May 28, 2011


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The DA

“Let there be no mistake: when you produce so many criminals that you can’t afford to lock them up, you are a failed state.”

It’s a shame that an article with so many on-point observations would include such a flawed argument about California producing so many criminals that the state can’t afford to lock them up. Both Mr. Mead’s premise and analogies in this regard are startlingly without a semblance of insight.

States do not produce criminals. If someone chooses to murder, rob, rape, or steal etc., this is not the type of behavior that any civilized state either encourages or condones. There are no state schools, state policies, or state training programs designed to increase the number of criminals in our midst.

In contrast, the state’s job is to apprehend criminals, and remove them from the general populace for a time in accordance with the crimes committed. It is a state’s ability to fully investigate and punish criminal behavior wherever it is found that is the true measure of success or failure. The state’s number one job is to keep the law-abiding populace safe from the miscreants who prey upon them.

Mr. Mead mistakes the incarceration population as a be-all end-all fait accompli to prove an alleged failure by the state. The inherent fallacy of this is easy to demolish. After California bids an early adieu to 37,000 or so convicted felons, will the dramatically reduced prison population now indicate we have become “successful?”

I don’t think so.

Statistics are like magic pills to those with intellectually bankrupt hypotheses. Mr. Mead fails to recognize that one of the key reasons for California’s large prison population is that major criminals are being required to do the majority of time that they have been sentenced to. The public does not want convicted child molestors to spend only two years in prison when they have been sentenced to ten. The public does not want third-strike felons to waltz away in six years when they don’t deserve even one day of freedom for the rest of their lives. By keeping serious offenders locked up, the actual crime rate has diminished dramatically. Most reasonable citizens would label this a success.

The failure of California is not in the number of incarcerated prisoners, but rather in the failure to keep proper tabs on a budget in order to build and maintain more correctional facilities. The failure has been in acquiescing to the wildly outrageous demands of the prison guards union. This budgeting failure by our elected officials is akin to a middle-class family of four purchasing a Toyota Corolla for $100,000, and then being unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Mr. Mead’s first line should have read: “

“Let there be no mistake: when you produce so many incompetent politicians who wildly overspend on necessities, you are a failed state.”


Actually, the first line should have read, "...when you produce so many dis-interested and poor voters and citizens, you are a failed state."
The thing that is scary about our current situation is that for the first time in a while I've noticed people beginning to question the value of both democracy and capitalism.
And the failure is not in our elected official's decisions, its in our electorate demanding that they make those decisions.
The almost comical part of the discussion is people proposing solutions like getting rid of pensions to 'solve' the retirement issue. That only solves the accounting issue, it doesnt address that those people will retire anyway, and in fact alternates to pensions are orders of magnitude less effective for saving for retirement. Prohibit retiree's from voting, and it might work. But if you dont, the situation will be worse than with pensions.

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