Trump’s Policies Are Authoritarian, Not Populist

(MICHAEL KRIEGER, LIBERTY BLITZKRIEG) I’m not new to writing about political issues. I spent pretty much the entirety of the Obama administration pointing out his disdain of transparency, his refusal to challenge the rich and powerful even after they inflicted significant harm on the American public, and his dangerous expansion of militarism across the globe. Over the course of those eight years, I solidified and refined my views on a wide variety of issues that are important to me. Though I’ve been extremely troubled by the people Trump has decided to surround himself with, and the fact he’s essentially outsourced his economic policy to the boys at vampire squid Goldman Sachs, I’ve held off on my harshest criticism while waiting to see where he comes down on a wider variety of issues. At this point, I think I’ve seen enough.

Trump and his spokespeople recently have made their opinions known on a variety of issues on which I hold strong beliefs. The three I will focus on today are: 1) Civil Asset Forfeiture. 2) Private Prisons. 3) Legalization of Recreational Marijuana. On all three of these issues, Trump has taken an authoritarian, unethical and quite unpopular position. Rather than challenge the oligarchs who’ve run this country into the ground, he’s appointed them to be his top advisors. Now he wants to make life increasingly unfree and miserable for average Americans. Not a very populist agenda.

I’m not a cheerleader for political figures and I find cult of personality worship to be an extraordinarily grotesque and destructive practice. We all have issues we care about. The things that matter to me may not be what matter to you, but it’s important that we remain consistent in whatever principles we hold dear, irrespective of who happens to be in power at any given moment. One of the reasons Obama was able to do so much harm is because he was given a pass by millions of phony liberals who suddenly didn’t care about war crimes once Mr. Hope & Change became President. If you’re a Trump supporter who wants to see him succeed, it’s your job to hold him to account on these issues, otherwise he will go down in flames.

I have a long history of writing on these three issues. My opinions aren’t new, and don’t change based on who gets elected. Let’s start with civil asset forfeiture, a topic I’ve written at least 10-20 articles on. I outlined my position quite clearly in my very first post on the topic all the way back in 2013. Here’s a brief excerpt from the piece, Why You Should Never, Ever Drive Through Tenaha, Texas.

In a nutshell, civil forfeiture is the practice of confiscating items from people, ranging from cash, cars, even homes based on no criminal conviction or charges, merely suspicion. This practice first became widespread for use against pirates, as a way to take possession of contraband goods despite the fact that the ships’ owners in many cases were located thousands of miles away and couldn’t easily be prosecuted. As is often the case, what starts out reasonable becomes a gigantic organized crime ring of criminality, particularly in a society where the rule of law no longer exists for the “elite,” yet anything goes when it comes to pillaging the average citizen.

One of the major reasons these programs have become so abused is that the police departments themselves are able to keep much of the confiscated money. So they actually have a perverse incentive to steal. As might be expected, a program that is often touted as being effective against going after major drug kingpins, actually targets the poor and disenfranchised more than anything else.

Obama was terrible on this issue, as I highlighted time and time again. It appears Trump wants to be even worse. As Reuters reported earlier this month:

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday there was “no reason” to curb law enforcement agencies that seize cash, vehicles and other assets of people suspected of crimes, a practice that some lawmakers and activists have criticized for denying legal rights.

The issue of civil asset forfeiture, created to disrupt the activities of organized crime groups, arose when sheriffs from around the United States told Trump at a White House meeting that they were under pressure to ease the practice.

“I’d like to look into that,” Trump said. “There’s no reason for that.”

In 2016, a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill, which did not become law, that would have required the government to do more to show that seized property was connected to a crime. Critics have said suspects have few avenues to challenge the seizures and that forfeiture laws were sometimes abused. Police in some cases seize property from people who are never charged or convicted.

Trump, a Republican, asked acting U.S. Attorney General Dana Boente, who was at the gathering, whether executive orders or legislation were needed to support forfeiture. Boente said that was unnecessary but law enforcement agencies needed encouragement.

Trump voiced disagreement with lawmakers who want to change asset forfeiture laws, and some of the sheriffs laughed when Trump suggested he might want to “destroy” the career of one Texas legislator.

He said members of the U.S. Congress would “get beat up really badly by the voters” if they interfered with law enforcement’s activities.

