had been abused when they were children – 40% of those by a family member.”

     Emotional abuse is defined as the production of psychological and social deficits in the growth of a child as a result of behavior such as loud yelling, coarse and rude attitude, inattention, harsh criticism, and denigration of the child’s personality. Other examples include name-calling, ridicule, degradation, destruction of personal belongings, torture or killing of a pet, excessive criticism, inappropriate or excessive demands, withholding communication, and routine labeling or humiliation.

Victims of emotional abuse may react by distancing themselves from the abuser, internalizing the abusive words, or fighting back by insulting the abuser. Emotional abuse can result in abnormal or disrupted attachment development, a tendency for victims to blame themselves (self-blame) for the abuse, learned helplessness, and overly passive behavior.

     Child neglect is the failure of a parent, or other person with responsibility for the child, to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Neglect is also a lack of attention from the people surrounding a child, and the non-provision of relevant and adequate necessities for the child’s survival, which would be a lacking in attention, love, and nurture. Some of the observable signs in a neglected child include: the child is frequently absent from school, begs or steals food or money, lacks needed medical and dental care, is consistently dirty, lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.

Neglected children may experience delays in physical and psychosocial development, possibly resulting in psychopathology and impaired neurological functions such as a short attention span, mental processing speed, language development, memory and those all-important social skills.

Researchers investigating maltreated children have repeatedly found that neglected children in foster and adoptive populations manifest different emotional and behavioral reactions to regain lost or secure relationships and are frequently reported to have disorganized attachments and a need to control their environment. Such children are not likely to view caregivers as being a source of safety, and instead typically show an increase in aggressive and hyperactive behaviors which may disrupt healthy or secure attachment with their adopted parents.

These children have apparently learned to adapt to an abusive and inconsistent caregiver by becoming cautiously self-reliant, and are often described as glib, manipulative and disingenuous in their interactions with others as they move through childhood. Children who are victims of neglect have a more difficult time forming and maintaining relationships, such as romantic attachments or friendship later in life due to the lack of attachment they had in their earlier stages of life.

Prevalence

According to the (American) National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, in 1997 neglect represented 54% of confirmed cases of child abuse, physical abuse 22%, sexual abuse 8%, emotional maltreatment 4%, and other forms of maltreatment 12%.

A UNICEP report on child wellbeing stated that the United States and the United Kingdom ranked lowest among industrial nations with respect to the wellbeing of children. It also found that child neglect and child abuse were far more common in single-parent families than in families where both parents are present.

In the USA, neglect is defined as the failure to meet the basic needs of children including housing, clothing, food and access to medical care. Researchers found over 91,000 cases of neglect in one year (from October 2005 to 30 September 2006) using information from a database of cases verified by protective services agencies.

Neglect could also take the form of financial abuse by not buying the child adequate materials for survival.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that for each year between 2000 and 2005, “female parents acting alone” were most likely to be perpetrators of child abuse.

For FFY 2011, United States reported 676,569 victims of child abuse and neglect. Race and ethnicity of victims in 2011: 43.9% of all victims were Caucasian, 21.5% were African American, and 22.1% were Hispanic.

A child abuse fatality occurs when a child’s death is the result of abuse or neglect, or when abuse and/or neglect are contributing factors to a child’s death. In the United States, 1,730 children died in 2008 due to factors related to abuse; this is a rate of 2 per 100,000 U.S. children. Family situations which place children at risk include moving, unemployment, having non-family members living in the household. A number of policies and programs have been put in place in the U.S. to try to better understand and to prevent child abuse fatalities, including:

Safe Haven Laws

Child Fatality Review Teams

Training for Investigators

Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Programs

Child Abuse Death Laws Mandating Harsher Sentencing

Causes

Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes. Understanding the causes of abuse is crucial to addressing the problem of child abuse. Parents who physically abuse their spouses are more likely than others to physically abuse their children. However, it is impossible to know whether marital strife is a cause of child abuse, or if both the marital strife and the abuse are caused by tendencies in the abuser.

Another cause is unrealistic expectations in parenting or caregiving. This commonly used term refers to the process of parents’ setting expectations for their child that are clearly beyond the child’s capability. When parents’ expectations are particularly deviant (e.g., preschool children who are expected to be totally responsible for self-care or provision of nurturance to parents) the resulting frustration caused by the child’s non-compliance is believed to function as a contributory cause of child abuse.

Children resulting from unintended pregnancies are also more likely to be abused or neglected. Neglect following an unintended pregnancy is by far the most common form of child abuse, accounting for more than 78% of all cases. In addition, unintended pregnancies are more likely than intended pregnancies to be associated with abusive relationships, and there is an increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy. They also result in poorer maternal mental health, and lower mother-child relationship quality.

Substance abuse can be a major contributing factor to child abuse. One U.S. study found that parents with documented substance abuse, most commonly alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, were much more likely to mistreat their children, and were also much more likely to reject court-ordered services and treatments. Another study found that over two-thirds of cases of child maltreatment involved parents with substance abuse problems. This study specifically found relationships between alcohol and physical abuse, and between cocaine and sexual abuse. Although the abuse survivor does not always realize the abuse is wrong, the internal confusion can lead to chaos. Inner anger turns to outer frustration. Once aged 17/18, drink and drugs are used to numb the hurt feelings, nightmares and daytime flashbacks. Acquisitive crimes to pay for the chemicals are inevitable if the survivor is unable to find employment.

Unemployment and financial difficulties are associated with increased rates of child abuse. In 2009 CBS News reported that child abuse in the United States had increased during the economic recession. It gave the example of a father who had never been the primary care-taker of the children. Now that the father was in that role, the children began to come in with injuries.

A 1988 study of child murders in the US found that children are 100 times more often killed by a “non-biological parent (e.g. step-parent, a cohabitating boyfriend or girlfriend of a biological parent)” than by a biological parent. An evolutionary explanation of this is that using resources in order to take care of another person’s biological child is likely not a good strategy for increasing reproductive success. More generally, stepchildren have a much higher risk of being abused which is sometimes referred to as the Cinderella effect.

The Cinderella Effect is often regarded as one of the great successes of Evolutionary Psychology research. It attempts to explain the observation that parents are more likely to kill their stepchildren than their biological children using evolutionary logic – as described by Daly and Wilson: “research concerning animal social behavior provide a rationale for expecting parents to be discriminative in their care and affection, and more specifically, to discriminate in favor of their own young”.

Psychologists conducted a study in the United States in 2010 which examined over 200 regular church attendees from eleven different denominations of Christianity, most of whom were educated upper-middle class Caucasian Americans. In their study they found that extrinsic religious orientation was associated with a greater risk of physical child abuse. Those with a more extrinsic religious orientation who also adhered to greater social conformity were particularly more likely to share characteristics with physically abusive subjects.

Subjects who adhered to Biblical literalism exhibited a higher potential of physical child abuse. Those who had a more intrinsic religious orientation were not found to be at a greater risk of child abuse, although they sometimes exhibited greater social conformity or a greater propensity for holding literal interpretations of the Bible. Approximately 85% of the study’s subjects were parents.

Long Term Health and Psychiatric Effects of Child Abuse

There are strong associations between exposure to child abuse in all its forms and higher rates of many chronic conditions. In the United States, the strongest evidence comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) series of studies which show correlations between exposure to abuse or neglect and higher rates in adulthood of chronic conditions, high-risk health behaviors and shortened lifespan. A recent publication, Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse, makes the case that such exposure represents a serious and costly public-health issue that should be addressed by the healthcare system.

A big concern with researchers is the degree to which maltreated children grow up to be maltreating adults, or if they exhibit social signs of abuse or neglect. Studies show that 90 percent of maltreating adults were maltreated as children in their life. When children were two, studies show that 16 percent of 267 high-risk mothers mistreated their own children, to different effects. The first two years of a child’s life is when parents invest the least in their children. Almost 7 million American infants go to child care services, like day care, and a majority of that care is poor.

Serious consequences occur when young children are maltreated, including developmental issues. Sixteen percent of those 267 high risk mothers mistreat their two year old children in different ways. Fifty-five percent of the children experienced physical abuse, 55 percent experienced neglect, 43 percent experienced hostile and rejecting parenting, and 43 percent experienced unavailable parenting.

Children who have a history of neglect or physical abuse are at risk of developing psychiatric problems or a disorganized attachment style. Disorganized attachment is associated with a number of developmental problems, including dissociative symptoms, as well as anxiety, depression, and acting out symptoms. A study by Dante Cicchetti found that 80% of abused and maltreated infants exhibited symptoms of disorganized attachment.

When some of these children become parents, especially if they suffer from posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), dissociative symptoms, and other aspects of child abuse, they may encounter difficulty when faced with their infant and young children’s needs and normative distress, which may in turn lead to adverse consequences for their child’s social-emotional development. Despite these potential difficulties, psychosocial intervention can be effective, at least in some cases, in changing the ways maltreated parents think about their young children.

Long Term Effects of Corporal Punishment

In a study by Murray A. Straus et al titled Spanking by Parents and Subsequent Antisocial Behavior of Children (Archives Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. 1997; 151(8): 761-767) researchers studied the causal relationship between corporal punishment and antisocial behavior (ASB) by considering the level of ASB of the child at the start of the study. Data from interviews were obtained with a national sample of 807 mothers of children aged 6 to 9 years in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Supplement.

Analysis of variance was used to test the hypothesis that when parents use corporal punishment to correct ASB, it increases subsequent ASB. The analysis controlled for the level of ASB at the start of the study, family socioeconomic status, sex of the child, and the extent to which the home provided emotional support and cognitive stimulation.

The results of their study showed that forty-four percent of the mothers reported spanking their children during the week prior to the study and they spanked them an average of 2.1 times that week. It turned out that the more spanking at the start of the period, the higher the level of ASB 2 years later. The change is unlikely to be owing to the child’s tendency toward ASB or to confounding with demographic characteristics or with parental deficiency in other key aspects of socialization because those variables were statistically controlled.

The researchers concluded that when parents use corporal punishment to reduce ASB, the long-term effect tends to be just the opposite. The findings suggest that if parents replace corporal punishment by nonviolent modes of discipline, it could reduce the risk of ASB among children and reduce the level of violence in American society.

Researchers continue to look at the long-term effect of spanking in childhood. A new report in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests it can have far reaching effects on a person’s mental health as they age. A new study by psychologist Sheyda Melkonian suggests parents think hard before using any physical form of discipline. The punishments in question include spanking, hitting and slapping. Study authors say 7 percent of adult disorders can be linked to harsh punishment in childhood. These disorders include depression, mania, anxiety disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

“If every time you mess up, you do something wrong, the consequence is you’re physically being hit, there’s always a fear around messing up.” Melkonian also cites other studies that show spanking leads to children with a lower IQ, and that even mild hand slapping will lead to toddlers less willing to explore their world.

“Spanking is one of those experiences that I feel like once it’s done, it changes the parent-child relationship forever because that parent stops being the person that is loving and caring, and it becomes someone that they are afraid of to some degree,” Melkonian said.

Physical Health Problems Later in Life

Victims of childhood abuse, it is claimed, also suffer from different types of physical health problems later in life. Some reportedly suffer from some type of chronic head, abdominal, pelvic, or muscular pain with no identifiable reason. Even though the majority of childhood abuse victims know or believe that their abuse is, or can be, the cause of different health problems in their adult life, for the great majority their abuse was not directly associated with those problems, indicating that sufferers were most likely diagnosed with other possible causes for their health problems, instead of their childhood abuse.

