Not quite the way I would write this headline

Obama: $80 billion spent on incarceration could eliminate tuition at public universities

I think it would be an interesting experiment, certainly, jailing most of the US faculty and administration at those public universities and I can see that the wage savings would be substantial.

But I don’t think that’s quite the story Vox is trying to tell there……

31 thoughts on “Not quite the way I would write this headline”

  1. If he is that bothered stop the fucking drug war and let 70% of the prisoners go home.

    Also the ONE does not seem overly concerned about the corporate socialist system of jailhouse slavery presently running in the good ol’USA. People are being jailed over minor matters so they can be used as slave labour.

  2. Obama: $80 billion spent on incarceration could eliminate tuition at public universities

    Yes, but then you’d have rapists and murderers running free, which might – possibly – offset the advantages of having the government pay for people to take degrees in Gender Studies.

    Plus, what Mr Ecks said.

  3. Yes, but then you’d have rapists and murderers running free, which might – possibly – offset the advantages of having the government pay for people to take degrees in Gender Studies.

    Well universities are supposed to have a rape culture going on…

  4. We could save hundreds of billions if we just surrendered to the Iranians.

    Peace is easy to attain . . . just surrender.

  5. So barry wants to reward his loyal followers in Academia at the expense of law and order, something that the Dems do not seem particularly concerned by?

    Quelle surprise….

  6. Also, as has been discussed before, you can have german-style (or British pre-reform) style carreer-focussed universities free, but not the US full-service, “liberal arts” model where all and sundry dabble in angry studies, the PC view of history, and taking language courses that corresponded to the stuff I was doing at prep school aged 11/12 (seriously, sister-in-law got credit for her final year at a US uni doing a very, very noddy Latin course, where I was doing seriously mind-bending engineering at neither Cambridge nor Hull).

  7. America is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners.

    This is a frequent trope, but has anyone actually challenged this? Not that the figures may not be correct but comparing or consolidating a country like America, with relatively high personal freedom and low execution rates, to others with not so much, is a bit apples and oranges.

    Countries where you get executed for many offences (even non-violent ones like tax evasion and having the “wrong” sexuality or deity) wont have those people in prison because they’ll be dead, this is an accumulative effect as well when applied to just counting the prisoners as in America they’ll be in jail for a number of years whilst more prisoners arrive, this is amplified by the non-serious crimes as a dead person can no longer commit any more.

    Just consider the accumulated prison population of China were executions not taking place on such a grand scale, it would be bigger by degrees and that would significantly change Obama’s percentages.

    Alternatively, countries where you aren’t allowed to do things that could lead to illegal activity are going to have fewer prisoners for those crimes because the crime becomes almost non-existent. A country that bans weapons is obviously going to have less serious deaths and injury, meaning less murder and “bodily harm” crimes, meaning shorter sentences, leading to less accumulative prisoners.

    It is reasonable to suggest that less freedom means less crime, for example, excluding half your population from driving is going to impact the ability to engage in crime in many areas of activity.

    America’s high prison population is more of a testament to its attitude to personal freedom, it should be considered a badge of honour. If you are allowed to do more things, then you’ll also be allowed to do more wrong things, and crime will be higher. America should be lauding its high prisoner count as a demonstration of personal freedoms.

    Although I agree that the “war on drugs” contributes a great deal to American prison populations, I don’t think relaxing the laws on drugs will have as massive an effect as anyone thinks. There are many hardened drug dealers who maliciously hook up their victims, and that will still remain a crime, and I’d guess there could be a large number of prisoners resulting from drugs offences who’d be inside anyway even if the drugs offence was not counted, the drug offence is often part of bigger criminal activity.

    Don’t take this as an endorsement of “war on drugs”, I just don’t think it’s as big an issue as it is made out, there are alarmists on both sides of the argument.

  8. @Mr. Ecks – The data you linked to is for Federal prisons only. The data I linked to is for both Federal and state prisons. Federal prisons have a high proportion of drug offenders because major drug operations occur across state lines, whereas most other crimes occur within the boundaries of a single state.