Trump is completely delusional on this topic. Not only is the practice unethical, it’s extremely unpopular. As Cato demonstrated in a poll late last year:

Eighty-four percent (84%) of Americans oppose civil asset forfeiture–police “taking a person’s money or property that is suspected to have been involved in a drug crime before the person is convicted of a crime,” according to a new Cato Institute/YouGov survey of 2,000 Americans. Only 16% think police ought to be allowed to seize property before a person is convicted.

Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which police officers seize a person’s property (e.g. their car, home, or cash) if they suspect the individual or property is involved with criminal activity. The individual does not need to be charged with, or convicted of, any crime for police to seize assets. In most jurisdictions police departments may keep the property they seize or the proceeds from its sale. However, as these survey results demonstrate, most Americans oppose this practice.

Let’s now move on to the private prison industry, another topic I’ve written extensively about over the years. Here’s an excerpt from the 2013 post, A Deep Look into the Shady World of the Private Prison Industry:

Private prisons are antithetical to a free people. Of all the functions a civilized society should relegate to the public sector, it’s abundantly clear incarceration should be at the very top of the list. Jailing individuals is a public cost that a society takes on in order to ensure there are consequences to breaking certain rules that have been deemed dangerous to the happiness and quality of life within a given population. However, the end goal of any civilized culture must be to try to keep these cost as low possible. This should be achieved by having as few people as possible incarcerated, which is most optimally achieved by reducing incidents of criminality within the population. Given incarceration is an undesirable (albeit necessary) part of any society, the idea is certainly not to incentivize increased incarceration by making it extremely profitable. This is a perverse incentive, and one that is strongly encouraged by the private prison industry to the detriment of society.

Perhaps the only thing I applauded from Obama’s Justice Department over the entirety of his eight years was the announced phasing out of private prisons at the federal level. As such, it’s extremely troubling to me that reinstating such an idiotic policy became a priority for Trump.

Here’s what happened just yesterday as reported by USA Today:

WASHINGTON — Private prison companies, which stand to make big gains under President Trump’s tough new immigration orders, also have contributed big sums to pro-Trump groups, including the organization that raised a record $100 million for his inauguration last month.

GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison operators, donated $250,000 to support Trump’s inaugural festivities, Pablo Paez, the company’s vice president of corporate relations, told USA TODAY.

That’s on top of the $225,000 that a company subsidiary donated to a super PAC that spent some $22 million to help elect the real-estate magnate. Another prison operator, CoreCivic, gave $250,000 to support Trump’s inauguration, recently filed congressional reports show.

For-profit prison companies’ hopes for significant gains under the Trump administration already are coming to fruition. On Thursday, the Justice Department rescinded an Obama administration order to phase out the use of private-prison contracts in the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Smells a lot like swamp.

Finally, let’s discuss what will certainly be the most politically toxic of all Trump’s policies, if he’s actually stupid enough to pursue it. Namely, a crackdown on recreational marijuana in states where voters approved it.

I’m a proud resident of the wonderful state of Colorado, the first place in the nation to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2012. Following that vote, I wrote an article titled, Colorado Legalizes Marijuana: Your Move Eric Holder. Here’s some of what I wrote:

I’m proud to say that my state of Colorado led the way nationally by becoming the first state to legalize marijuana (although Washington passed a similar measure shortly after). I supported this Amendment and voted yes on it for several reasons.

1) Based on personal experience as well as observations of others I believe that marijuana is a much more benign drug than alcohol, and in fact I think its benefits to society outweigh the negatives. Like with anything in life, moderation is key.

2) I philosophically do not believe the Federal government should have any say in what people put into their bodies. This is not to say that I believe the full legalization of all drugs is ideal. For example, I would vote against the legalization of harder drugs like cocaine or heroin in Colorado if that was on the ballot. That’s not to say I don’t think it has a right to be on the ballot, it’s just that I would vote against it. We have 50 states for a reason. These individual communities should be able to decide for themselves what they want to allow within their respective borders. The Federal government should have absolutely zero say on this matter.

3) It’s about time we had a little confrontation with the Federal government on the issue of States rights. As has been documented endlessly, civil liberties have been decimated since 9/11 and the overreaction to the endless “war on terror.” The Federal government has become bolder, more aggressive and increasingly tyrannical. While the degree is debatable the trend is not. Marijuana legalization provides the ideal battleground on the issue of States rights at the moment. The measure passed in a landslide in Colorado. 55% voted yes and 45% voted no (Obama only won the state 51% vs. 46%). The people have clearly spoken.