One long-term study found that up to 80% of abused people had at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21, with problems including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. One Canadian hospital found that between 36% and 76% of women mental health outpatients had been abused, as had 58% of women and 23% of men schizophrenic inpatients.

Other abuse effects can come early in life or later: Significant would be: Shaking a baby is a common form of child abuse that often results in permanent neurological damage (80% of cases) or death (30% of cases). Damage results from intracranial hypertension (increased pressure in the skull) after bleeding in the brain, damage to the spinal cord and neck, and rib or bone fractures (Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2007).

There also can be impaired brain development. Child abuse and neglect have been shown, in some cases, to cause important regions of the brain to fail to form or grow properly, resulting in impaired development (De Bellis & Thomas, 2003). These alterations in brain maturation have long-term consequences for cognitive, language, and academic abilities (Watts-English, Fortson, Gibler, Hooper, & De Bellis, 2006).

The NSCAW found more than three-quarters of foster children between 1 and 2 years of age to be at medium to high risk for problems with brain development, as opposed to less than half of children in a control sample (ACF/OPRE, 2004a).

There is also poor physical health. Several studies have shown a relationship between various forms of household dysfunction (including childhood abuse) and poor health (Flaherty et al., 2006; Felitti, 2002). Adults who experienced abuse or neglect during childhood are more likely to suffer from physical ailments such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and ulcers (Springer, Sheridan, Kuo, & Carnes, 2007). Children who are physically abused are likely to receive bone fractures, particularly rib fractures, and may have a higher risk of developing cancer. Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as juveniles, 28% more likely to be arrested as adults, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.

On the other hand, there are some children who are raised in child abuse, but who manage to do unexpectedly well later in life regarding the preconditions. Such children have been termed dandelion children, as inspired from the way that dandelions seem to prosper irrespective of soil, sun, drought, or rain. Such children (or currently grown-ups) are of high interest in finding factors that mitigate the effects of child abuse. In the criminal justice research world children or teens who should have become delinquent or criminals (but who subsequently did not) were called the “invulnerables .” Future research should try to find out what it is about these children or teens that makes them avoid the long term negative effects of abuse, neglect, and/or a social environment conducive to criminal behavior. This area of research has great potential.

A study reported in the American Journal of Public Health v.93(7), 2003 found that there was an association between Childhood Physical Abuse and Gastrointestinal Disorders and Migraine in Adulthood. They examined the association between childhood physical abuse and the odds of gastrointestinal disorders and migraine headache among adults in the community. They hypothesized that childhood physical abuse would be associated with increased odds of gastrointestinal disorders and migraine headache during adulthood, and that this association would be independent of comorbid mental disorders. There were limitations in this study (uncontrolled confounding of variables) but the results were reported that childhood physical abuse was reported by 381 (15.8%) of the 3032 respondents, with 74 (3.1%) reporting frequent abuse. Individuals who reported experiencing childhood abuse were significantly younger, more likely to be of minority racial status, and more likely to have current mental disorders than those who did not report abuse. Frequent abuse was associated with decreased odds of being married. A higher percentage of men than women reported any abuse, and a higher percentage of women than men reported frequent abuse.

When it came to gastrointestinal disorders and migraines they found, “Any childhood abuse was associated with a significantly increased odds ratio (OR) for recurring stomach problems (OR = 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2, 2.4), and frequent childhood abuse was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of recurring stomach problems (OR = 3.5; 95% CI = 1.9, 6.4), migraine (OR = 2.7; 95% CI = 1.2, 5.8), and ulcer (OR = 4.2; 95% CI = 1.8, 10.0), which remained statistically significant after adjusting for social and demographic characteristics and mental disorders. These data provide initial evidence of an association between childhood physical abuse and increased odds of gastrointestinal problems and migraine headaches among adults in the general population.

Post Script

All behavior has consequences. When parents or strangers hit and/or hurt children it is violence that must be stopped, and carry the full brunt of the law. In the United States there is widespread ignorance in many areas of social life and interaction. Child abuse is one such area. Nevertheless, it has long been said that ignorance of the law is no excuse and neither is parental or caretaker incompetence. It is not enough for society to recognize that far too many in our adult population lack social parenting skills and may have mental disorders or drug addictions of their own. Society must act, and act now, with the same motivational effort as shown by the President and some members of Congress toward the issue of gun violence.

Cultural norms are changing all the time. Just as there’s been recognition that violence perpetrated against women is no longer acceptable under any circumstance, soon the drumbeat to no longer accept child abuse will be heard. The long term medical, psychiatric and criminal justice costs, as a result of child abuse and neglect, are staggering to our economy. These staggering economic costs are likely passed on to you—the taxpayer.

All of you concerned about unemployment, our rising national debt, the high cost of food, gasoline, and healthcare, need to understand how important it really is to prevent child abuse and neglect in this country. Why? Because, you are ultimately going to pay the huge costs for the harm that is done to children, either in its short term or long-term effects.

 

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Taking Aim at Violence against Children—Part I

Gun Violence

[The Importance of a Broader Contextual Viewpoint]

 

Introduction

I am initiating a four part series on the subject of violence perpetrated against children. This will occur from February through May 2013 and will involve a broad and extensive contextual look at violence against children. Adulthood can be difficult for anyone. But children making that journey between infancy and adulthood do not make their journey possessing all the physical, mental and emotional resources to cope with all the potential sources of violence in their environment.

Children need love and support and protection as they attempt to navigate through the sometimes troubled waters of growing up. Above all, they need a safe caring environment while they grow and develop skills, and develop that all-important personality characteristic—self-esteem.

Are we as a society serious about loving and protecting all our children? If we are, we need to confront head on, not just the evil of mass murder, but all individual and institutionalized violence committed against children. Why should society take such a comprehensive approach to all sources of violence against children? It appears childhood victimization is very widespread in this country. This highlighted statement above will be supported with research data and statistics during the course of the four part series.

Contextual Approach to Evaluating Violence

All human behavior is neutral until someone attaches social meaning to the actions of individuals or groups. I have always found the contextual nature of behavior very thought-provoking and interesting from a social scientist’s point of view. Said another way, my sociological imagination is on full throttle whenever I detect some inconsistency between a person’s values or beliefs (beliefs, particularly cherished beliefs, are really cherished values) on the one hand, and their actual behavior on the other.

Nowhere is this more evident than with current efforts to deal with gun violence in the nation’s schools. People have jumped to deal with only one type of violence; a much more comprehensive approach would be to pursue and confront all sources of violence toward children, not just mass murder. When the smoke finally clears on the President’s plan to stem gun violence, I recommend the President and the Congress promote a more comprehensive approach to stemming violence in society, with special attention to preventing violence against children.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire President Barack Obama for his politically courageous efforts to deal with gun violence and the NRA gun lobby following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The decisions being made now have reached a boiling point in light of the culmination of other horrific previous tragedies such as Columbine, a theater in Aurora Colorado, Virginia Tech, and many other locations where mass murder has occurred. But, it is really important in the future to take a more comprehensive and contextual approach to preventing violence toward children.

Complexity of Violence

Violence in society is a complicated subject to address because it depends upon the variegated contextual nature in differing social setting in which it occurs. Sometimes violence as human behavior can be identical from social setting to social setting, yet the meaning one attaches to the same behavior (be it positive, negative, or neutral) can vary significantly.

We all possess values that conflict with one another. Differing value judgments within the same individual can often create as much conflict as differing value judgments between individuals. In addition, when there is a major inconsistency between one’s behavior and one’s beliefs, psychologists have a name for that—it’s called Cognitive Dissonance.

For example, many people believe in the sanctity of life, yet will take life in a combat zone. Or a parent will try to” teach” a child not to hit others (how utterly dumb is this?) by in turn hitting the child. Inconsistency between one’s beliefs or values and one’s behavior can surface when someone believes smoking is bad for one’s health and longevity, but lights up anyway.

Or, someone can get on another’s case for stealing, but have no conscience when cheating or lying about one’s own tax return. Or, many people profess to care about violence toward children, but fail to really explore or deal with all sources of violence in their own child’s environment. An example of this is the parent who knowingly stands by while the other parent sexually or physically abuses a child. Personally, from a psychological point of view, I see much cognitive dissonance in individuals as emanating from a highly egocentric personality. Even when inconsistency is recognized by the individual, psychological defense mechanisms come into play to engage in denial of reality.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND OTHER INTERNAL DIFFERENCES IN OUR OWN PERSPECTIVE ARE OFTEN A TELLING MARK OF HYPOCRISY, OVER-ACTIVE DEFENSE MECHANISMS, LACK OF INTELLECTUAL PERSPECTIVE, LACK OF PERSONAL COURAGE, AND/OR CONFUSION.   

 

Background

Before getting underway with this series, readers need to understand two things: (1) this author’s approach to classifying violence, and (2) the definition of violence and torture.

Classifying Violence

     All violence can be classified into two basic types: Individual or small group violence and institutionalized violence. Individual or small group violence would include, of course, individuals acting alone. But the definition would also include the actions of small groups of individuals such as gangs, or the spontaneous actions of loosely-constructed mobs where individuals may not even know each other.

Then, there is institutionalized violence. These are violent acts sanctioned by larger social institutional entities such as schools, criminal organizations such as the Mafia, or small, medium or large organizations (like the CIA) within a government (democratic or otherwise). Even entire countries can sanction violence, as in wartime. Violence is an individual and culturally-generated behavior that manifests itself with very little restraint, and is all-to-common everywhere in the world.

Definition of Violence and Torture

     Violence can be of either short or long duration. Therefore, it is necessary to define torture although sometimes these words are interrelated and not necessarily mutually exclusive (torture is violence, but not all violence involves torture). Thus, there is a need to define torture as well. Torture (even as a rationalization of the Bush Administration for homeland security) is nevertheless a criminal act, and a violation of human rights and prohibited in law by four international Geneva Conventions going back to the early part of the Twentieth Century.

Here is the definition of each term: Violence is behavior involving physical, mental, or emotional harm or psychological duress in order to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. It is also the strength of emotion generated from an unpleasant or destructive natural force. Torture is the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment, or in order to force someone to do or say something.

Sources of Violence toward Children

During a child’s formative years children can be  victimized in a variety of ways including: gun violence such as drive-by shootings, homicide and school shootings, physical child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, sibling abuse, criminal acts such as assault and battery by strangers, being drawn into the drug addiction world and victimized, sex trafficking, kidnapping, bullying,  corporal punishment in schools (20 states still sanction acts of violence hurting children that they euphemistically rationalize as discipline), and finally—mass murder, the ultimate victimization.

Huge Social Changes Are Coming

In light of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut there has been a very much needed response to the events that occurred there. Consequently, President Barack Obama took the reins of leadership and took quick action to develop a viable plan to stem gun violence in this country.

I feel that given the public’s support for gun control, and the public’s emotional reaction to what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the timing is right for expanding our efforts to prevent all violence directed against children. But, as a society, we really do need, as the old cliché says, to think outside the box. Our way of solving problems at every governmental level in this country is, all-too-often, fragmented.