  9. @JerryC: surely the federal prison population is the important one when you’re discussing what Obama should do. That being his jurisdiction.

  10. JerryC, Mr Ecks,

    Looking at the state+federal crime (supplied by JerryC), it doesn’t tell us what proportion of violent and property crime is drug-related. If you’re burgling houses to feed a habit, that’s property crime; if you beat the life out of a rival dealer, that’s violence; neither gets counted as drug-related. So yes, the 70% figure is plausible.

  11. @MattyJ – Obama’s tweet about $80B referred to the entirety of US incarceration expenditure, not expenditure on Federal prisons alone. And to put the two populations in perspective, there were 215, 000 inmates in Federal prisons in 2013, compared to 1.2 million in state prisons.

  12. JerryC, Mr Ecks et al

    Don’t worry, it’s been pointed out elsewhere that big numbers don’t matter.

  13. What if lots of drug convictions are the result of the American penchant for plea-bargaining? Wouldn’t that make the figures largely useless?

  14. “What if lots of drug convictions are the result of the American penchant for plea-bargaining? Wouldn’t that make the figures largely useless?”

    This.

    The US justice system has something like a 97% conviction rate, due to the plea bargaining system. Most cases don’t go to a proper examinatory trial.

  15. So Much for Subtlety

    dearieme – “What if lots of drug convictions are the result of the American penchant for plea-bargaining? Wouldn’t that make the figures largely useless?”

    A lot of them are also because the prosecutors can’t get them for other crimes. Murder often goes unpunished because no one will testify. So get them with some other charge.

    That is why Al Capone was not convicted of murder and neither was O J Simpson. Does anyone think Al Capone was a non-violent criminal whose problem revolved around a little creative accounting?

  16. So Much for Subtlety

    Andrew M – “If you’re burgling houses to feed a habit, that’s property crime; if you beat the life out of a rival dealer, that’s violence; neither gets counted as drug-related. So yes, the 70% figure is plausible.”

    So just for the record, you think people who break into my home for their thirty seconds of bliss are actually not real criminals? That dealers who murder other people should be free to walk the streets?

    I like a good glass of port, and you know, I have never felt tempted to steal someone else’s DVD player to pay for it. Why would it be different if I wanted to be a bad ar$e and worked hard to develop a drug habit? Somehow I think that you have the cart before the horse. Drugs don’t make bad people do bad things. People who don’t give a damn about society’s rules are likely to end up where the money is. We would have to jail them no matter what the drug laws were.

  17. SMFS: ” We would have to jail them no matter what the drug laws were.” Nonsense.

    Most druggies who are not well off have to steal or push to pay for their habit because the antics of the state drives the prices of the stuff to stratospheric levels. Most druggies are not criminal entrepreneurs or pushing for drug salesman of the year. Without minimum wage bullshit a job pushing broom would be all that was needed to buy the drugs. Even those who would still steal to pay for their habit would have to steal far less than they do now.

    I don’t have any sympathy for thieves, muggers etc. Far from it. But if most addicts could buy the stuff at the chemist for the pennies it actually costs the world would be vastly better off. A huge amount of crime would vanish. The gangs would be fucked (and please no bollocks about how they will move into other areas–what other areas?). The scum of the state would lose their free tyranny pass. Massive amounts of cash would be saved. A lot of pukes all over the planet would be rendered penniless overnight. It would be a win all around.

  18. So Much for Subtlety

    Mr Ecks – “Most druggies who are not well off have to steal or push to pay for their habit because the antics of the state drives the prices of the stuff to stratospheric levels.”

    But how do you know you do not have that exactly backwards? Let me suggest another explanation. Most druggies are not well off because they have nothing but contempt for middle class society, and their DVD players. They are taking drugs because they think the laws do not, or should not, apply to them. The drugs do not force them to steal. They would steal any way. They take the drugs because the drugs are fun and they do not care about the suffering of other people.

