Did The Nanny State Kill Eric Garner? Ctd


All of our coverage of Eric Garner this week can be read here. Readers aren’t buying these arguments over the nanny state:

This is NOT about taxes.  This is about a guy being an unlicensed middle man.  For people who are poor, paying $1 for cigarette might be doable even though that’s double the price they’d pay per unit if they bought a pack.  If the pack only cost $2, someone could still pull a profit selling loosies at 25 cents each.  People would still buy them, people would still sell them. People sold loosies even when cigarettes were cheaper.

I live in California, in a few convenience stores (poor neighborhoods) I’ve seen a cup set up with “loosies” for sale.  It’s against the law.  I haven’t heard of any big arrests.

Another focuses on class:

So this is basically a guy who was trying to avoid paying taxes. How many people in suits are walking around free who do just that? I’m not even sure this is a race thing but more a class thing. Al Sharpton owes millions, but there are no cops throwing him down in chokeholds.

Another goes on a tear:

The non-indictment in the Eric Garner case makes me furious. People responding to it by claiming that cigarette taxes are the problem might make me even more furious.

It makes no difference whether we agree with the law Garner was breaking or not. It is the law, and he was breaking it (allegedly). The problem is not that the cops were trying to arrest him. The problem is that he died. If Garner had shoplifted and the cops had then confronted and killed him in this way, would that make it okay? The arguments of the conservative bloggers you quote seem to imply that it would. Which makes me want to vomit.

A friend suggested to me that maybe the people complaining about cigarette taxes could be a good thing, as it might be the only way to get white conservatives to pay attention to dead black men. Actually, I think it’s exactly the opposite of getting white conservatives to pay attention to dead black men. It’s a way for them to ignore that problem and pretend that the real problem here is “nanny state” taxes. “If we just get rid of those taxes, the whole issue goes away! Problem solved! Good job, guys! What, you think there’s still a problem? You think the problem is unchecked racism and brutality by the police? What a pathetic liberal loser, get out of here, all we need to do is get rid of cigarette taxes.”

On the other side, my own representative, Keith Ellison (I’m a huge fan generally), has been sort of hijacking this police racism/brutality/unaccountability conversation to talk about his own pet issues of poverty, inequality and raising the minimum wage. To the extent that he falls back on these issues as a way of avoiding addressing the real issue of police reform, I’m equally bothered by this response.

However, I think Ellison has more ground to stand on here, because the issues of economic inequality and inequality of treatment by law enforcement are undeniably intertwined. As Ellison points out, a lot of the same people are protesting both low wages and police injustices right now, which makes sense, because a lot of the same people are most negatively impacted by both of those things. That interconnection isn’t there with cigarette tax policy. If it wasn’t selling untaxed cigarettes, Garner could have been harassed/arrested/killed for a million other petty offenses. Like carrying an airsoft gun. The specific offense he was arrested for was not the issue.

Another points out:

The UK and many other European countries are far more of a nanny state. On just about every aspect of US life, there are dozens of examples of countries that are more regulated.  But it is uniquely in the US that those interactions between citizen and enforcer of the law ends up with a dead citizen.

This guy is selling loose cigarettes?  Write him a ticket. Issue a misdemeanor citation. Require him to show up in court in five days to answer the charge at a preliminary hearing.

The cop instead went for an illegal – illegal and forbidden by policy! – chokehold. And Staten Island gave him the ok. It is the relationship between the enforcer and citizen that is fundamentally flawed, not that laws exist. Someone trying to make it about taxes is frankly insulting; they are butting in to the conversation to talk about an unrelated hobby horse.

Another diverges from the others:

The bigger story in the Eric Garner case is one of Freedom, or lack thereof. Why the hell is it “illegal” to sell a fucking loosey? Quit taxing so much shit already.  Quit making so many fucking things illegal. Dismantle the damn regulatory state.  Without the pretense of so many government regulations and laws, Eric Garner would never have been harassed in the first place.

Live and let live and leave us the fuck alone!  Let us enjoy some of the “freedom” that America supposedly promises to us! That’s a message the white and black community should get behind.  But of course the Politicians would never allow it because there isn’t enough room for graft, power and corruption.

(Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)