Nowhere is this more evident than where violence and children are concerned. For society to address doing a better job of protecting children—social change must be embraced if the goal of preventing all violence against children is to ever become a reality.

However, as one can easily see, the real dangers that can potentially victimize children include more than the tragedies fostered by mass murder. Therefore, an opportunity now presents itself to explore and recommend, at every level of government, policy and legislative proposals to seriously confront all the real dangers children may confront as they make that journey from infancy to adulthood.

Focus of Part I

Part I will report on the President’s current plan to address the issue of gun violence. It must be pointed out this series is oriented toward protecting children. Nevertheless, the implications of a viably enacted set of laws and executive decisions to gain better and more effective control of guns affects everyone from the ordinary citizen to the most violent of criminal offenders.

Gun Violence

The Research Issue on Gun Violence

It has been reported that President Barack Obama lifted a 17-year ban on U.S. funding for research on gun violence, instructing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to step up its support for such work. But his request for Congress to approve $10 million for research on several aspects of violence prevention—including a look at the effects of video games and media images—could face stiff resistance among advocates of gun ownership.

Lifting the ban is one of 23 new actions, including a series of legislative proposals, to curb gun violence that the White House announced in the wake of last month’s shooting of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Among other goals, the president said he aims to require a “universal background check” for everyone buying a gun (about 40% of gun sales are not covered now), a prohibition on the sale of “military-style assault weapons,” a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets, and a push for better mental health care.

CDC’s funding of research on gun violence peaked at about $2.6 million in 1996. The results included findings such as the observation that homicides are significantly more likely to occur in households where a gun is kept. The NRA gun lobby pressured Congress to stop this line of inquiry, and in the mid-1990s legislators issued a series of advisory messages and some legal restrictions on agency actions.

Today’s news is “a terrific development,” says Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago research center known as the Crime Lab. Ludwig is a co-author of a letter signed by more than 100 academics that calls for an end to the ban on gun violence research. In an e-mail to Science Insider, he says, “Without support for data and research in this area, it is very difficult to know which policy changes are most likely to generate net improvements in public safety that can justify the costs involved.”

A Few Facts You Should Know

Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings across the country. The killings took place all over the country from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Twenty-four of these mass shootings took place since 2006. In 2012 alone there were seven mass shootings. Below is a chronology that details mass shootings that have occurred between April 1999 (Columbine) and December 14, 2012 (Newtown, Connecticut).

Dozens of mass killings have occurred in the United States since two teenagers went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April of 1999, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher. The deadly school shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school on Friday, December 14, 2012 was the latest in a series of shooting crimes in the United States.

The following is a detailed list of mass killings in the United States since Columbine compiled by Telegraph, Reuters, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.



April 1999
– two teenage schoolboys shot and killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, before killing themselves.

July 1999 – a stock exchange trader in Atlanta, Georgia, killed 12 people including his wife and two children before taking his own life.

September 1999 – a gunman opened fire at a prayer service in Fort Worth, Texas, killing six people before committing suicide.

October 2002 – a series of sniper-style shootings occurred in Washington DC, leaving 10 dead.

August 2003 – in Chicago, a laid-off worker shot and killed six of his former workmates.

November 2004 – [There is perhaps great irony where Second Amendment Rights are concerned when this happened]. In Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter killed six other hunters and wounded two others after an argument with them.

March 2005 – a man opened fire at a church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, killing seven people.

October 2006 – a truck driver killed five schoolgirls and seriously wounded six others in a school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania before taking his own life.

April 2007 – student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 15 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, before shooting himself, making it the deadliest mass shooting in the United States after 2000.

August 2007 – Three Delaware State University students were shot and killed in “execution style” by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed.

December 2007 – a 20-year-old man killed nine people and injured five others in a shopping center in Omaha, Nebraska.

December 2007 –
a woman and her boyfriend shot dead six members of her family on Christmas Eve in Carnation, Washington.

February 2008 – a shooter who is still at large tied up and shot six women at a suburban clothing store in Chicago, leaving five of them dead and the remaining one injured.

February 2008 – a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, killing five students and wounding 16 others before laying down his weapon and surrendering.

September 2008
– a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people in Alger, Washington, leaving six of them dead and the rest two wounded.

December 2008 – a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit opened fire at a family Christmas party in Covina, California, then set fire on the house and killed himself. Police later found nine people dead in the debris of the house.

March 2009 – a 28-year-old laid-off worker opened fire while driving a car through several towns in Alabama, killing 10 people.

March 2009 – a heavily armed gunman shot dead eight people, many of them elderly and sick, in a private-owned nursing home in North Carolina.

March 2009 – six people were shot dead in a high-grade apartment building in Santa Clara, California.

April 2009 – a man shot dead 13 people at a civic center in Binghamton, New York.

July 2009 – Six people, including one student, were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University, Houston.

November 2009 – U.S. army psychologist Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas, leaving 13 dead and 42 others wounded.

February 2010 – A professor opened fire 50 minutes into at a Biological Sciences Department faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, killing three colleagues and wounding three others.

January 2011 – a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people including a 9-year-old girl and wounding at least 12 others. Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was severely injured with a gunshot to the head.

2012

 

April 2 – A gunman kills seven people and wounds three in a shooting rampage at a Christian college in Oakland.

July 20 – A masked gunman kills 12 people and wounds 58 when he opens fire on moviegoers at a showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.

Aug. 5 – A gunman kills six people during Sunday services at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, before he is shot dead by a police officer.

Aug. 24 – Two people are killed and eight wounded in a shooting outside the landmark Empire State Building in New York City at the height of the tourist season.

Sept. 27 – A disgruntled former employee kills five people and takes his own life in a shooting rampage at a Minneapolis sign company from which he had been fired.

Oct. 21 – Three people are killed in a Milwaukee area spa including the estranged wife of the suspected gunman, who then killed himself.

Dec. 14 – A shooter opens fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, involving the cold-blooded mass murder of 20 children and six adults.

President Obama Puts Forth his Plan

     Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, there has become much renewed interest in gun control. It seems to this observer that what the President has proposed is a kind of targeted, focused solution to the problem of gun violence. Thus, he put forward a plan that centers on guns and the people who use them in these mass murders. But policy also centers more broadly on criminal violence everywhere guns are used in the commission of a crime. The emphasis of these gun control policies goes back to my typology of violence, in this case—individual violence.

The proposal, which comes at the end of a month-long review process spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, is broken down into four sections:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Availability of dangerous Firearms and Ammunition
  • School Safety
  • Mental Health

Overview

In an effort to touch on all four of those elements, the president recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies. The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.

Because these recommendations require congressional approval, the administration is supplementing its proposal with 23 executive actions that will be taken immediately. Those actions include requiring federal agencies to hand over relevant data for a background check system; providing law enforcement officials, first responders and school officials with better training for active shooting situations; directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence; and many more.

What’s in Obama’s Gun Control Proposal?

The following material was obtained from a news report of the New York Times. It basically laid out all of the specifics of the President’s new plan to stem gun violence. The initiative to reduce gun violence announced by President Obama  included both legislative proposals that would need to be acted on by Congress and executive actions he can do on his own. Many of the executive actions involve the president directing agencies to do a better job of sharing information.

 

Proposed Congressional Actions

  • Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt.
  • Reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004.
  • Limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
  • Banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets by anyone other than members of the military and law enforcement.
  • Increasing criminal penalties for “straw purchasers,” people who pass the required background check to buy a gun on behalf of someone else.
  • Acting on a $4 billion administration proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the street.
  • Confirming President Obama’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • Eliminating a restriction that requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow the importation of weapons that are more than 50 years old.
  • Financing programs to train more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to active armed attacks.
  • Providing additional $20 million to help expand the system that tracks violent deaths across the nation from 18 states to 50 states.
  • Providing $30 million in grants to states to help schools develop emergency response plans.
  • Providing financing to expand mental health programs for young people.

 

Executive actions

  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Addressing unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  • Improving incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  • Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  • Proposing a rule making to give law enforcement authorities the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  • Publishing a letter from the A.T.F. to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  • Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  • Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
  • Nominating an A.T.F. director.
  • Providing law enforcement authorities, first responders and school officials with proper training for armed attack situations.
  • Maximizing enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
  • Directing the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun-safety technologies and challenging the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  • Releasing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  • Providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  • Developing model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  • Releasing a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  • Finalizing regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within insurance exchanges.
  • Committing to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  • Starting a national dialogue on mental health led by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education.

 

Post Script

     In Part II ahead I will begin to provide statistical evidence on violence against children in those areas in which data are collected. One of the major areas of abuse against children is physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and the neglect of children. Sibling abuse is difficult to measure and there exists no standardized data collection system. Survey research may be the only way to look at its prevalence.

In Part III of the series, sex trafficking of children, corporal punishment in American schools, the problems of bullying, kidnapping and other crimes perpetrated against children will be covered.

Part IV in my series will examine any types of abuse not covered earlier, and I will put forth a set of recommendations on how to deal with violence directed against children beyond the current ones proposed to stem gun violence. However, I did notice that, where gun violence is concerned, several former, disgruntled employees were involved in killing family members and former co-workers back at the work site. I did not see any legislative or executive actions or recommendations related to what employers could do, or what their responsibility might be to help discharged employees. I will say more about this in my recommendations in Part IV.         

 

 

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Purpose of Blog

As the government goes about the business of dealing with the the Fiscal Cliff, one of the most controversial issues it will have to address is raising taxes on our wealthier citizens. Value judgments work their way into the decision-making process because everyone, democrats, republicans, and independents, all have different ideas about what constitutes “Fairness, and Fairness for Whom?”

But one thing that can help extricate decision-makers from their own prejudices and value judgments, is to shed light on the issue with data and facts. I would be naïve to suggest that this is going to be an easy process. It will take their best effort and require everyone involved to put aside their political biases. The purpose of this Blog is the answer with data and facts the following question on the revenue generating side of their deliberations:

What is the Effect on the Economy if the Wealthy Are Taxed at Higher Rates?

With the 2012 presidential election over, it is important now to review facts as President Obama and the Congress come to grips with an important issue now looming over the nation. That issue has been metaphorically described as a fiscal cliff.

What is the Fiscal Cliff?

I love the way we use metaphors in this country to describe every social or economic problem. There once was a “War on Poverty,” “The Missles of October” that was better known as the Cuban Missle Crisis (Gee! I thought it was an American crisis as well) and now we have a “Fiscal Cliff” where all our money is going to drop over the edge of a great chasm like the Grand Canyon. The latter, like all the previous metaphors, conjures up graphic images in order to convey a very important message: Whatever the crisis is or gap between people, whatever the details are, the American people need to take the “Fiscal Cliff” seriously because the consequences are important to the nation’s financial health, and may be longlasting.

So personally, I get the message and I know it’s serious. Hopefully, my fellow Americans will take the underlying metaphorical graphic image such as a “Fiscal cliff” seriously as well.

Basically, the Fiscal Cliff is a popular way to describe the confusing, difficult riddle or puzzle the U.S. government will face at the end of 2012, when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect.

Laws will be affected when the gong hits midnight on December 31, 2012, including last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts (resulting in a 2% tax increase for workers), the end of certain tax breaks for businesses, shifts in the alternative minimum tax that would take a larger bite, the end of the tax cuts from 2001-2003, and the beginning of taxes related to President Obama’s health care law.

