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A New Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Immigration is a Costly Bad Idea

in Criminal Justice, Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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Senate Republicans plan to bring to legislation to the floor in September that will target so-called “sanctuary cities” that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants. The bill, according to a Politico report last month, “would block funding for cities and other local governments that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials.”

mandatory minimum  sentencingThere’s a recent wrinkle in that a) doesn’t make much sense and b) could undermine efforts in Congress to reform America’s criminal justice system. In response to the tragic murder of Kate Steinle at the hands of an illegal immigrant, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, want this proposal attached to the sanctuary cities bill.

“Kate’s Law” would require a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any immigrant who re-enters the United States illegally. Those who are lobbying for the measure, either professionally or through citizen activism, don’t seem to understand the costs associated with housing federal prisoners.

On average, the annual price tag for incarcerating a federal inmate is around $30,000. Multiplied by five years; that’s $150,000 to incarcerate someone who those pushing for the bill don’t want here, anyway.

Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums notes that this isn’t a small sum, given the number of people incarcerated for illegal re-entry in the most recent fiscal year for which data are available. “According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 16,556 offenders were sentenced for illegal reentry in FY 2014,” Newburn writes, ” 98.6% of those offenders were sentenced to prison; the average sentence was 17 months.”

“If they all received five-year mandatory minimums rather than the average sentences of 17 months, new incarceration costs would be $1.78 billion per year. That’s nearly $2 billion that could be spent on finding, arresting, and prosecuting violent undocumented immigrants that will instead have to be spent on incarcerating people [who’ve re-entered the United States illegally],” he added.

Not only does “Kate’s law” fail to make any fiscal sense, it could undermine movement on criminal justice reform, which is currently a topic of serious discussion in both chambers of Congress. Much of the logic behind this effort is that there are too many people in prison and mass incarceration is too expensive.

Although he’s been a reluctant participant, Grassley led discussions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring legislation that would include some mandatory minimum sentences, though the expansion of the federal safety valve, and prison reforms to reduce the likelihood that offenders will engage in recidivist behavior.

Enacting a new and very costly mandatory minimum sentence defeats the purpose of criminal justice reform. In fact, this is how mass incarceration in the United States really took off. Congress enacted harsh sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences, as a reaction to a problem. As well intended as these policies were, they haven’t been an effective deterrent to crime. This proposed mandatory sentence won’t be any different.

Your Electricity Rates May Necessarily Skyrocket

in Economic Liberty, Environment and Energy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Back in 2007, during his initial run for the presidency, Barack Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois, said that his energy proposals would “bankrupt” a company looking to build a new coal plant. For consumers, he said, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

As President, Obama has sought to implement those policies through legislation, though he has been largely unsuccessful. Since Obama can’t get his agenda through Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, at the direction of the White House, promulgated regulations to clamp down on emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

The EPA rule, which was formally rolled out on Monday, directs these plants to reduce their carbon emissions by 32 percent of 2005 levels over the next 25 years. “We only get one home. We only get one planet. There is no plan B,” Obama said in a speech hailing the new rule. “I don’t want my grandkids to not be able to swim in Hawaii, or not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier, because we didn’t do something about it.”

The alarmist rhetoric may be a nice touch, but the rule is going to have negative consequences that will lead to job losses. In April, the American Action Forum noted that 93 power plants, representing some 80,000 jobs, would be in jeopardy because of the rule.

“As we predicted, EPA’s proposed federal implementation (FIP) entails two emissions trading schemes. Of course, Congress has expressly and repeatedly rejected such ‘cap and trade’ schemes, which raises an obvious question: Why is it appropriate for EPA to impose major policies that were refused by Congress? In practice, emissions are virtually synonymous with energy use, and, as a result, EPA’s FIP is not inaccurately labeled an energy rationing program,” said William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Talk about mission creep!”

Consumers, too, will feel the impact. Take, for example, the “clean coal” power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi. The $6.2 billion (originally $4.7 billion) plant, owned by the Southern Company, has been the hailed as example of what the administration hopes to see in the future. But the plant has been plagued by significant cost overruns, which were initially passed onto consumers in the form of a 15 percent rate hike. The Mississippi Supreme Court intervened in the matter and ordered refunds.