    “Even those who would still steal to pay for their habit would have to steal far less than they do now.”

    If, of course, they were stealing to pay for their habit. Are they? Well let’s look at that well known drug addict Sid Vicious. Any sign that perhaps, you know, he was not otherwise a fine and upstanding citizen? Apart from the girlfriend of course.

    “A huge amount of crime would vanish.”

    No, a justification for crime would vanish. Instead of saying “poor me, it was the drugs, not me”, they would have to think of some other excuse.

    “The gangs would be fucked (and please no bollocks about how they will move into other areas–what other areas?).”

    The Mafia seems to be doing well. What other area? Who knows? Criminals would find a way.

    Criminals are criminals because they are criminals. All drugs do is allow us to cheaply and quickly identify who they are.

  19. If the program ‘Cops’ is at all real – americans seem to live in chains. Or at least handcuffs. Everyone seems guilty enough ‘for their own protection’.
    And new handcuff crimes are being invented all the time.
    Domestic violence is all the go. And when they say it is a felony – you have trouble getting work. So more crime if you want to eat.

  20. SMFS: You venture beyond nonsense.

    “But how do you know you do not have that exactly backwards? Let me suggest another explanation. Most druggies are not well off because they have nothing but contempt for middle class society, and their DVD players. ”

    Druggies opinions on any topic are irrelevant. Drugs cost what they cost . You want them you pay. Can’t earn–then they steal. Are they scum–yes. Their opinion on decent values is however of no consequence.

    “They are taking drugs because they think the laws do not, or should not, apply to them.”

    They are entirely correct. What a person does with their body is their business and fuck all meddlers and prohibitionists. And any law outside of the Golden Rule.

    “The drugs do not force them to steal.”

    The price means they can’t earn enough even if they were inclined to work. Theft is all that remains. Of course they steal. Do I approve? No–but anybody’s approval or disapproval has no effect on what is and will continue to happen.

    ” They would steal any way.”

    A large amount of cash is needed to feed a habit, These people have few interests beyond drugs and booze. If drugs were cheap what would they spend the proceeds of their one-person crime-waves on? Season tickets to the Opera? They may still steal but they are fundamentally idle and will do as little as they must. Most of their time is spent on brain-bomb apart from the time required to get the cash to acquire brain-bomb. Price goes down? Time freed will be spent zonked not pursuing a criminal career.

    “They take the drugs because the drugs are fun and they do not care about the suffering of other people.”

    Agreed.

    “Even those who would still steal to pay for their habit would have to steal far less than they do now.”

    “If, of course, they were stealing to pay for their habit. Are they? Well let’s look at that well known drug addict Sid Vicious”

    Sid Vicious? . He was not a low rung criminal (in character perhaps but not in fact) and could afford his habit.

    .” Any sign that perhaps, you know, he was not otherwise a fine and upstanding citizen? Apart from the girlfriend of course.”

    What has Sid V’s bad character to do with the general issue of druggies obtaining the wherewithal for a fix?

    “A huge amount of crime would vanish.”

    “No, a justification for crime would vanish. Instead of saying “poor me, it was the drugs, not me”, they would have to think of some other excuse.”

    The amount of crime done by druggies is high. There is little evidence that the proceeds of their crimes is spent on much else besides drugs. You will not be rubbing shoulders with many low-life trustees of modern chemistry at RSC first-nights or Glyndebourne. They don’t usually buy Magnet kitchens or effect the trappings of middle-class success on the proceeds of their crimes. The cash mostly goes to buy drugs. Which is why pig-ignorant Columbian peasants have been able to accumulate more cash than Howard Hughes or J Paul Getty.

    “The gangs would be fucked (and please no bollocks about how they will move into other areas–what other areas?).”

    “The Mafia seems to be doing well.”

    Selling drugs mostly.

    ” What other area? Who knows? Criminals would find a way.”

    Vague waffle. Perhaps they might bring back Greenshield Stamps. Or cigarette coupons

    “Criminals are criminals because they are criminals.”

