The Duty to Fund the General Welfare: By Ann Fagan Ginger

By Ann Fagan Ginger
Friday October 15, 2004

24. To Release Political Prisoners; To Stop Capital Punishment 

The deaths of innocent civilians on Sept. 11 set in motion greater concern for the deaths of innocent defendants on death rows across the U.S.  

One of the most successful efforts to free political prisoners, and to avenge their wrongful incarceration, was the movement of Japanese-Americans herded into internment camps from Pearl Harbor in 1941 until 1945, while their sons were fighting courageously in the U.S. military. In 1988, Congress finally agreed to compensate the surviving detainees. (Civil Liberties Act of 1988.)  

Efforts to deal with basic violations of the rights of Native Americans from many tribes continued, unsuccessfully, in the Bush Administration. The major losses they suffered due to U.S. seizures of their lands and destruction of their cultures were not redressed. 

Reparations for African-Americans for their torture, deaths, and mistreatment as slaves in the U.S. remains unresolved. One of the strongest and most effective proponents of reparations is Mumia-Abu Jamal.  

After progressive reforms in the Finnish prison system, today the Finnish percentage of people in prison is 52 per 100,000. The rate in the U.S. is 702 per 100,000. (Warren Hoge, “Finnish Prisons: No Gates or Armed Guards,” New York Times, Jan. 2, 2003.) 

Report 24.1 

Leonard Peltier, Native American Political Prisoner (“Leonard Peltier Nominated For President,” Democracy Now!, August 5, 2004.) 

Report 24.2 

Mumia Abu-Jamal, African American Political Prisoner on Death Row (“Death penalty again looms over Mumia's head,” SouthEndpress.org, July 12, 2004.) 

Report 24.3 

Almost One Hundred Political Prisoners On U.S. List (“Can’t Jail the Spirit: Political Prisoners and POW’s in the U.S.,” Prison Activist Resource Center, April 3, 2004.) 

Report 24.4  

Failure to Abolish Capital Punishment (“List of Defendants Executed by Year,” Death Penalty Information Center, Updated Aug. 5, 2004.) 


E. The Government’s Duty to Properly Fund the General Welfare 

In the Spring of 2004, the San Francisco Bay Area Progressive Challenge prepared the “Sensible Federal Budget Resolution” for adoption by the California state assembly. The Resolution calls on Congress and the President “to enact a budget that redirects sufficient amounts of money from the military budget to the states,” to allow for increased funding of social programs that provide “a decent level of healthcare and safety for all our citizens.” Many organizations have prepared similar resolutions in cities and states all across the country. 

Bush’s budget proposal for 2005 provided $401.7 billion for the Department of Defense’s base budget, an annual increase of seven percent, for a total increase in defense spending of 35 percent since 2001. 

2005 Discretionary Budget Authority sought by Bush for Departments: 

Defense $401.7 billion  

Health/Hum.Svc. 66.8 billion 

Transportation 57.4 billion  

Education 57.3 billion 

Homeland Sec. 33.8 billion 

Social. Security 9.1 billion 

EPA 7.8 billion  

(“Budget for the Executive Office of the President,” Office of Management and Budget, Aug. 16, 2004.) 

President Bush’s Department of Defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2005 is $25.3 billion more than all of the other 16 departments of the Government combined.  


25. Health and Human Services 

In November 2001, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar, concluded an agreement among all 144 member states, except only the U.S., to help poor nations buy medicines to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, etc., by relaxing patent laws that kept drug prices out of reach. In December 2002, the U.S. single-handedly destroyed the agreement by insisting that strong international patent protection be left in place, following intense lobbying from U.S. pharmaceutical companies. (Richard Du Boff, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Biggest Rogue of All?” Z Magazine, September 2003.) 

In July, 2002, the U.S. cut off its $34 million annual contribution to the UN family-planning program and in November 2002, withdrew its support of the Cairo Action Plan of 1994. The Plan promotes “reproductive health services and health care” to help cut population growth in developing countries, including abortion. 

Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) said the Administration was draining the Governments ability to pay for Social Security and Medicare when 77 million baby boomers are approaching retirement, and it is saddling future generations with repayment of a national debt that could rise to $7 trillion by 2013. (AP, “CBO: Government Faces Years of More Deficits,” Kansas City Star, Aug. 26, 2003.) 

Report 25.1  

Administration Budget Cuts Sent More Single Mothers Into Poverty (Bernadette D. Proctor and Joseph Dalakar, “Poverty in the United States: 2002,” U.S. Census Bureau, September 2003.)  

Report 25.2 

Administration Urged Budget Cuts for Cancer Care (”Most Americans Unaware of Cancer Cuts in Pending Medicare Bills, National Poll Shows,” U.S. Newswire, Sept. 25, 2003.) 

Report 25.3 

Administration Proposed Shrinking Veterans’ Benefits (James Boyne, “Bush Honors Veterans By Slashing Veterans Affairs Budget by $1 Billion,” Irregular Times, June 1, 2004.) 

Report 25.4 

Administration Budgeted for Expanding War Powers, Not U.S. Needs (Peronet Despeignes, “Bush’s Priorities Under Scrutiny,” USA Today, Sept. 18, 2003.) 

Report 25.5 

National Budget Crisis Cut City Services (Richmond Resident, “Richmond Budget Bodes Ill for Future,” IndyMedia.org, April 6, 2004.) 


To be continued... 


Berkeley resident Ann Fagan Ginger is a lawyer, teacher, activist and the author of 24 books. She won a civil liberties case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1959. She is the founder and executive director of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, a Berkeley-based center for human rights and peace law. 

Contents excerpted from Challenging U.S. Human Rights Violations Since 9/11, edited by Ann Fagan Ginger (© 2004 Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute; Prometheus Books 2005) Readers can go to www.mcli.org for a complete listing of reports and sources, with web links.