At the same time, the spending cuts agreed upon as part of the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will begin to go into effect. According to Barron’s, over 1,000 government programs – including the defense budget and Medicare are in line for “deep, automatic cuts.”

According to author Thomas Kenny, writing for About.com Guide, “In dealing with the fiscal cliff, U.S. lawmakers have a choice among three options, none of which are particularly attractive:

They can let the current policy scheduled for the beginning of 2013 – which features a number of tax increases and spending cuts that are expected to weigh heavily on growth and possibly drive the economy back into a recession – go into effect. The plus side: the deficit, as a percentage of GDP, would be cut in half.

They can cancel some or all of the scheduled tax increases and spending cuts, which would add to the deficit and increase the odds that the United States could face a crisis similar to that which is occurring in Europe. The flip side of this, of course, is that the United States’ debt will continue to grow.

They could take a middle course, opting for an approach that would address the budget issues to a limited extent, but that would have a more modest impact on growth.”

There are really only three things the U.S. Government can do to solve the problem of the Fiscal Cliff: Raise Taxes, Cut Spending, or both.

Fiscal Policy involves two major components: Taxes and Spending. While Monetary Policy is very important to the economy under the control of the Federal Reserve Board, my best guess at this point (as we get closer to the December 31, 2012 deadline) is that most of the compromises to be reached will be worked out between the President and Congress will mostly involve taxes and spending cuts.

The Issue of Higher Tax Rates for the Wealthy

President Barack Obama, of course, won re-election and, in a sense, is in the driver’s seat politically. The cornerstone of the President’s campaign in 2012 was to protect the middle class and require (on the tax revenue side) higher income households to pay more in taxes. Nevertheless, now is the time for a factual assessment of this issue.

According to author Chye-Ching Huang:

“Many policymakers and pundits assume that raising federal income taxes on high-income households would have serious adverse consequences for the economy. Yet this belief, which has been subject to extensive research and analysis, does not fare well under scrutiny. As three leading tax economists recently concluded in a comprehensive review of the empirical evidence, ‘there is no compelling evidence to date of real responses of upper income taxpayers to changes in tax rates.’ The literature suggests that if the alternative to raising taxes is larger deficits, then modest tax increases on high-income households would likely be more beneficial for the economy over the long run.

The debate over the economic effects of higher taxes on people with high incomes has focused on a number of issues — how increasing taxes at the top would affect taxable income and revenue as well as the effects on work and labor supply, saving and investment, small businesses, entrepreneurship, and, ultimately, economic growth and jobs.”

Economic Growth and Jobs

I found during the presidential campaign many people on both sides had something to say about job creation. All of the topics above can be found in Huang’s full report referenced at the end of this Blog. However, I want to share with you the relationship between taxing the wealthy and job creation, since it too is critically important.

History shows that higher taxes are compatible with economic growth and job creation: job creation and GDP growth were significantly stronger following the Clinton tax increases than following the Bush tax cuts. Further, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concludes that letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire on schedule would strengthen long-term economic growth, on balance, if policymakers used the revenue saved to reduce deficits.

In other words, any negative impact on economic growth from increasing taxes on high-income people would be more than offset by the positive effects of using the resulting revenue gain to reduce the budget deficit. I venture to say that Wall Street’s reaction  would be very positive if a major dent were to occur in our national debt. Risk/Reward ratios would favor the Bulls (“and you can take that to the bank”).

In addition, tax increases can also be used to fund, or to forestall cuts in, productive public investments in areas that support growth such as public education, basic research, and infrastructure.

Summary

According to Huang, “These findings from the research literature stand in contrast to assertions of extensive economic damage from increases in tax rates on high-income households, which are repeated so often that many policymakers, journalists, and ordinary citizens may simply assume they are solid and well-established. They are not.

These issues are of considerable importance, because sustainable deficit reduction is not likely to be possible without significant revenue increases. Unsupported claims that modest rate increases for high-income people would significantly impair growth ought not stand in the way of balanced deficit-reduction strategies that ask such individuals to share in the burden and pay somewhat more in taxes.

Raising revenues by broadening the tax base can in fact improve the efficiency of the tax code. And, because a cleaner tax code offers fewer opportunities to evade taxes, base broadening can reduce the economic cost of any rate increases also needed to achieve fiscal sustainability.

The research in the field does not provide strong evidence that modestly raising tax rates at the top of the income scale would have significant growth-reducing effects on labor supply, taxable income, savings and investment, or entrepreneurship. Moreover, as Professor Joel Slemrod has emphasized, the economic impact of tax increases depends in part on how the revenue raised is used. In the current fiscal and political environment, policymakers would likely use revenue raised by increasing marginal tax rates for high-income taxpayers to reduce deficits, which likely would have positive overall effects on long-term economic growth.

The nation faces a daunting fiscal challenge, as well as historically large income inequality and increased spending needs stemming from the graying of the population and advances in medicine that improve health but add to cost. These challenges mean that revenues, as well as spending cuts, need to make a significant contribution to deficit reduction.”

Post Script

As a political moderate, I have never been a big fan of class warfare discrimination, or any kind of discrimination for that matter. This is why it is so important to bring in facts, not just one’s value judgments. Even in “The Reasoned Society” separating facts from value judgments, in one’s own reasoning ability, can at times be a slippery-slope. The wealthy in America do in fact contribute disproportionately (as a percent and in gross dollar amounts) more money to charity than do lower-and-middle class individuals. The wealthy are to be applauded and respected for that kind of giving. Being wealthy, of course, does put one in a rather unique position to help others—and that is a good thing for society.

Nevertheless, quite clearly, the data have shown that our tax laws have disproportionately favored high-income taxpayers for decades over low and middle income citizens. Fairness as a concept is a two way street where income or tax equality is concerned. Many lower and middle class individuals often use sterotypical thinking to villify and demonize wealthy individuals to the point of appearing to be “Not Too Bright.” Nevertheless, the research data presented by Huang clearly and strongly sugggest that raising marginal tax rates on high-income individuals to help pay down our national deficit, and put our economic house in order, is both reasonable and fair.

Also, evidence shows that taxing wealthier individuals will have a positive effect on increasing GDP and job creation, what everyone, on both sides of the aisle, said was so important during the 2012 presidential election campaign.

________________________________________________________________________

The information for this Blog comes from two sources, Thomas Kenny who wrote an article in About.com Guide called The Fiscal Cliff Explained, and Chye-Ching Huang who wrote an article for the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities that answers the primary question raised in this Blog. The title of her article was Recent Studies Find Raising Taxes on High-Income Households Would Not Harm the Economy —Policy Should Be Included in Balanced Deficit-Reduction Effort. I was impressed by the clarity of writing by both these authors.

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The Political, Social, and Economic Issues in 2012:

How Do the President and Mitt Romney Stack Up?

 

 

Introduction

There is perhaps no better way to clarify how you should vote in 2012 than to lay out the plan and beliefs of each candidate regarding the critical issues of our time. As we get closer to Election Day, I hope you keep these differences between the candidates in mind. Initially, I had planned to discuss the fine points and relative value of Supply Side Economics (Republican approach to the economy) versus Demand Side Economics (Democratic approach to the economy). Instead, I have decided to cover a broader set of issues.

Back in March 2012 I began writing a six part series on Election Year Politics and the Economy. There, in the broadest sense, I covered the basics of economics and I would encourage you to review them once again. We are told incessantly by the media and party leaders that the crucial issue in 2012 is the economy. However, many many other issues are important to various segments of the population, as well as important to the voting public as a whole.

Consequently, I have layed out how each candidate views a variety of social, political, and economic issues. In this way, the larger broader view of election year politics will be covered. With this broader view, coupled with the specifics of economic theory covered in the six part series, each reader should be adequately prepared with knowledge to vote for the candidate of his or her choice on November 6, 2012.

In a final Conclusions Section I will tell my cyberspace audience how I will vote this fall and my reasons for doing so.

 

Critical Issues of Our Time

 

 The following shows how Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues. This information comes mostly from the Associated Press but also from this Blogger.

 ABORTION & BIRTH CONTROL

OBAMA: Supports abortion rights Health care law that requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.

ROMNEY: Opposes abortion rights. He previously supported them. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling. Said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood.

WAR

OBAMA: Ended the Iraq war. He increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. He approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. There are major cuts coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut $487 billion in military spending over a decade.

ROMNEY: Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, subject to conditions at the time. He would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016.

TERRORISM

OBAMA: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden and set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended later in George W. Bush’s presidency. He largely carried forward Bush’s key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

ROMNEY: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, Romney refused to rule out use of waterboarding torture to interrogate terrorist suspects. Despite the fact the war crimes tribunal executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding following the ending of WWII, Mitt Romney in 2011, said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture. The fact that the United States itself strongly supported all of the Geneva Convention laws prior to the Bush administration, Mitt Romney ignores the fact that the use of torture by the Bush administration dishonored and disgraced our country. Evidently, Mitt Romney would do the same by ignoring both national and international laws that forbid it.

IMMIGRATION

OBAMA: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. He took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama.

ROMNEY: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence and opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. He opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Establish an immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire non-citizens who do not prove their legal status. He would end immigration caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants.

GUNS

OBAMA: Has not pushed for stricter gun laws as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors “robust steps, within existing law” to address gun issues, White House says. He voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. He previously backed stronger gun controls.

ROMNEY: Opposes stricter gun control laws. He suggested after the shooting in a Colorado theater that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, he vowed in 2002 to protect the state’s “tough gun laws,” and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons.

FOREIGN POLICY

OBAMA: Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. He declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition. Instead Obama seeks international pressure against the Syrian government. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. He signed into law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. Sought penalties against China for unfair trade but opposes branding China a currency manipulator.

ROMNEY: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel’s right to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step. “Of course you take military action” if sanctions and internal opposition fail to dissuade Tehran from making a nuclear weapon, he has said. Has spoken in favor of covert action by the U.S. and regional allies in Syria but “the right course is not military” intervention by the U.S. Associates himself more closely with hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges more military assistance to Israel and agreed with Israel’s position that Jerusalem is the capital, disregarding the Palestinians’ claim to the eastern sector. Branded Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. and threatened to label China a currency manipulator in a move that could lead to broad trade sanctions.

DEBT

OBAMA: Fourth-straight year of trillion-dollar deficits is projected. He won approval to raise debt limit to avoid default. He calls for tackling the debt with a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases. Central to Obama’s plan is to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000.

ROMNEY: Defended 2008 bailout of financial institutions as a necessary step to avoid the system’s collapse, but opposed the auto bailout. He would cap federal spending at 20 percent of gross domestic product by end of his first term, down from 23.5 percent now, with largely unspecified spending cuts. He favors a constitutional balanced budget amendment.

ECONOMY

OBAMA: Term marked by high unemployment, a deep recession that began in previous administration and has created a sustained gradual recovery. Responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan. Continued implementation of Wall Street and auto industry bailouts begun under George W. Bush. Proposes tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers producing domestically or repatriating jobs from abroad, and tax penalties for U.S. companies outsourcing jobs.

ROMNEY: He advocates lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. He would replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. He proposes repeal of the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector, and the law tightening accounting regulations in response to corporate scandals.

EDUCATION

OBAMA: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. “Race to the Top” competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports.