    There is a job as Home Secretary with your name on it.

    “All drugs do is allow us to cheaply and quickly identify who they are.”

    Most of the British music scene past and present for starters.

  21. So Much for Subtlety

    Mr Ecks – “Druggies opinions on any topic are irrelevant. Drugs cost what they cost . You want them you pay. Can’t earn–then they steal. Are they scum–yes. Their opinion on decent values is however of no consequence.”

    Actually their views on decent values matters. Because there is no natural law that says anyone has to take drugs. You keep assuming druggies have no agency. Drugs cost what they cost. Druggies take them because they like them. Therefore they steal. See the part that I stress? I like a glass of wine but I would not steal your DVD to get one. Why is smack any different?

    “They are entirely correct. What a person does with their body is their business and fuck all meddlers and prohibitionists. And any law outside of the Golden Rule.”

    Although neither they nor you seem to apply that logic to my DVD player. Let us all agree that whatever rights they have, they do not have the right to steal my DVD player. On the other hand if they think their 30 seconds of fun is more important than my right to live undisturbed with my DVD player, we have a problem.

    “The price means they can’t earn enough even if they were inclined to work. Theft is all that remains.”

    Are you really making this claim? There is one other option. They can stop using drugs. No one is forcing them to. It is not hard to stop. Most of us do not, actually, steal even though all of us would enjoy the drugs. Not even most of us who have had those drugs in their system continue to break the law.

    “If drugs were cheap what would they spend the proceeds of their one-person crime-waves on? Season tickets to the Opera? They may still steal but they are fundamentally idle and will do as little as they must.”

    You keep coming so close to understanding and then you pull back. Yes, they are scum. The drugs didn’t make them that way. They won’t stop if drugs are legal.

    “What has Sid V’s bad character to do with the general issue of druggies obtaining the wherewithal for a fix?”

    Because people with bad character tend to have bad characters whether or not they are taking drugs. Sid Vicious would still have been a nasty piece of work if he was sober.

    “There is a job as Home Secretary with your name on it.”

    If only.

    “Most of the British music scene past and present for starters.”

    A more wretched hive of scum and villainy would be hard to find.

  22. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I think the real take-away here is that far too much is being spent on tertiary education in the US. $80 billion? They’re not getting much bang for their buck. How about decriminalising drugs, saving a huge amount of money, and then not spending it? It’s arguable which is more harmful to both the individual and society at large: a $200 a day smack habit or a sociology degree from Central State University, OH. People can quit heroin, but a Women’s Studies degree fucks you up beyond all hope of redemption.

  23. SMFS:

    If people want to take drugs and pay for them out of their own resources that is their business.

    Bad people steal. We can agree on that. Bad people are lazy–crime is a “shortcut” as the late Colin Wilson used to put it. They will steal to pay for their habit. But they will steal as little as they need because they are lazy. Therefore lower drug price equals less crime.

    “They could stop taking drugs”

    My God–You have just discovered the answer. Not just to drugs but to crime and evil in general. Bad people should stop doing bad things. Man you deserve a Nobel Peace prize. If only someone had thought of it before now. All those wasted centuries…

    All right, that is enough heavy-handed sarcasm. But the point abides. It seems that you are looking for an justification to dish out punishment. While I am all in favour of bad people having the shit kicked out of them, drug crime is a field were threat and punishment aren’t making it and never will. Find some other, more effective way to express the anger/hatred within.

  24. So Much for Subtlety

    Mr Ecks – “If people want to take drugs and pay for them out of their own resources that is their business.”

    Not when the law says what they are doing is illegal.

    “Bad people steal. We can agree on that.”

    I don’t think we do or we would not be having this conversation. You seem to think drugs make good people steal. If we are agreed that bad people steal there is no more need for discussion. Bad people belong in prison. Whether or not they are taking drugs.

    “But they will steal as little as they need because they are lazy. Therefore lower drug price equals less crime.”

