Friday, August 1, 2014

An Electoral Strategy

Yes, there are huge questions facing our country. War or peace, renewal of the cold war? Immigration? Economics? All important. But we know enough to understand that elections don't often hinge on important questions; they hinge on feelings, emotions, and immediate concerns. As in, abortion, gay marriage, giveaways to the lazy poor.

Thus comes my proposal for a cogent electoral strategy. Hear me out.

Last week, my security was breached. My bank was contacted for a transfer of funds to a third party. All my financial institutions were contacted in a similar manner. Later, all my email contacts were spammed for information, and false invoices were mailed to them (and to me.) And yesterday my bank was presented with a check with my wife's forged signature that was cashed at a Southern California credit union (my corporate account was defrauded via a credit union too, some years ago. What is it with credit unions?) The fraudsters have not received any money from me that I know about, and I have taken the laborious but necessary steps of changing my bank account number, changing all passwords and User ID numbers, cleaning up my computer, etc. A pain, and emotionally disorienting, but so far, so good.

I am not alone. Everyone I have talked to has told me I am only one in a long line. Many of my friends who have been spammed have recounted their own family's misadventures. Anyone who has visited Target knows the feeling. The amount of resources expended by institutions on this sort of fraud must be enormous. I wonder what the total population impact and total cost is. It's got to be huge.

At the same time, it is excruciatingly difficult to identify the miscreants in these frauds, and difficult even to report them. I can't find a way to tell Google that someone created a new email address called – one “d,” such an insult and abomination! There is no fraud unit ready to jump into action. The bank said originally that their major function would be to deny payment on the fraudulent check, and leave it at that. They said I could do something personally if I cared to. I demanded to see a senior officer who said he would contact the FBI. I doubt that this will lead anywhere; after all, I haven't even lost money. My wife's identity was stolen last year. Amazingly they caught the people involved trying to charge on her account in a Sacramento store – and the Sacramento police let them go! WTF?? In essence, there is precious little enforcement.

Now let's look somewhere else in the public policy sphere. We know that the prisons are overflowing, and needlessly so. The failed War on Drugs is a major source of all the incarceration; everyone knows that. Why the War on Drugs has not been able to be shut down and replaced is a mystery of the usual public policy and bureaucratic stagnation. (In my own field of pediatrics, the self-maintenance of the bureaucracy around lead poisoning – an affliction that sank to very low levels decades ago as soon as gasoline was made unleaded – has been absolutely astonishing. The public health bureaucracy employs thousands. But I digress.) But there is clearly movement as marijuana is being legalized, despite the entrenched interests who benefit from maintenance of its illegality.

So, let's put this all together. My proposal is this: Let's take the money from the War on Drugs and devote it to the War on Credit Care and Online Fraud. And let's do a Prisoner Exchange – let the marijuana offenders out of the clink, and refill it with the Fraudsters. That should keep the Prison Guard Union happy. I'd call it The Great Pivot, “Out of drugs and into fraud!”

Sounds like good public policy to me. If someone were to run on this platform, can there be any doubt it would be an overwhelming winner? Any doubt at all?

I thought not.

Budd Shenkin

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