ROMNEY: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. He has said that student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition “make sense” although the federal government should have less control of education.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

 OBAMA: He ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but has pushed for more oil and gas drilling overall. He achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles.

He achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions.

ROMNEY: He supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska.

Wants to reduce obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development, and accelerate drilling permits in areas where exploration has already been approved for developers with good safety records. Says green power has yet to become viable and the causes of climate change are unknown.

GAY RIGHTS

 OBAMA: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. He opposed that recognition in his 2008 presidential campaign, and in 2004 Senate campaign, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. He achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay members. He has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. His administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.

ROMNEY: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” He also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits —largely unspecified — as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.

HEALTH CARE

 OBAMA: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law’s mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance.

Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid will expand.

ROMNEY: Promises to work for repeal of the law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured.

Proposes to guarantee that people who are “continuously covered” for a certain period be protected against losing insurance if they get sick, leave their job and need another policy. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.

SOCIAL SECURITY

OBAMA: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security’s long-term financial problems. In 2011, he proposed a new measure of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.

ROMNEY: Protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generation of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.

TAXES

 OBAMA: He wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. He supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all.

He wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, he built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.

ROMNEY: He would keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest.

He would end Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.

  

Conclusions

Mitt Romney as a Choice in 2012:

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more: it is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespear’s MacBeth

 

This fall I’m voting to re-elect President Barack Obama to a second term as our president. While Mitt Romney appears to be a good and decent man, he does not have the experience, attitudes, or mental acuity to convince me he is more qualified to be the President of the United States.

I don’t like President Obama’s 2011 measure to eliminate inflationary increases for Social Secuirty recipients, and I do like Mitt Romney’s plan to eliminate Capital Gains taxes on those making $200,000 or less. I also don’t think the President was aggressive enough on banning assault rifles, while Romney succeeded in getting assualt rifles banned in his state of Massachusetts.

That’s it folks. The President, on balance, is still the right choice this fall because of all his tremendous accomplishments while in office.

The Accomplishments of President Barack Obama

By some accounts (Florida Professor of American Studies Robert P. Watson of Lynn University) President Obama’s accomplishments now total 244 since he took office. Here are just a few of the significant accomplishments of the president during his first term in the White House.

  • Overhauled the food safety system;
  • Approved the Lily Ledbetter ”Equal Pay” for women rule;
  • Ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” discrimination in the military;
  • Passed the Hate Crimes bill in Congress;
  • Saved the auto industry from bankruptcy which included General Motors and Chrysler;
  • Appointed two progressive women to the U.S. Supreme Court including the first Latina;
  • Pushed through the Affordable Health Care Act, outlawing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, extending until age 26 health care coverage of children under parent’s plans, steps toward “Medicare for All;”
  • Expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) health care for children. This helped to cover 4 million more lower-income children;
  • Pushed through a $789 Billion economic stimulus bill that saved or created 3 million jobs and began task of repairing the nation’s infrastructure;
  • Overhauled the credit card industry, making it more consumer friendly;
  • Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and used a recess appointment to keep it on track in the face of  GOP attempts to derail it;
  • Also outmaneuvered GOP in naming two members of the National Labor Relations Board blocked by the Republicans in their attempt to shut down the NLRB;
  • Won two extensions of the debt ceiling and extensions of unemployment compensation in the face of Republican threats to shut down the U.S. government;
  • Pulled troops out of Iraq and began drawing down of troops in Afghanistan;
  • Signed an omnibus public lands bill that allowed for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness. It added 1,000 miles designated for scenic rivers, and added lands for national trails;
  • Signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act;
  • Signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expanded the scope of AmeriCorps;
  • Signed an executive order easing restrictions on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research;
  • Created greater transparency in government by creation of White House visitor logs, a ban on lobbyist gifts, or allowing lobbyists from serving on advisory boards, and restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists.
  • Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion as a guarantee that the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill would be compensated.
  • In 2011 President Barack Obama gave the order for Navy Seals commandos to take out Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 911. They were successful and Osama Bin Laden is dead.
  • President Barack Obama achieved, as of October 2012, the lowest unemployment rate (7.8%) since he took office. Remember folks, the unemployment rate during the recession, which the President inherited, reached a peak of (10.0%) on October, 2009. C’mon Man, give credit where credit is due! We’re now in an expansionary economic cycle. Guess what economic cycle comes after the expansinary one? That’s right genius—you guessed it—PROSPERITY!

At the value judgment level, I simply prefer the values of the democratic party than I do those of the Republican party. It seems to the objective observer that Republicans are always playing “catch-up” to the rest of society. Problem is “the Party of No” never really seems to catch-up. In addition,“Trickle Down (Supply Side Economics)” just doesn’t work because tax cuts for high income individuals, corporations, and large businesses don’t necessarily lead to economic expansion thereby creating jobs and lowering unemployment.

Why? Because there are other choices for using tax cut windfalls besides reinvestment in one’s business that might lead to job creation. One can simply save the money for a reserve or a rainy day. Or, one can invest their tax windfall in the stock market or other investments. Or, one can spend the tax windfall on hefty bonuses for executives, and salary increases for managers or staff, or one can actually plow the tax windfall back into the business.

Point is—there are many choices for what to do with a tax cut windfall. Current Republican rhetoric would have you believe that tax cuts always lead to job creation and lowering unemployment. It can, but what Republicans try to hide from the public and the voter is that, in reality, there are many other choices for spending a tax cut windfall, not just job creation.

For all these reasons around economics and taxes, as well as the President’ many other significant achievements while in office, I’m giving my support and vote in the coming election to the President of the United States—Barack Obama.

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ELECTION YEAR POLITICS

AND THE ECONOMY

 

[Part VI-B]

 

 

Background

This is the last of my six part series on Election Year Politics and the Economy. And, as most people know, the number one issue during this presidential run for the White House in November, 2012 is the economy.

Before I reveal who I am voting for (if you haven’t already figured it out) I’ll make a few comments on the economy itself, especially since I provided a lot of information related to it.

First, I have tried to drive home the point that the economy has a life of its own and has predictable cycles. They are: expansion, prosperity, contraction, and recession. They always occur in that order; what isn’t known is just how long each cycle will last. And, the only tools the government has to deal with the economy, regardless of which party is in office, is Fiscal Policy having to do with spending and taxes, and Monetary Policy (which is set by the Federal Reserve) having to do with controlling the amount of money (including interest rates and credit) in the economy at any one time.

I think it’s fair to say that the last four years of the previous Bush administration was rather complicated and chaotic, particularly with respect to fiscal policy. Following Keynesian economic theory, Bush lowered taxes to stimulate growth but that also added to our national debt by lessening revenues to cover other spending needs. But with two wars initiated by his administration, he also increased huge amounts of spending (like floating a big check my late father would have said) at the same time, thus once again adding to our national debt. Being the “compassionate conservative” that he is (and I take him at his word) he did pass legislation to increase more Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits. A wonderful thing to do—but it nevertheless added another $300 billion dollars to our national debt.

During the last two years of the George W. Bush administration (2007-2008) all of us watched the development of the most severe financial crisis and meltdown in United States history since the great depression.

The financial crisis was triggered by a complex interplay of valuation and liquidity problems in the United States banking system in 2008. The bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, which peaked in 2007, caused the values of securities tied to U.S. real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. Questions regarding bank solvency, declines in credit availability and damaged investor confidence had an impact on global stock markets, where securities suffered large losses during 2008 and early 2009. Economies worldwide slowed during this period, as credit tightened and international trade declined. Governments and central banks responded with unprecedented fiscal stimulus, monetary policy expansion and institutional bailouts. Although there have been aftershocks, the financial crisis itself ended sometime between late-2008 and mid-2009.

In the U.S. the government responded by a stimulus package and avoided a double-dip recession. In the E.U. the U.K. responded with austerity measures and it has since slid into a double-dip recession. Although the Bush Administration left us with tremendous national debt, the administration did not cause the financial meltdown per se (unless you want to speculate about errors of omission). The major players in the financial meltdown in the United States were Wall Street and the Banks.

President Barack Obama did not create any of the above situations—he inherited them on January 20, 2009. Through his leadership the financial crisis was averted and turned the corner into the next economic cycle—expansion. Yet, there was an enduring residual problem created by the financial crisis. That problem turned out to be a rather stubborn unemployment rate. The unemployment rate represents the civilian work force, 16 years of age and older.

Lingering Unemployment Problem

Just before the financial meltdown, the unemployment rate was 4.6 % in 2007, but climbed to 9.3% in 2009, then reached a high of 9.6% in 2010. Then the President’s stimulus package and fiscal policies began to kick in. However, even the president increased our national debt during his time in office trying to meet a multiplicity of needs and concerns. But once his stimulus package kicked in the unemployment rate began to drop significantly to where it is now at 8.2%. As our expansion cycle begins to come into full view in the months ahead, the unemployment rate will decline even further.

But please remember—as we achieve the desirable goal of near full employment—there is an inescapable trade-off. And that trade-off is inflation and higher prices. One way you can be certain that the current administration is succeeding in lowering unemployment, is that you know the demand for good and services are increasing. Why? Because increases in employed people mean that consumer spending will likely increase causing businesses of all types to expand.

What happens when there is increased demand? You guessed it—inflation and prices increase. It’s no secret we are now paying higher prices for commodities like food and gasoline. I happen to shop at Raleys. I like the store but I’ve definitely noticed my vegan food choices from the health section have slowly crept up in price the last year and a half. And, I don’t need to remind you that gas prices are very high. In my neighborhood it is currently $4.29 a gallon.

 

Three Factors Needing Evaluation

It is important to know how the economy works. I considered the need for casting an informed vote in Part I; at a minimum, the following information should be recognized and reflected upon:

Knowledge of the Presidential Election Cycle Theory

Business cycles

Fiscal and Monetary policy

Basic Keynesian Economic Theory

Knowledge of our National Debt

Collectively, such knowledge will allow one to make a sensible judgment in any election. For me, this knowledge, combined with my own values, will help determine my vote. Consequently, I’ve used the combination of knowledge and values to evaluate three areas of concern.

These areas of concern are:      

 

IMPACT OF POLITICAL PARTY   ON WALL STREET

ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF DEMOCRATS VERSUS REPUBLICANS

THE ROAD AHEAD WITH OUR NATIONAL DEBT PROBLEM

Impact of Political Party on Wall Street

 For me this area of concern is very personal. I’ve been trading stocks on Wall Street since I was a young man of 25 in 1968. Today, a greater proportion of the electorate, and others in the population, are investing money in the stock market where they hope, over time, to get a decent return.

I have been a day trader as well as an ordinary investor over the last 44 years. Perhaps it is a selfish motive, but I want whoever is in the White House not to screw things up. No one can predict who might do that. Therefore, I needed to consider how well the stock market did with either a Republican or a Democratic administration. So, I reported in Part II whether it was better to have a Republican administration in the White House, or a Democratic one. The following were the findings:

 Although Republicans are generally considered to be more pro business than democrats, studies suggest that when a Democratic president is in the White House, it may be generally better for the stock market.

A research study called “The Presidential Puzzle: Political Cycles and the Stock Market” (2003) done by Pedro Santa Clara and Rossen Valkanof of the University of California, Los Angeles, demonstrated that the stock market performs better under Democratic presidents.