    Will they? No drug user has ever become a drug king pin? I agree they tend to have low ambitions but then so do most people who don’t have wives and children and a mortgage to pay. I don’t think it follows that they will steal at a lower rate if the drugs are cheap.

    “My God–You have just discovered the answer. Not just to drugs but to crime and evil in general. Bad people should stop doing bad things. Man you deserve a Nobel Peace prize. If only someone had thought of it before now. All those wasted centuries…”

    Indeed. You mock but it is true. There is nothing that forces anyone to take drugs. They have to want to. They have to reject society and its values. At any time they can stop. They usually do if they live long enough.

    “It seems that you are looking for an justification to dish out punishment.”

    Well no. I am taking a libertarian attitude to drugs. We are the masters of our own homes, well bodies in this case. We can and do take drugs or not. As we like. It is within our power to choose right and to choose wrong. Stealing is wrong. People who steal need to be punished. End. Of. Story.

    “drug crime is a field were threat and punishment aren’t making it and never will. Find some other, more effective way to express the anger/hatred within.”

    I disagree. We are not actually trying punishment – no one goes to jail for one or even two drug crimes. We have not tried punishment since the Rolling Stones. If we did, we would soon not have a drug problem. Simple as that.

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    Mr Ecks – “drug crime is a field were threat and punishment aren’t making it and never will. Find some other, more effective way to express the anger/hatred within.”

    Keith Richards got caught with some heroin in Canada. He was told in no uncertain terms that if he continued to use, he would never get a visa to the US again.

    He stopped using and never used again.

    The credible threat of real punishment worked. As it always does.

  26. SMFS:
    “Not when the law says what they are doing is illegal”

    Piss on the law.

    “Well no. I am taking a libertarian attitude to drugs. We are the masters of our own homes, well bodies in this case. We can and do take drugs or not. As we like. It is within our power to choose right and to choose wrong. Stealing is wrong. People who steal need to be punished. End. Of. Story.”

    Yes thieves should be punished. But when their thieving is the largely the product of the states dictatorial bullshit about private behaviour, trying to claim it is all down to the immorality of the thieves won’t wash. If political and bureaucratic scum weren’t jacking up drug prices massively (and empowering gangsters) the problem of thieving junkies would be a minor one.

    Your attitude is not at all one of liberty. You are demanding more power for arrogant political gangsters and the cop thugs who serve them. To dish out the “punishment” you think is appropriate–the nastier the better. That seems to be what you want. To see people being brutalised by costumed thugs. A scenario which sooner or later will rebound on the solid citizens. Which is the category you would most likely put yourself in. Indeed abusive state powers taken to supposedly attack drug crime are used against ordinary non-drug people all the time. The drug war and “ant-terror” are the cutting edges of state tyranny against all of us.

    If you really want less crime abolish all drug laws. If you want scapegoats you can act out your rage on (by proxy) –well that is something else. After all Keith Richards–whatever his crimes against music–is not a thief.

    Frankly enough. You are a notorious last-worder and I am sick of typing esp as you are simply restating your ideas about what constitutes morality.

  27. SMFS:

    Mr Ecks – “If people want to take drugs and pay for them out of their own resources that is their business.”

    Not when the law says what they are doing is illegal.

    Then the law is wicked. Seriously, it really is wicked that we think it’s OK to encage people for wishing to alter their brain chemistry in a way we don’t approve of.

    It also leads to atrocities like this, although I’m sure people here will defend the cops’ OBEY OR DIE!!!111!!! mindset and that idea that it’s a good think that the popo are increasingly our overlords.

  28. SMFS:
    “Not when the law says what they are doing is illegal”

    Any discriminating person will distinguish between “legal” and “just”-otherwise why complain about chattel slavery?

    The drug laws have done immense harm to civil liberties, created a dung heap of corruption and ruined the lives of countless persons whose “illegal” activity damaged neither the person nor property of others. In this respect the law is as iniquitous as that which criminalised homosexuals.

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