Sep 142011
Authors: Jesse Benn

Did anyone catch either of the recent GOP debates? No? I didn’t either, really. I did kind of watch them while doing more important things though, like playing Angry Birds.

For me, each debate had its own especially appalling moment, both coming from the torch and pitchfork rearing crowds, rather than candidates on stage.

Most recently, we had members of Monday night’s audience cheer at the idea of letting a hypothetical comatose, uninsured patient die (how patriotic).

First though, while you let that sink in, let’s talk about my favorite appalling moment from last Wednesday’s debate.

Brian Williams tried to ask Rick Perry about Texas’ high number of executions  — before Williams could even finish his question, the crowd erupted in applause at the mere mention of executions.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; we are a pretty religious country in the Judeo-Christian sense, and the Bible does have some of that eye-for-an-eye stuff in there. But it’s 2011, we are one of the only “developed” nations in the world that still has capital punishment, and not only do we have it, but we applaud its mass application.

This is an important issue, and something tells me a lot of people just haven’t really thought about it. Killing people, to prove killing other people is wrong, is wrong.

And it’s not just because that’s a catchy bumper sticker, or because I’m some sort of peace-loving hippie, but because it really is wrong, and on a few levels.

For now let’s skip the whole moral part of it, you know, like the whole possibility of killing an innocent person thing, and just consider the costs.

Without knowing better, it would be easy to assume that it costs more money to imprison someone for life than it does to execute them, but this simply isn’t true. Carrying out a death sentence actually costs exponentially more.

The reason for the additional costs, be it delays in the courts, the extended appeals process or expensive last meals, is really irrelevant. The fact is that it costs more to kill someone than to imprison them for life without parole. Why that argument alone doesn’t convince most people (especially conservatives), I really don’t know. Aren’t we all supposed to be deficit hawks now? Even in Texas, where they are really good at killing people, the cost to do so is three times what it would be to hold the same person in a maximum security cell for 40 years.

In states that aren’t as good at carrying out capital punishment, the cost is higher — New Jersey even managed to spend $253 million over 23 years without executing anyone.

Add to that basic truth the flaws and imbalances in our justice system, the lack of evidence supporting capital punishment as a deterrent, its random application, the presence of a sensible, cheaper alternative, and you should come to the same conclusion two-thirds of the world has — capital punishment has no place in today’s society.  

And as if that audience reaction in the GOP debate wasn’t appalling enough, this week, while everyone was watching Monday Night Football, there was another even more disgusting reaction to a question.

This time, the question came as part of a follow up for Ron Paul. Wolf Blitzer asked, “…are you saying that society should just let him die?”  He was referring to a hypothetical uninsured 30-year-old working man in a coma, and whether or not he should receive treatment.

It wasn’t Paul’s answer that was unsettling. Paul, love him or hate him, comes from a genuine ideological place and generally means well. It was the enthusiastic yelling of, “Yeah!,” that came from the audience that made me cringe.

Really think about what these people were yelling for: letting someone die. And it wasn’t for someone who murdered somebody, like those who cheered at the last debate for capital punishment.

As much as I disagree with that opinion, at least I get it. The feeling is understandable. But what kind of person cheers for the preventable death of a 30-year-old, uninsured working-man — even a hypothetical one?  

We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and yet we apparently have citizens among us who would rather see someone die than use a small bit of that abundant wealth to help pay their medical bills.

It hasn’t always been this way, and it doesn’t always have to be. We can go back to picking each other up instead of tearing each other down.

And it seems to me that not joyously applauding executions, or yelling for uninsured, sick, working class people to die, might be a good place to start.

Jesse Benn is a senior political science major who is about to go eat dinner with his wife. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. He can be reached at

 Posted by at 4:07 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.