 Using data from 1927 to 2003, they found that the excess returns have been about 2% for Republican presidents, but 11% for Democratic presidents. Among small cap stocks, the difference is even greater. The bottom 10% of stocks as measured by market cap showed a difference of excess returns of about 22% for Democrats compared to when a Republican held the presidential office.

Furthermore, on average, the stock market volatility during a Republican administration was more pronounced than that during a Democratic administration.

Accomplishments of Democrats versus Republicans

In Part I of the series I said accomplishments should be the primary basis for evaluation. This means comparing the President’s accomplishments while in office to those of the Republican Party during the same time frame. But it also means making one-on-one comparisons between the President and his opponent, Mitt Romney. I make that latter comparison in the final conclusions section. This and the previous section are influenced heavily by my “value judgments.” In the last section I am influenced much more by knowledge of the economy and analysis of our national debt.

Where the President is concerned, there are 234 accomplishments so far during his first term in office according to Florida professor of American Studies Robert P. Watson. But ten of his accomplishments really stood out for me as having great value and importance to the United States. You may feel differently, or value things in a different way, but here is my take and what I found that trumps anything the Republicans (The party of NO) have accomplished either in terms of proposed Legislation, or their ideas during the last four years.

These ten accomplishments of the President include:

  • The new effort to bring the country closer to universal health care through passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, outlawing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and extending coverage of health care for children under parent’s plans, steps toward “Medicare for All;”
  • Saved the auto industry from bankruptcy which included General Motors and Chrysler;
  • Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion, a guarantee of compensation for the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill.
  • In 2011 President Barack Obama gave the order for Navy Seals to take out Osama Bin Laden, the principal architect of 911. They were successful and Osama Bin Laden is dead.
  • Pulled troops out of Iraq and began drawing down troops in Afghanistan;
  • Approved the Lily Ledbetter “Equal Pay” for women rule;
  • Ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” discrimination in the military;
  • Expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) health care for children. This helped to cover 4 million children of lower-income families;
  • Signed an omnibus public lands bill that allowed for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness. It added 1,000 miles designated for scenic rivers, and added lands for national trails;
  • Pushed through a $789 billion economic stimulus bill that saved or created 3 million jobs and began task of repairing the nation’s infrastructure

.

 

The Road Ahead With Our National Debt Problem

Related to the issue of the general economy, is the problem of our staggering national debt. Most voters react to this issue on an emotional level without fully comprehending what a national debt problem is really all about. In 2012 our national debt looms over everyone in society and has done so through many governmental administrations. I have some suggestions and am confident that the future solution to our national debt is sound; I’m equally confident that many people will balk at “the austere cod liver oil” solution to our national debt.

Analysis

In the United States, national debt is money borrowed by the Federal government. Debt burden is usually measured as a ratio of public debt to gross dpmestic product. Debt as a share of the US economy reached a maximum during Harry Truman’s first presidential term (121.7% of GDP).

Public debt as a percentage of GDP fell rapidly in the post-WWII period, and reached a low in 1973 under President Richard Nixon (23.9%). The debt burden has consistently increased since then, except during the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In recent years sharp increases in deficit spending and Bush’s tax cuts has resulted in larger debt. This has led to heightened concern about the long-term sustainability of the Federal government’s fiscal policies.

So what can be done to get us out of this mess? We did it after World War II. So is it possible to reduce the national debt? The question we need to be asking ourselves is —How did we go from 121.7% of GDP in 1946, then 27 years later achieve a ratio of debt to GDP of 23.9%. The debt burden fell rapidly after the end of World War II because the United States and the rest of the world experienced a post-war economic expansion.

The main reason the country dug its way out a crippling public debt at the end of World War II is that there occurred a huge economic expansion in the country. Millions of men returned home from the war. Many Americans feared that the end of World War II, and the subsequent drop in military spending, might bring back the hard times of the Great Depression.

But instead, pent-up consumer demand fueled exceptionally strong economic growth in the post war period. The automobile industry successfully converted back to producing cars, and new industries such as aviation and electronics grew by leaps and bounds. A housing boom, stimulated in part by easily affordable mortgages for returning members of the military, added to the expansion. The demand for goods and services was absolutely profound. Huge social and business changes began to occur. These changes included the baby boom generation, conversion of manufacturing of war material back to high demand useful products of every kind. Also, there was a revolution in new business concepts like large shopping malls (early 1950s).

There were also great cultural changes in entertainment and music, changes in clothes, and that wonderful new babysitter—the television set. Conservatism wasn’t dead, but the nails to its casket were being pounded in every day by a changing much more liberal society. Change wasn’t just economic; WWII changed us as a people as to how we viewed the world in the post-war era. Consequently, all these changes led to a boom in suburban development, urban sprawl, and the need to own an automobile.

The nation’s gross national product rose from about $200,000 million in 1940 to $300,000 million in 1950 and to more than $500,000 million in 1960. At the same time, the jump in postwar births, known as the “baby boom,” increased the number of consumers. More and more Americans joined the middle class. What lessons can we all learn from this? I’ll explain shortly.

Current Debt History

The national debt reached or exceeded 100 percent of GDP only twice since 1900. The first time was during World War II and the second time was in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008.

From 2000 to 2008 debt held by the public rose again from 35% to 40%, and to 62% by the end of fiscal year 2010. During the presidency of George W. Bush, the gross public debt increased from $5.7 trillion in January 2001 to $10.7 trillion by December 2008, due in part to the Bush tax cuts and increased military spending caused by the two wars in the Middle East. He also bailed out the banks in the crisis of 2008.

Under President Barack Obama, the national debt also increased from $10.7 trillion in 2008 to $15.5 trillion by February 2012, caused mainly by decreased tax revenue due to the late-2000s recession and stimulus spending.

However, this President recognized the problem and put into effect a plan of action to deal with the national debt. The President set a goal of reducing Federal deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. He called on Congress to establish a mechanism that would trigger across-the-board spending cuts in 2014 if the nation’s debt as a share of gross domestic product hasn’t stabilized. He even proposed to cut spending on Medicare and Medicaid, two safety-net programs held near and dear by Democrats. While I applaud this effort, it’s obvious $4 trillion dollars deficit reduction is not the same thing as bringing 15.5 trillion dollars back down to zero debt.

 

Proposed Solution

 

If we did it once the country can do it again.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the United States ought to bring down its deficit from 100% of GDP (that it currently is) to a more comfortable level of 40% of GDP, or be even more ambitious and drop it to 23.9% as it was at the end of Richard Nixon’s  term in office. Nixon left in 1974 but I’m referring to the actual end of his elected term in office.

Our goal should be somewhere between 3.7 trillion and 6.2 trillion dollars of national debt. Let’s further say that the President and the U.S. Congress woke up one morning to its collective senses and said “Let’s Do It.” In fact, how should they do it? How did the Federal government tackle the national debt problem in 1946, at the end of WWII?

All of this comes back to what was covered in Parts II and IV on Fiscal Policy and Monetary Policy. Now our President has made a good faith effort to deal with the national debt. His plan is thoughtful in terms of considering the nation’s future and current needs; but at the same time, he developed a strategic approach to trimming the national debt.

Fiscal Policy and Monetary Policy are still the answer but what is the real question? Can we repeat the events following World War II? No! Those events aren’t going to repeat themselves because the social conditions affecting the country at that time would not be the same now.

So the point is how does the country stimulate massive growth and produce the revenues necessary to pay off, stabilize, and put a cap on, our national debt? This question brings us back to creating new economic events that stimulate expansive growth and rely once again on—Keynesian Economic Theory. The following material was covered in Part II of this series but I repeat it here.

The government began to use fiscal policy in the 1930s during the Depression, not just to support itself or pursue social policies, but to promote overall economic growth and stability as well. Most importantly policy-makers were influenced by John Maynard Keynes, an English economist who argued in The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936) that the rampant joblessness of his time resulted from inadequate demand for goods and services.

According to Keynes, people did not have enough income to buy everything the economy could produce, so prices fell and companies lost money or went bankrupt. Without government intervention, Keynes said, this could become a vicious cycle. As more companies went bankrupt, he argued, more people would lose their jobs, making income fall further and leading yet more companies to fail in a frightening downward spiral.

Keynes argued that government could halt the decline by increasing spending (The preferred Democrat Approach) on its own, or by cutting taxes (The Preferred Republican Approach). Either way, incomes would rise, people would spend more, and the economy could start growing again. If the government had to run up a deficit to achieve this purpose, so be it, Keynes said. In his view, the alternative—deepening economic decline—would be worse.

For many years the Federal government has pretty much adopted the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and, indeed, we have run up a very sizable deficit. Personally, I think the country needs a new twist on Keynesian economics. Demand side (Keynesian) economics is probably better in the long run for the country than Supply side economics (trickle-down economics just doesn’t work like we’d like it to). But Keynesian economic theory still needs to be twisted a little to include things that were not part of his theory in 1936. By this I mean, rather than lowering taxes, they should be raised instead (not because of continuing class warfare but in terms of simple citizenship—everybody needs to pay his/her fair share).

So, how do we stimulate growth, lower unemployment and, at the same time, obtain significant revenues to pay down and stabilize our national debt? How do we achieve all this and meet all of the needs of the American people at the same time? Well folks, we can’t.

Economic Explosion in Growth

I always liked the expression, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” How do we stimulate growth? We do this by spending large amounts of money to target selected areas where new jobs can be created [our near full employment goal]. My ideas for targeting would be total gentrification of our cities, new infrastructure projects in suburban and rural areas of the country such as better highways, dams, and bridges; modernize and overhaul energy alternatives such as natural gas, solar, wind, and start a massive program of building “Green Friendly” homes nationally and overseas by contract.

Lower Unemployment

Many types of jobs would need to be filled if we did all this. We would need every occupation from laborers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, supervisors, building inspectors, architects, engineers, secretaries, small business owners, managers, waitresses, cooks, doctors, nurses, sales staff, clerks, dentists, police, and firemen. We need to construct more modern large buildings in urban areas where buildings are falling apart due to age.

Massive energy projects are needed, than shortly thereafter smaller peripheral and supporting projects would be needed: new gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, motels, and medical facilities. This may not be 1946—but look around you—there is much to be done (and redone) in this country of ours right now.

If these things were done in earnest, huge economic growth would certainly occur. With changes in monetary policy occurring at the same time, more credit, lower interest rates, and greater loan activity would provide the cash needed for economic expansion in almost every part of the country.

Precipitously Bring Down the National Debt

This is the hard, unpopular part of my plan. First, reduce government spending of all government agencies across the board by 10%. What will government agencies do? I was in government for 32 years and experienced several 10% cuts. We adjust, we improvise, yet we still managed to get the job done. It was no big deal. I went without an annual increase in pay as well. Trust me! Cutting government services can be done.

Now very tough decisions will need to be made if we, as a nation, want to simultaneously (besides economic expansion and lowering unemployment) reduce our national debt by 10+ trillion dollars. To achieve this will require pain and sacrifice on everyone’s part. What do we do? We make major changes to our system of taxation.

Instead of replacing the current income tax system with a national sales (consumption or fair tax), I propose the country simultaneously do both an income and a consumption tax. You pay your income taxes as you currently do, but also pay a federal sales tax on all goods and services that is tied to the GDP. If GDP currently is 16.5 trillion dollars, we need to generate an additional 9% in revenues each year through a consumption tax. That would add approximately 1.48 trillion dollars (.09 X 16.5 trillion) each year in theUnited States.

