It's no secret that both the state and federal governments have vastly overspent their means. The main culprits are, for the states, Medicaid, followed closely by overly generous public employee pensions; and, for the feds, Social Security and Medicare.
The budget crunch has led to an increasing number of proposals to trim costs by releasing prison inmates. It is no exaggeration to say that this has become the No. 1 theme on Doug Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy, as it was yesterday when the President announced his budget.
Doug quotes one report as saying:
President Obama's proposed federal budget for the year starting Oct. 1, issued today, calls for a 2 percent increase in the Justice Department's spending but a major cut in the Office of Justice Programs and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office, both of which provide state and local anticrime aid. Describing the reductions as "tough choices," the White House still seeks $600 million to hire "first responders," including police officers and sheriff's deputies.
The proposed budget includes a solid increase for the FBI but a reduction for the Drug Enforcement Administration. It would cut funding for juvenile justice and child safety programs.
Left unsaid in the report is that the President's budget proposes no reform whatever -- not a dime -- in the explosive entitlement spending that is, by any measure, the heart (and lungs and liver) of the budget crisis.
Our overspending might indeed have come to the point that we will have to save short-term dollars by releasing prisoners. But to allow those releases while intentionally doing nothing about the major spending problem is an abdication of leadership of astonishing proportions.