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When I Become President

With the publication of this blog post, I am announcing the beginning of my campaign for the Presidency in 2020. I know I’m getting a late start; I should have started on election night of 2016 but I think I have a compelling message.

My candidacy will stand out because I’m not going to focus on the traditional hot-button issues. Since I know my opponents will spend a lot of time talking about abortion, gun control, global warming, etc., I need to be different.

I plan to run as a strict law-and-order candidate. I will promise, if elected, the following:
* Anyone convicted of phone solicitation will receive an automatic ten-year jail sentence. This penalty will be doubled if the solicitation involved robocalling.
* Anyone convicted of sending spam will receive a mandatory thirty-year jail sentence.
* Anyone convicted of sending a malicious computer virus will automatically receive a death sentence. No appeals.
* Anyone convicted of identity theft will be drawn and quartered at high noon in the public square.

I think all of these issues are real winners, appealing to both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. I plan to run lots of negative ads accusing my opponents of being soft on robocallers and hackers.

There is only one glitch to this message: I also want to go after all of those people who abuse the use of the handicapped placard in their cars.

My campaign against people who do this is based on a very simple assumption that all of us know but sometimes gloss over: The placards are designed for people who have serious mobility problems. Not wanting to walk or not wanting to be inconvenienced by walking doesn’t count. After all, for those of us who don’t fall into this category, the additional distances we are expected to walk are relatively trivial.

My wife tells a story of how, when she was the Executive Director of a YMCA, a number of the blue-haired women who were taking an eldercise course complained that they had to walk half a block because they were prevented from using the handicapped parking places in the front of the building. How bizarre is this? They were griping about having to take a few extra steps to get to their hour-long exercise course.

Let me make an important qualification. Not everyone who has a genuine need for the placard has a medical condition that is obvious. Someone who has had a heart transplant, for example, will not look any different than the typical driver but may still need to avoid walking additional distances. That woman you think is abusing the “handicapped” parking privilege may be taking chemotherapy.
But, just because someone has a disability, doesn’t mean they are automatically entitled to the placard either. In fact, there are a considerable number of disabled people who are as capable of walking as their nondisabled peers. I’ve lost track of the times when friends have asked where our handicapped placard is when they go to park our car. I have to explain that “the bottom end of me works fine; it’s the top that’s the problem.”

This having been said, there is still enough abuse of the privilege that we may have to build some additional prison facilities to house all of the serial placard offenders. I would target three groups in particular.

First, I’d want the state legislature to pass some type of law requiring anyone having a placard to get approval to have it renewed periodically. As it stands now, once you have it, it’s good till the day you die, and, if your family is especially clever, there’s nothing preventing it from being passed on as part of your estate. I once had a neighbor who routinely used her husband’s placard even though he had been dead for twenty years.

Second, while it is only a small percentage of the profession, I’d like to find some way to crack-down on members of the medical profession who issue approvals for the placards promiscuously. I suspect that more than a few people are issued a placard when, what they really need, is to be told candidly to change their life style and lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, etc.

Third, since the public probably won’t stand for a greater use of capital punishment than I have already advocated, I would, in an ideal world, like to see existing laws against parking in handicapped places without the placard more strictly enforced and more severely punished.

Actually, I think the need for serious penalties could be largely avoided if everyone just traveled a couple of times with someone who genuinely needed the placard and the parking place. For me, that experience happened several years ago when I was riding with a friend who is paralyzed and driving his specially modified van. He had to stop off at the mall to pick-up something. The rain was coming in torrents, and the parking lot looked like something more suitable for an ark than the mall. Not surprisingly, customers had taken all of the parking places near the doors. Sadly, this included all of those designated for disabled drivers, even though a large majority of the cars showed no evidence of the handicapped placard. I suppose these drivers felt that everyone else was just being thoughtful and leaving these prime spaces vacant for them.

I wish I could say there was a happy ending to this story, but there wasn’t. We parked half a block away, and, while everyone else was scampering to their cars, my friend slowly negotiated his wheelchair across the parking lot and into the mall. Of course, he then had to negotiate his way back to the car through the rain. He was more thoroughly soaked than most people are after a shower.

It was then that I realized that, while the placard and preferred parking place issue, is a relatively annoying and inconsequential question for most of us, for those who are directly affected, it is a very big deal. I may not win the election but I’ll bet I carry every vote of people like my friend.

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