And from this time on, the Federal budgetary process would need to have what I call a “soft cap.” That is, the annual Federal budget needs to be tied to the growth rate of GDP. If the GDP increased 2.0% in one year, then the President’s budget could not increase beyond the 2.0% in the GDP.

My modified Keynesian approach doesn’t favor a Democrat or Republican approach to fiscal or monetary policy. It’s just what needs to be done to stabilize this country’s financial situation now and into the future. When I run for the United States Senate next year I plan to propose this solution for our economic woes (JUST KIDDING!).

You probably have thought all this out yourself, and have ideas of your own as to how to revitalize the economic growth of the country and bring down the national debt. However, you’re probably scratching your head right now asking yourself—how can he propose tremendous spending for economic expansion and, at the same time, put a “soft cap” on government spending?  The soft cap is more about controlling any future short-fall between government spending and revenues generated (How else are we going to prevent government borrowing and generating more debt each year?). The answer to the question is easing monetary policy (i.e., easier borrowing, credit, and lower interest rates) combined with dramatic increases in taxation (income plus a national sales tax) should provide the funds for a tremendous spike in economic growth and expansion without putting us further in national debt. I’d be more than delighted to hear your ideas on these topics or my general plan.

In the meantime, President Barack Obama has implemented a moderate plan to trim 4 trillion dollars from our national debt over the next 12 years. If my aggressive approach isn’t wanted by giving the country its austere cod liver oil to courageously attack our economic woes, then I suggest the country embrace his plan for dealing with the problem of our national debt.

What I’ve been saying is that it is time to increase spending to create growth and achieve near full employment and raise taxes by aggressive measures such as a national sales tax on top of our income tax. Substantial increases in spending should occur only if large tax increases are implemented at the same time.  Inflation would occur under my plan but would be countered by raising taxes. It could be done with monetary policy but wouldn’t work because of the need to ease monetary policy to help stimulate growth.

Fighting inflation requires government to take unpopular actions like reducing spending or raising taxes, while traditional fiscal policy solutions to fighting unemployment tend to be more popular since they require increasing spending or cutting taxes. My plan does not involve cutting spending to fight inflation. And yet inflation is like an unintended tax measure resulting in greater tax revenues for the country. To that extent, inflation would directly raise revenues and indirectly help to pay down the national debt.

The downside of my proposal is that the individual will have to pay more in taxes at the same time inflation eats away at any money he has left after taxes; it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The upside to my proposal is that tremendous economic growth in the country would occur, near full employment would be achieved, and our national debt would stabilize and be reduced significantly, and finally controlled by a “soft cap.” Some employed people, and government workers, and retirees would probably hate my proposal, while the unemployed and the business community would probably love it.

The bottom line is—“the country gets what it pays for.” Unfortunately these are times when the country has to pay a lot more to get what it wants. I think the readers of this six part series can now clearly see that tinkering with the economy is no simple matter. I suppose that in the end I have a great deal of respect for those we elect to office. They have to be “all things to all people” and, at the same time, have to struggle with prioritizing economic objectives along side with doing what’s best and right for the country. During these tough economic times—that is no easy task.

Conclusions

This fall I’m voting to re-elect President Barack Obama to a second term as our president. While Mitt Romney appears to be a good and decent man, he does not have the experience, attitudes, or mental acuity to convince me he is more qualified to be the President than Barack Obama.

Regardless of how you arrive at your decision as to who to vote for, I want to thank you for reading this six part series on Election Year Politics and the Economy. I’ve given it my best shot in deciding who to vote for, now it’s time for you to do the same.

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ELECTION YEAR POLITICS

AND THE ECONOMY

[Part VI-A]

The final segment of my six part series will be composed of a Part VI-A and a Part VI-B. In Part VI-A I present the accomplishments of the Republican Party and provide a biography of their candidate in 2012—Mitt Romney.

In Part VI-B I will suggest who I think should be elected  president of the United States on November 6, 2012. I will post Part VI-B a few days after people have had a chance to digest the data in Part VI-A. I am not going to tell you who to vote for; that is now up to you. What I will do is explain, in detail, the reasons why I’m voting as I am.

I will explain as best I can both the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate in a final conclusions section. Everyone may or may not come to the same conclusion as I have. Hopefully, since the economy is the main issue, I hope everyone makes intelligent use of the material I’ve provided about how the economy really works, and integrates such knowledge into each person’s value framework and political preferences. No one can predict the future but as voters, let’s give it a good shot as to who we think will best serve as president of the United States during the next four years.

                                Accomplishments of the Republican Party

In this author’s opinion the accomplishments of the Republican Party fall into two areas: (1) signed legislation that became law, and (2) bills introduced giving you some idea as to what they wanted to do for the American people.

The Republican Party, of course, did not have control of the White House between 2008-2012. However, they did regain control of the House of Representatives in November, 2010. And, they did propose major legislation in a number of areas. Many of their Bills they proposed failed to pass muster in the Senate, and on several occasions President Obama promised to veto many of the major types of legislation proposed by the Republicans.

If one defines accomplishments as bills that become laws, then by that standard they failed miserably in terms of doing something useful for the American people. It may be one of the reasons why the Republican Party is often called “the Party of No.”

 I believe, in all fairness, the voter needs to evaluate The Republican Party in a different way. Since you are comparing a party with lots to show for it, the only other remaining way to evaluate Republican contributions to the country is to usefully look at their ideas as reflected in the Bills they put forward. If you agree with those ideas you’ll still have a basis for comparison to President Obama’s accomplishments. If you don’t like what was proposed by the Republicans, then perhaps you have a clear choice in November, 2012.

So what major legislation did the Republican Party propose before the Congress during the last four years.

MAJOR LEGISLATION PROPOSED BY THE REPUBLICANS

 I found five major pieces of legislation proposed by the Republican Party during the last four years. A sixth bill actually became law in 1998. That law was the Defense of Marriage Act. It is discussed here because it was followed during the last four years as the Respect for Marriage Act, which failed to become law.

Most Republican bills seem ideological in nature. Only two seem to relate to economics. Along with the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 the bills are the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion, the Protect Life Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act which was a new version of the original Defense of Marriage Act.

One bill was actually bi-partisan in nature and was the Stop Online Piracy Act. The one bill that tackled spending issues, the debt ceiling, and balancing a budget was the only truly economic bill proposed by the Republican Party. That bill was the Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011.

Collectively, these legislative efforts are the ideas of the Republican Party.

Defense of Marriage Act

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Public Law 104-109, 110 Statute 2419, enacted September 21, 1996, 1 U.S.C. & 7 and 28 U.S.C. & 1738C is a United States federal law that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.

Under the law, no state or other political subdivision of the U.S. may be required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state. Section 3 of DOMA codified the non-recognition of same-sex marriage for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns. This section has been found unconstitutional in two Massachusetts court cases and a California bankruptcy court case, all of which are under appeal.

The Obama administration announced in 2011 that it had determined that Section 3 was unconstitutional and, though it would continue to enforce the law, it would no longer defend it in court. In response, the House of Representatives undertook the defense of the law on behalf of the federal government in place of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Respect for Marriage Act

The Respect for Marriage Act, or RFMA (H.R. 1116, S. 598), was a proposed bill in the United States Congress that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the U.S. federal government to provide benefits to couples in a same-sex marriage; the bill would not compel individual states to recognize same-sex marriages. It was supported by former U.S. Representative Bob Barr, original sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act, and former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Until 1996, the federal government customarily recognized marriages conducted legally in any state for the purpose of federal legislation. Following an unsuccessful law suit aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii, the United States Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act one section of which forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

H.R. 3567

a) repeals section 1738C of title 28 of the United States Code

b) amends Section 7 of title 1 in the United States Code to read:

(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State. (b) In this section, the term ‘State’ means a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States.

No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3) is a bill that was introduced to the 112th Congress of the United States in the House of Representatives by Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) and Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois). Although the bill is a bipartisan effort, most of the 173 co-sponsors were Republicans. The bill’s stated purpose was “[t]o prohibit taxpayer funded abortions and to provide for conscience protections, and for other purposes.”

In large measure, it would render permanent the restrictions on federal funding of abortion in the United States laid out in the Hyde Amendment. The bill passed the House on May 4, 2011 by a vote of 251-175; however, because it was not expected to pass the Senate, the bill was largely a symbolic one.

Controversy over language about rape

The text of the most recent version of the Hyde Amendment provides an exception for cases of rape, stating that its prohibitions shall not apply “if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.” The rape exception in H.R. 3 uses somewhat different language, stating that its limitations shall not apply “if the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest.” Some women’s rights groups have questioned the addition of the qualifier “forcible” to the word “rape” in H.R. 3, noting that it excludes many forms of rape and “takes us back to a time where just saying no was not enough.”

One critic, Mother Jones, alleged that the bill is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Republican Party to change the legal definition of rape.

Another critic, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) criticized the legislation, too. An article in The Raw Story had this to say about her reaction to HR 3. “The Florida Democrat, a rising star in her party and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, is a leading voice on women’s issues.

And she didn’t mince her words in an interview with The Raw Story, fiercely denouncing GOP colleagues over H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” ‘It is absolutely outrageous,’ Wasserman Schultz said in an exclusive interview late Monday afternoon. “I consider the proposal of this bill a violent act against women…” She continued, “It really is — to suggest that there is some kind of rape that would be okay to force a woman to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, and abandon the principle that has been long held, an exception that has been settled for 30 years, is to me a violent act against women in and of itself,” Wasserman Schultz said.” “Rape is when a woman is forced to have sex against her will, and that is whether she is conscious, unconscious, mentally stable, not mentally stable,” the four-term congresswoman added.”

Critics insist that HR 3 would directly diminish the rights of women who have fallen victim to rapes that are not considered “forcible” by the bill, as well as increase the danger of these types of sexual abuse occurring.

TalkingPoints Memo reported, “In an interview with the anti-abortion site LifeNews, Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, admits the language in the House’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act “would not allow general federal funding of abortion on all under-age pregnant girls.”

However, the bill’s text does not offer a definition of “rape” nor of “forcible rape.” Responding to the criticism about the language used in the rape exception clause, bill co-sponsor Dan Lipinski (D) stated, “The language of H.R. 3 was not intended to change existing law rearding taxpayer funding for abortion in cases of rape, nor is it expected that it would do so. Nonetheless, the legislative process will provide an opportunity to clarify this should such a need exist.”

Protect Life Act

The Protect Life Act (H.R. 358) is a bill introduced to the 112th United States Congress in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA). The bill had 121 co-sponsors, including 6 Democrats. It would make several amendments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The bill was initially referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, of which Pitts is the ranking majority member. The committee approved it 33 to 19.

On October 13, 2011, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill; however, it was judged unlikely to pass the Democratic Senate, and President Obama stated that he would veto it if it reached his desk.

The following are the provisions of the bill.

Provisions

  • Ban the use of federal funds to cover any costs of any health care plan that covers abortions. (This would extend previous restrictions on abortion coverage, which currently ban the use of federal funds for abortion and require federal funds and abortion-related funds to be kept separate.) Require the Office of Personnel Management director to make sure no health plans that fall under the Exchange cover abortions.
  • Require any entity offering, through a federal exchange, a health care plan that covers abortions to also offer an otherwise identical one that does not cover abortions.
  • Prohibit government agencies from “discriminating” against health care providers who refuse to undergo, require, provide, or refer for training to perform abortions.
  • Allow remedies to be sought in court for violations of PPACA abortion provisions.

