Here’s what the pending execution of David Powell—the man who’ll be poisoned to death by the state of Texas in Huntsville on June 15th—has me thinking about today.
The Pew Research Center recently released a fascinating survey about how hacked off we all are at the government right now. NPR did a great story on it, and here’s a direct quote from their report:
“Only 22 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew say they can trust government in Washington ‘almost always or most of the time’— among the lowest measures in the half-century since pollsters have been asking the question. And an increasing number—almost 1 of every 3 people—say they believe government is a major threat to their personal freedoms and want federal power reined in. Pew asked people to say whether they were content, frustrated or angry with the federal government—and 3 of every 4 people said they were either frustrated or angry.”
Well, it’s easy to understand why. The waste, the loose spending, the incompetence. And of course, while this poll refers specifically to the way Americans feel about the federal government, none of us seem all too thrilled about our state governments, either.
And personally, I just can’t wait for somebody to provide similar data for our Lone Star politicians.
Anyway, regarding the death penalty, the general frustration with government makes me think three things. First: Why oh why would we let these bureaucrats nobody trusts have the power to kill their own citizens? Meaning, US.
Second: If one of the reasons folks are ticked with the government is because of wasteful spending, then look no further than the death penalty. California spends $137 million dollars a year on theirs—which adds up to about $230 million dollars per execution. While in Texas, we have over 300 people on death row, whose death row expenses end up costing the state about $2.3 million per person. So the next time we’re trying to solve the state’s perennial education budget crisis, we should know just which pantry to raid.
Third: We’ve got to be real careful, y’all, that we don’t take our incredibly understandable frustration with the government out on the folks least able to protect themselves. Like the poor, and people of color, who pass through the death chamber in overwhelming numbers. Did you know that 95% of people on death row can’t even afford to pay their own attorneys? I think we’re veering dangerously close to a system of justice here in America where the folks we’re really, understandably angry with—like our politicians, and the good, good folks of Wall St. and BP—get off fancy-free, and we end up taking our ire out on society’s low-hanging fruit. America’s too good a country for that, folks. We’re too good a country to have a justice system where, if you’re rich, you escape justice, whether you’re guilty or not. And if you’re poor, you “get what’s comin’ to you,” whether you’re innocent or not.
And in the meantime, David Powell—a man who committed murder thirty-two years ago—has five days to live before he’s poisoned to death by the state of Texas.