November 16, 2018

First Step Act

The holidays are just around the corner. Now’s a GREAT time to forward us to friends and family, and not let politics ruin Thanksgiving dinner!

Washington Post

On Wednesday, President Trump formally endorsed a new bipartisan bill to support criminal justice reform, called the First Step Act. This new act aims to increase employment options for inmates, and enact more lenient sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left fully supports the bill and is glad it’s receiving bipartisan support.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) states, "this deal represents a meaningful break from the decades of failed policies that led to mass incarceration, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drained our economy, compromised public safety, hurt our children, and disproportionately harmed communities of color while devaluing the very idea of justice in America."

Booker.senate.gov

“Millions of Americans have come to realize that our nation’s long experiment with harsh sentences has failed. It has filled our prisons and made it extremely difficult for ex-inmates to successfully re-enter society. They leave prison after serving long sentences with no understanding of modern technology. Some have never even touched a smartphone...

"When they turn to crime again, nobody should be surprised. Our nation locks up too many people for too long, and it’s just got to end. Welcome to the cause, President Trump. Show us you mean it.”

Chicago Sun Times

CNN’s Van Jones tweeted: “Give the man his due: @realDonaldTrump is on his way to becoming the uniter-in-Chief on an issue that has divided America for generations. Congrats to everyone on both sides who fought for this."

Twitter

“A crucial feature of the Senate plan... is the inclusion of so-called front-end reforms with the goal of a more rational sentencing process. The House version, passed in May, focused solely on ‘back end’ reforms, such as improving prison conditions and easing inmates’ re-entry into society. But tending to the existing prison population without tempering the draconian sentencing laws that caused that population to explode in recent decades is, as Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has put it, ‘naïve and unproductive’...

“Sessions is out. Trump is on board. It’s time to put these necessary changes into action.”

New York Times

The political calendar and Trump's approach could give grounds for optimism. Kim, who has presided over a limited form of economic development inside North Korea, is under pressure to deliver improvements in the lives of his people… So he has an incentive to try to seek economic benefits or aid from the United States and wants punishing economic sanctions lifted — a potential opening for US negotiators… Kim must realize that his chances of basking in this kind of legitimacy with a US President other than Trump are slim. So if he fears Trump could lose in 2020, he may reason the time may be ripe for a deal. And Trump wants nothing more than a big diplomatic breakthrough months before the election.”
Stephen Collinson, CNN

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right is divided; some criticize the bill's reduced sentences for drug traffickers, while others posit that imprisoning non-violent offenders is counterproductive.

From the Right

The right is divided; some criticize the bill's reduced sentences for drug traffickers, while others posit that imprisoning non-violent offenders is counterproductive.

Critics, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), argue that the bill “is just a misguided effort to let serious felons out of prison... [it] goes soft on some of the worst crimes — trafficking heroin and fentanyl — by allowing most traffickers to spend up to a third of their sentence at home, where many of them will no doubt return to dealing drugs.”

USA Today

“Current law mandates a prison sentence of at least 20 years for a repeat fentanyl drug trafficker. The First Step Act automatically reduces that sentence by five years and further cuts the penalty through a number of changes... [to] less than half of the time that the drug trafficker would have served under current law. This sentencing reduction could apply to a repeat drug trafficker who trafficked more than 400 grams of fentanyl into the U.S., enough to kill 100,000 Americans. The First Step Act also will result in the immediate release of 4,000 felons from prisons.”

Breitbart

Supporters, such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), point out that while “Incarceration is an essential law enforcement tool that protects communities and keeps families safe... it also inflicts costs on communities and families, and at some point the negative impact of incarceration on marriage and family can become too stark to ignore. And for non-violent offenders, especially those with no prior criminal history, excessive sentences often do far more harm than good.”

Fox News

“Super-long sentences are a good means for protecting society long-term from its scariest and most violent criminals. But long sentences are not in themselves a terribly effective deterrent against crime – not nearly as effective as swift and certain punishment. A prison sentence is a wakeup for anyone. But for a nonviolent offender, the tail-end years he spends living at taxpayers’ expense often end up just making him less fit for the real world.”

Washington Examiner

“Not only did [Trump] attack the ‘squad,’ he managed to do it in a way in which no other prominent Democrat can continue to criticize them publicly, lest they be perceived as echoing the president’s contention that they should go back where they came from. At the exact moment the accusations and counter-accusations were set to do lasting damage, Trump just had to jump in and give them an attack that would unify them all. It often seems like Trump would rather have a bad news cycle that focuses on him than a beneficial news cycle that focuses on someone else… Everyone around the president can read a poll and knows that his rage-tweeting is a liability; it is perhaps the biggest liability in a presidency that, with prosperity and a perception of peace, ought to be comfortably cruising to reelection.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Philly’s first snow: Camel roams highway, winter widens Gritty’s eyes.

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