Stop Online Piracy Act

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A similar bill in the U.S. Senate is titled the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).

Proponents of the legislation state it will protect the intellectual-property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign-owned and operated sites, and citing examples of “active promotion of rogue websites” by U.S. search engines, proponents assert stronger enforcement tools are needed.

Opponents state the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage. They have raised concerns that SOPA would bypass the “safe harbor” protections from liability presently afforded to Internet sites by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Library associations have expressed concerns that the legislation’s emphasis on stronger copyright enforcement would expose libraries to prosecution. Other opponents state that requiring search engines to delete a domain name could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the Web and violates the First Amendment.

On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia Reddit, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, to raise awareness. In excess of 160 million people viewed Wikipedia’s banner. Other protests against SOPA and PIPA included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over 7 million signatures, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and a rally held in New York City.

In response to the protest actions, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated, “It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation,” and “it’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform.”

The sites of several pro-SOPA organizations such as RIAA, CBS.com, and others were slowed or shut down with denial of service attacks started on January 19. Self-proclaimed members of the “hacktivist” group Anonymous claimed responsibility and stated the attacks were a protest of both SOPA and the United States Department of Justice’s shutdown of Megaupload on that same day.

Opponents of the bill have proposed the Online Protection and Digital Trade Act (OPEN) as an alternative. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill: “The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011

The proposed Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011 (or HR 2560) was a bill put forward in the 112th United States Congress by Republicans during the 2011 U.S. debt ceiling crisis. The provisions of the bill included a cut in the total amount of federal government spending, a cap on the level of future spending as a percentage ofGDP, and, on the condition that Congress pass certain changes to the U.S. Constitution, and an increase in the national debt ceiling to allow the federal government to continue to service its debts.

The bill had the support of Republicans and much of the Tea Party movement. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 19, 2011, but was rejected by the President and the Senate. The Senate voted to table the bill on July 22. President Obama had promised to veto the bill had it proceeded further.

The Republican Candidate in 2012

The Republican cadidate running for the Office of the President of the United States in 2012  is former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney.

 

Biography

Born Willard Mitt Romney onMarch 12, 1947, in Detroit,Michigan and raised in Bloomfield Hills,Michigan, Romney attended the prestigious Cranbrook Schoolbefore receiving his undergraduate degree fromBrighamYoungUniversityin 1971. He attended Harvard LawSchool andHarvard Business School and received both a law degree and an M.B.A. in 1975.

Mitt Romney married Ann Davies in 1969; they have five sons, Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben and Craig. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.

Entry into Politics

The son of George Romney, Michigan governor and Republican presidential nominee (he was defeated by Richard Nixon in 1968), Mitt Romney began his career in business. He worked for the management consulting firm Bain & Company before founding the investment firm Bain Capital in 1984. In 1994, he ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts but was defeated by longtime incumbent Edward Kennedy.

In 1999, Romney stepped into the national spotlight when he took over as president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. He helped rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics from financial and ethical woes, and helmed a successful Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002.

In 2004 Romney authored the book Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games.

Masachusetts Governor

Romney parlayed his success with the Olympics into politics when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003. During Romney’s term as governor, he oversaw the reduction of a $3 billion deficit. Romney also signed into law a health care reform program to provide nearly universal health care forMassachusetts residents.

2008 Presidential Run

After serving one term, he declined to run for reelection and announced his bid for U.S.president. Romney made it through Super Tuesday, winning primaries inMassachusetts, Alaska, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah, before losing the Republican nomination to John McCain. In total Romney spent $110 million on his campaign, including $45 million of his own money.

Romney continued to keep his options open for a possible future presidential run. He maintained much of his political staff and PACs, and raised funds for fellow Republican candidates. In March 2010, Romney published a book titled No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

2012 Campaign

At a farm in New Hampshire on June 2, 2011, Mitt Romney announced the official start of his 2012 campaign. A vocal critic of President Barack Obama, Romney has taken many standard Republican positions on taxes, the economy and the war on terror. Romney’s critics charge him with changing his position on several key issues including abortion, which he opposes, and health care reform—he opposed President Obama’s health care reform program, which was similar to theMassachusetts plan Romney supported as governor.

From the start of his campaign, Romney emerged as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. He showed more mainstream Republican appeal than Tea Party-backed competitors such asTexas governor Rick Perry. In January 2012, Romney scored a decisive victory in the New Hampshire Republican primary. He captured more than 39 percent of the votes, way ahead of his closest competitors, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.  As the race has continued, Rick Santorum became his greatest competition, winning several states. But Romney had been able to secure a substantial lead in the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

In April 2012, Romney benefitted from a narrowing of the field when Santorum announced he was suspending his campaign. He publicly paid tribute to his former rival, saying that Santorum “has proved himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation.” After Santorum’s departure, Romney only had two opponents left—Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. But neither seems to have enough support to gain the necessary delegates to take the nomination from Romney. In May, 2012 Newt Gingrich departed from the campaign.

Post Script

At this point every reader of this six part series should now be armed with enough knowledge to make an informed intelligent decision as to who should be elected to the White House this coming November. Good luck in how you arrive at that decision. In a few days following the posting of this Part VI-A, I will present how I plan to vote this coming November. Based on all the knowledge presented in this series I will explain all the reasons why I have selected one candidate over the other. And, I will present such reasons in terms of both strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

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ELECTION YEAR POLITICS

AND THE ECONOMY

[Part V]

In this Part V of my six part series I describe the accomplishments of President Barack Obama during most his first term as president.

In a final section (Part VI-B) I will bring all of the knowledge gained in the entire series together and render a decision as to who I’m voting for (and consistent with writing a blog called the Reasoned Society) with the reasons why I have reached a decision in casting my vote in favor of one candidate over the other. Ultimately, you will also have to decide who you will vote for in the upcoming presidential election in November, 2012.

The Accomplishments of President Barack Obama

 

By some accounts (Florida Professor of American Studies Robert P. Watson of Lynn University) President Obama’s accomplishments now total 244 since he took office. Here is just a few of the significant accomplishments of the president during his first term in the White House.

 

  • Overhauled the food safety system;
  • Approved the Lily Ledbetter “Equal Pay” for women rule;
  • Ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t  Tell” discrimination in the military;
  • Passed the Hate Crimes bill in Congress;
  • Saved the auto industry from bankruptcy which included General Motors and Chrysler;
  • Appointed two progressive women to the U.S. Supreme Court including the first Latina;
  • Pushed through the Affordable Health Care Act, outlawing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, extending until age 26 health care coverage of children under parent’s  plans, steps toward “Medicare for All;”
  • Expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) health care for children. This helped to cover 4 million more lower-income children;
  • Pushed through a $789 Billion economic stimulus bill that saved or created 3 million jobs and began task of repairing the nation’s infrastructure;
  • Overhauled the credit card industry, making it more consumer friendly;
  • Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and used a recess appointment to keep it on track in the face of GOP attempts to derail it;
  • Also outmaneuvered GOP in naming two members of the National Labor Relations Board blocked by the Republicans in their attempt to shut down the NLRB;
  • Won two extensions of the debt ceiling and extensions of unemployment compensation in the face of Republican threats to shut down the U.S. government;
  • Pulled troops out of Iraq and began drawing down of troops in Afghanistan;
  • Signed an omnibus public lands bill that allowed for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness. It added 1,000 miles designated for scenic rivers, and added lands for national trails;
  • Signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act;
  • Signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expanded the scope of AmeriCorps;
  • Signed an executive order easing restrictions on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research;
  • Created greater transparency in government by creation of White House visitor logs, a ban on lobbyist gifts, or allowing lobbyists from serving on advisory boards, and restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists.
  • Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion as a guarantee that the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill would be compensated.
  • In 2011 President Barack Obama gave the order for Navy Seals commandoes to take out Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 911. They were successful and Osama Bin Laden is dead.

 

Washington Post Editorial

Back in 2010 an editorial was written by Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. This was written less than half way through President Obama’s first term in office. I think it’s worth repeating here:

In less than two years in office, the Obama Administration has made some incredible progress, from passing historic health reform to reining in Wall Street and fighting to create new jobs. Even so, sometimes it can feel like all of the day-to-day news is focused on the negative, without much emphasis on the real changes the President has made with the help of supporters around the country. For a look at some of the great accomplishments in just the past few weeks—including troops leaving Iraq, bringing the auto industry back from the brink of collapse, and containing the oil spill in the Gulf.

This is a radical break from journalistic convention, I realize, but today I’d like to give credit where it’s due — specifically, to President Obama. Quiet as it’s kept, he’s on a genuine winning streak. It’s hard to remember that the inauguration was just 19 months ago. Expectations of the new president were absurdly high. If Obama had done back flips across the Potomac River, when he reached the other side he’d have faced probing questions about why it was taking him so long to cure cancer, solve the Arab-Israeli conflict and usher in an age of universal peace and prosperity. But look at what he’s accomplished in just the past few weeks. Let me highlight four recent headlines.

“Last U.S. combat troops leave Iraq”: Obama campaigned as an early and vocal opponent of the Iraq war, calling it a distraction from the more important conflict in Afghanistan. When he took office, there were about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on the heels of George W. Bush’s combat surge. Obama said he would bring our combat forces home and he did — ahead of schedule…. “General Motors to launch stock offering”: One of the many crises Obama faced when he took office was the imminent collapse of an iconic industrial giant….Obama ended up pouring $50 billion into the company, acquiring a 61 percent ownership stake.

Critics complained about the advent of “Government Motors” and raised the specter of bureaucrats in Washington holding public hearings to redesign the Corvette. But now, after making more than $2 billion in profits so far this year, the restructured company is confident enough to sell stock on Wall Street — and begin repaying the government’s investment. The company was saved, workers kept their jobs, and taxpayers are going to get their money back. That’s nice work.”Gulf oil spill contained”: When BP’s Deepwater Horizon well went rogue, the Obama administration was criticized for being slow off the mark. Some of the criticism was justified — the initial response did seem unfocused. But the administration managed to turn things around and quiet any talk of “Obama’s Katrina.”

Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion as a guarantee that the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill would be compensated….

And finally, “President wades into mosque controversy”: Yes, I’m serious. Supporting the mosque in Lower Manhattan didn’t score any political points. But Obama saw his duty to uphold the values of our Constitution and make clear that our fight is against the terrorists, not against Islam itself. Instead of doing what was popular, he did what was right.

He still hasn’t walked on water, though. What’s wrong with the man?

 

Post Script

You will have to decide as a voter in a few months whether President Obama’s accomplishments during his first term in office justifies his being re-elected to a second term. In giving your vote you will also have to compare the president’s accomplishments to those of the Republican Party during the last four years.

In addition, you will have to decide whether the campaign promises of Mitt Romney appeal to you so much that you would support a change of course for the country. After Part VI-A and Part VI-B you will be in a good position, in terms of being an informed voter, to make such an important decision. And, you can be proud of yourself that you took the time to become better informed; it is the only really intelligent approach a citizen can take during so important an election as to who should become President of the United States.

 

 

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