Sunday, July 24, 2011

If The Tea Party Is Serious, . . . .

They should let Republicans raise the debt limit, but most sane people are telling them that.  I'm not going to waste a post repeating something they won't listen to.

If they're really serious about shrinking the intrusive nature of government, this Wall Street Journal article gives them a place to start putting their indignation to righteous use.

Gary Fields and John Emshwiller, the article's authors, quote an America Bar Association report that asserts
"the amount of individual citizen behavior now potentially subject to federal criminal control has increased in astonishing proportions in the last few decades."
Among the federal laws are injunctions that mandate that
"Unauthorized use of the Smokey Bear image could land an offender in prison. So can unauthorized use of the slogan "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute."
Who does the federal government think it is?  Even Disney doesn't go that far.

On a far more serious note, federal laws ignore long accepted safeguards.
Some of these new federal statutes don't require prosecutors to prove criminal intent, eroding a bedrock principle in English and American law. The absence of this provision, known as mens rea, makes prosecution easier, critics argue.
A study last year by the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers analyzed scores of proposed and enacted new laws for nonviolent crimes in the 109th Congress of 2005 and 2006. It found of the 36 new crimes created, a quarter had no mens rea requirement and nearly 40% more had only a "weak" one.
One of the results is an alarming rise in the federal prison population.
With the growing number of federal crimes, the number of people sentenced to federal prison has risen nearly threefold over the past 30 years to 83,000 annually. The U.S. population grew only about 36% in that period. The total federal prison population, over 200,000, grew more than eightfold—twice the growth rate of the state prison population, now at 2 million, according the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Tougher federal drug laws account for about 30% of people sentenced, a decline from over 40% two decades ago. The proportion of people sentenced for most other crimes, such as firearms possession, fraud and other non-violent offenses, has doubled in the past 20 years.
Maintaining prisons is far from cheap
In 2006, $68,747,203,000 was spent on corrections. "The average annual operating cost per state inmate in 2001 was $22,650, or $62.05 per day; among facilities operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, it was $22,632 per inmate, or $62.01 per day."
Housing the approximately 500,000 people in jail awaiting trial who cannot afford bail costs $9 billion a year. Most jail inmates are petty, nonviolent offenders. Twenty years ago most nonviolent defendants were released on their own recognizance (trusted to show up at trial). Now most are given bail, and most pay a bail bondsman to afford it. 62% of local jail inmates are awaiting trial.
I realize that changing some of these federal laws will not have a major effect on the deficit, but there should be some savings.  Something tells me that the Tea Party won't do much about protecting  citizens from this form of government overreach.  I guess I'll stick to drinking Diet Dew.

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