Monday, September 15, 2008

Lipservice is not a social service

Sarah Palin has claimed to support rape victims, and I don't doubt that she personally sympathizes with all victims of crime. But I also know she lies a lot. She also presided over a change in policy in the Wasilla, AK police department that charged victims for the analysis of rape kits. No one's sympathy is going to make paying $300-1200 for the investigation of their own rape any less of a burden. I don't care how a politician feels, I care what they do.

Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella said in an e-mail that the governor "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test."

"Gov. Palin's position could not be more clear," she said. "To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice.

Luckily for victims in the 90's, the police chief Palin later fired, Irl Stambaugh, yearly requested discretionary funds for the department and used some of them to pay for rape exams, so there were no victims who were stuck with the bill during Stambaugh's tenure. The USA Today article says:

It is not known how many rape victims in Wasilla were required to pay for some or all of the medical exams, but a legislative staffer who worked on the bill for Croft said it happened. "It was more than a couple of cases, and it was standard practice in Wasilla," Peggy Wilcox said, who now works for the Alaska Public Employees Association. "If you were raped in Wasilla, this was going to happen to you."

Stambaugh's Palin-appointed replacement, Charlie Fannon, justified cutting public funding for the investigations with a weak attempt to shift the burden onto not-yet-convicted rapists:

Fannon told the Frontiersman that the tests would cost the department up to $14,000 per year. He said he would rather force rapists to pay for the tests, not taxpayers.

I'd sure like rapists to pay for rape investigations too, but that requires conducting an investigation and convicting the perpetrator. There's also the fact that The Republican/fiscal conservative operating principle that a government sins by comission, not omission, gets good-intentioned people into trouble this way quite a lot. Palin raised funds as mayor through raising taxes, and didn't have a budget shortfall that put rape forensics on the chopping block.

I am inclined to believe what people say about what they feel. It is also quite clear that people support policies that undermine their stated beliefs.

When the McCain campaign adds together a trumped-up number of spending cuts Palin made as governor or mayor, and calls them all "wasteful spending," they can construct out of thin air a narrative about her hard road as a reformer and ally of the taxpayer. Victims are taxpayers, and before they were shoved into the middle of this budget indesrcretion, had shared the bill with the other citizens of their town.McCain's heroic campaign narrative about resisting earmarks and porkbarrel spending sound real nice in general, but when it comes down to the specifics of what happens when the money isn't there, it gets ugly.

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