Consumers exposed to the EPA’s new climate rule may not be so lucky. It’s expected to cost as much as $479 billion between 2017 and 2031, and there’s no guarantee that it will have any measurable impact. Of course, this rule isn’t about climate change; it’s about controlling Americans who have no choice but to spend more of their money because of regulations that will boost favored businesses selling their products to plants hoping to comply with rules created by the fourth branch of the federal government.

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled drinks, including whiskey and rum.

The Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would relieve distilleries, especially newer ones, of some of the burdens they face when bringing products to market.

Currently, distilled drinks are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. Young’s bill seeks to lower the tax to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced by a distillery and $9 per proof thereafter.

Barrel

Rep. John Yarmuth (R-Ky.) has cosponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 21. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairs the powerful tax-writing committee.

“All around southern Indiana, many new craft distilleries are popping up, creating jobs and adding to the tax base,” Young said in a release on Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a new distillery off the ground, and this bill helps reduce that burden. In addition, we have many large, established distilleries in our region of the country, and this bill will help them, too.”

The bill has support from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA). “It is significant that the distillers of all sizes are united behind this important hospitality industry legislation,” Peter Cressy, CEO of DISCUS, said in a joint release with ACSA. “We thank the sponsors for recognizing the economic impact passage of this bill will have for our industry.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. Although the members represent states with a number of distilleries, the popularity of craft spirits has risen significantly and virtually every state now has distillery.

For the producers, the savings can mean expansion of their operations and more jobs for local communities.

“I started my distillery eight years ago to support Michigan jobs and prove that high quality spirits could be made right here in Michigan,” Rifino Valentine, founder of Valentine Distilling, said in a press release from Peters’ office. “While I’m proud to say we are expanding our facility, so many small distilleries are at a unique disadvantage as a result of the high federal excise tax.”

The bill may be common sense, but similar efforts to lower the excise tax on distilled spirits didn’t move out of committee in the previous Congress.

They Said It…

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It… section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

NSA Director Keith AlexanderNSA HEAD PREDICTS LEGISLATION TO RESTRICT FIRST AMENDMENT: “I think we are going to make headway over the next few weeks on media leaks. I am an optimist. I think if we make the right steps on the media leaks legislation, then cyber legislation will be a lot easier.” — outgoing NSA director General Keith Alexander, March 4, 2014. An outspoken opponent of whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, Alexander himself has been accused by critics of leading unconstitutional programs and lying to Congress.

Charlie Earl
LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATES “BANNED” BY GOP IN OHIO: “I really am theequivalent of a book in Boston. Yeah, I’ve been banned.”  — Libertarian Party of Ohio gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl, after Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted disqualified Earl and attorney general candidate Steven Linnabary from the May 6 primary, based on an obscure clerical error. This new Republican attack follows a failed attempt in January to keep all Libertarians off the 2014 ballot. In Ohio the GOP governor faces a very close race and a strong LP showing could cost him the election.

NORTH KOREA OFFERS BALLOT MODEL FOR DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS: “With no one else on the ballot, state media reported Monday that supreme leader Kim Jong Un was not only elected to the highest legislative body in North Korea, he won with the unanimous approval of his district, which had 100 percent turnout. … Voters in the election have no choice who to vote for — there is only one candidate’s name on the ballot for each district.” — Associated Press, “NKorea: Not a Single Vote Cast Against Kim Jong Un,” March 10, 2014. (See quote above about Ohio’s ballot shenanigans.)

Secretary of State John KerryKERRY CALLS FOR NON-INTERVENTION — FOR EVERYONE ELSE: “You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. … You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on TV news shows Face the Nation and Meet the Press, March 2, 2014. Apparently Kerry is not familiar with recent U.S. activities in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yugoslavia, etc. etc. etc.

Jimmy FallonGOD SAYS DON’T BLAME ME FOR OBAMACARE: “This week President Obama told his supporters that they are doing God’s work by helping to promote Obamacare. God said, ‘Whoa, there. Look, I’m flattered. But Obamacare, that’s all you, man. Don’t involve me in that mess.’” — Jimmy Fallon, Feb. 27, 2014