Since then, people have spoken in several other areas of the country, and 7 other states have legalized pot for recreational use (California, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Alaska). The trend is clear and there’s no going back at this point.

Whether you like it or not, cannabis is now a part of American culture and the notion of criminalizing people for ingesting a relatively benign substance into their own bodies is simply absurd. This concept will become increasingly absurd as the years go by, which is why Trump would have to be the biggest fool on earth to pick this battle. It is a battle he cannot win, and any attempt to send federal agents into states to prevent people from legally doing something in peace that they themselves voted to make available, will be viewed very poorly by most Americans, including many Trump supporters. There is zero upside to such a policy, and a tremendous amount of downside. Naturally, this didn’t stop Sean Spicer from incoherently mouthing off yesterday.

As The Intercept reported:

WHITE HOUSE PRESS Secretary Sean Spicer cited “states’ rights” on Tuesday in defending the Trump administration’s decision to end the Obama administration’s federal protections for transgender students.

“The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” he said. “All you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states’ rights issue.”

But on Thursday, asked about federal marijuana enforcement, it was like the states had no rights at all. Arkansas-based reporter Roby Brock asked Spicer about the administration’s posture towards Arkansas’s new medical marijuana law.

Spicer suggested that the Trump administration would respect state laws related to medical marijuana — but not offer the same respect for recreational marijuana.

“There are two distinct issues here. Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana,” Spicer said. “Medical marijuana, I’ve said before that the president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs including medical marijuana can bring to them.”

But Spicer compared recreational marijuana use to deadly opioid addictions. “I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country the last thing that we should doing is encouraging people, there’s still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of … when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”

Actually, the exact opposite is true. See: The Real Reason Pharma Companies Hate Medical Marijuana (It Works)

“I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it. Because again there’s a big difference between the medical use, which Congress has through an appropriations rider in 2014 made very clear what the intent, what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue,” he replied, referring to a 2014 law that directed the federal government to respect state medical marijuana laws. “That’s very different than the recreational use which is something the Department of Justice I think will be further looking into.”

Actually…The Real Reason Pharma Companies Hate Medical Marijuana (It Works)

Unfortunately for the Trump team, this position is definitely not popular. As Reason notes:

Yesterday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the Justice Department under newly installed Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be more inclined to enforce the federal ban on marijuana in states that have legalized the drug for recreational use. A large majority of Americans, including most Republicans, think that’s a bad idea, according to poll numbers released the same day as Spicer’s comments.

While Spicer emphasized the difference between medical and recreational marijuana, he overlooked a more important distinction: between opposing state laws that allow recreational use of marijuana and supporting federal intervention aimed at overriding them. That distinction is clear in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, which finds that 71 percent of Americans “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” By comparison, 59 percent think marijuana “should be made legal in the United States.” That means many Americans who oppose legalization nevertheless think states should be free to adopt that policy. A disproportionate number of those people are members of Trump’s party: While only 35 percent of Republicans in the Quinnipiac poll supported marijuana legalization, 55 percent opposed federal interference with it.

A CBS News poll conducted last April found even stronger Republican opposition to the sort of meddling Spicer predicted. Asked if “laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal” should be “determined by the federal government” or “left to each individual state government to decide,” 70 percent of Republicans said the latter, compared to 55 percent of Democrats (who as usual were more likely to favor legalization). These results make sense to the extent that conservatives take seriously their avowed commitment to federalism, which Trump also claims to support. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump said he favored medical marijuana but had concerns about broader legalization, a decision he nevertheless said should be left to the states. “If they vote for it, they vote for it,” he said. Trump confirmed that position at a 2015 rally in Nevada: “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”

The poll results above are significant. Even those who don’t want it legal where they live, are in favor of leaving others alone. You know it’s bad when Roger Stone is out there pleading for these Trump admin nitwits to get a clue. Here are a few of his tweets.

If Trump wants his Presidency to become a heaping pile of rubble before the first 100 days are up, be my guest. If not, he better get his act together and start working on policies that will help Americans, as opposed to further criminalizing them.

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In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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