The Supremes Rule California Must Cut Inmate Population

In a 5 to 4 ruling today (May 23), the Supreme Court decreed that California must whittle down it’s prison population by over 30,000 inmates to address extreme overcrowding. The case arose from problems with physical and mental health care…in 2009, there was around a death per week which allegedly could have been prevented or delayed with better medical care.

There are presently over 143,000 inmates in facilities that were designed to hold 80,000. One unspoken political issue that has affected California governors of both parties is the very powerful prison guards union. Of course less inmates means less guards, and they have lobbied hard to prevent the loss of those jobs.

This case may now give Governor Brown the cover he needs to release lower level offenders to other jurisdictions, such as the counties. Of course, there has been some call for him to simply commute and release pot offenders, which would put a substantial dent in decreasing the population as the the Supreme Court has called for. Will that fly…even in California?


Olfactory Exigent Circumstances

The Supreme Court ruled today 8-1 that Kentucky police did not err in kicking in the door of an apartment that reeked of pot and was suspected of harboring a drug suspect. The police asserted that they believed from sounds emanating from the apartment that evidence was being destroyed.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito penned that “Exigent circumstances, including the need to prevent the destruction of evidence, permit police to conduct an otherwise permissible search without first obtaining a warrant.”

While at first blush, it appears that this case further erodes Fourth Amendment rights, it seems after a closer reading to be an extension of an already long-standing exception.  In fact, as the title alludes to, this may well become known as the ‘olfactory exigent circumstances’ exception!

Spurring Employment With a New Tax Break for Hiring

A lot is being made about the tax breaks (credits if you will) for the Big 5 oil companies, and numerous other companies which, while making record profits and  while holding a record amount of cash, pay little or no tax, and are not really hiring at a rate anywhere near what is needed to pull the middle class worker out of the recession. While Wall Street continues to rake in cash, Main Street and the under and unemployed are still suffering.

One tool advanced to some of our finest in Congress by this author and no doubt, numerous others, is a bill that would allow special write offs over a period of years for hiring or re-hiring at decent wages– good old, hard working American workers. If business could essentially ‘depreciate’ workers by writing down the expense of employing them (with appropriate safeguards to ensure continued employment of same), it might spark an uptick in hiring that would actually put the US economy back on track again. This would have to be at a level well above what has been contemplated by Congress in order for business to really respond! A bonus level could be built in for bringing jobs previously outsourced overseas back to the US.

It has been noted repeatedly, but is worth pointing out again that our economy is heavily dependent on consumer spending in order to really hum along. The best way to increase consumer spending is for more consumers to be gainfully employed at a living wage. Henry Ford got this concept, and put his money where his mouth was years ago, and it paid off handsomely.

So, Congress…how about it?

The Speaker and the Debt Ceiling Problem

The GOP will come together with the Democrats and raise the debt ceiling. This will happen in spite of whatever words that are uttered to the contrary.

Speaker Boehner rattled his saber in a speech to the New York Economic Club, emphatically stating that the ceiling won’t be raised without cuts of trillions. The Speaker is playing a game of chicken with the Democrats and his party’s Wall Street benefactors, in order to curry favor with the Tea Party folks, which the GOP needs badly in 2012. He and the GOP leadership will, in fact, get cuts, but no where near what they are demanding right now.

The ominous words aside, Boehner and the GOP leadership know full well that to even come close to the deadline without raising the debt ceiling will not only tank the US economy in a way that will make the mess of 2008 look like a walk in the park, but  would also  likely sink the entire world economy for an extended period of time.

The Speaker is playing to what comics call a “tough room.” He has to appease the Tea Party and their black and white approach to the debt, while reassuring the financial sector and our debt holders around the world that we will do the adult thing and raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner. The Tea Party came out today with a statement that any GOP Congressperson who votes to raise the debt ceiling will get a zero rating, and any that vote against an increase will get 100%. Tough room, indeed.