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Gasoline and guillotines

Gasoline has been in the news again this week.
First experts are warning that the price will shoot up again because it’s so low now that companies will stop investing in exploration and development. When it comes to prices, it seems with the oil industry what goes down goes up; when it comes to profit what goes up goes up farther.
Next, we’re being warned that a nickel bump in the gas tax is in the works to help pay for the repair of the state’s aging network of 114,000 miles of roads. For some reason people fixate on the price of gas as if it’s the cost of a breath of air. People who will drop 10 grand on a boat will drive 10 miles out of their way to save a penny a gallon, as if the difference of 20 cents on their next fill-up is what is keeping them above the poverty line.
Then gas shoots up two, three hundred percent like it did over the past couple years and guess what, people still find a way to pay for it. Sure, Amtrak ridership soared and Hummer sales plummeted, but basically most people continued on their way, paying near $4 per precious gallon at the pump.
Now it’s back down to the buck and a half territory, and a nickel hike in tax makes the front page of the newspaper. The sky is falling. And what will the extra $50 or so a year- the average each motorist will pay if the raise passes- go toward? Fixing roads and bridges. Then everyone can drive more and farther without the inconvenience of crumbling roads and crashing bridges.
Meanwhile, climate change is changing weather patterns, befouling the air we breathe, and sending plants and animals to extinction.
While gas is cheap I suggest you drive north to see a glacier.
Other items much closer to home in the news recently that make no sense to me: the sentencing of a Solon teenager to 13 years in prison and the charge of first-degree murder against a Coralville women.
One is charged with and the other convicted of killing their child– terrible acts by anyone’s standards.
But what is the purpose of our criminal justice system, retribution and/or deterrence? If it’s the former, the punishment has already been exacted if these women ever come to understand the terrible thing they’ve done. If it’s the latter, does anyone believe that a woman in such a mental state that she is about to kill her own child will stop and think about the consequences in terms of how many years she’ll spend in prison?
Not that we can just let both go as if nothing happened, but putting them in our already overcrowded prisons makes no sense. Who is getting their pound of flesh? Who is it going to stop?
Where harsh punishment would be a deterrent, there’s often only a slap on the wrist for white collar crimes committed by millionaires. You want to make people think twice about bilking innocent people? Bring back the guillotine and lop off the heads of Bernard L. Madoff, the boys at ENRON, and a few others on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange.
It’s a cruel form of punishment, but in my mind it matches the crime, especially for those that steal extra-large amounts of money. After they take their first million they are doing it just because they can, not because they have to. It’s an ultimate depravity.
The method would be both retribution for the pain and suffering they inflicted on thousands of people and a great deterrent.