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Bipartisan Legislation To Give Judges More Flexibility For Federal Sentences Introduced

March 20, 2013 in Politics & Elections

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday to allow judges greater flexibility in sentencing federal crimes where a mandatory minimum punishment is considered unnecessary.
The bipartisan Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 expands the so-called ‘safety valve’ that allows judges to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum in qualifying drug cases to all federal crimes. By giving judges this greater flexibility, they will not be forced to administer needlessly long sentences for certain offenders, which is a significant factor in the ever-increasing Federal prison population and the spiraling costs that steer more and more of the justice budget toward keeping people in prison, rather than investing in programs that keep our communities safe.
‘As a former prosecutor, I understand that criminals must be held accountable, and that long sentences are sometimes necessary to keep criminals off the street and deter those who would commit violent crime,’ Leahy said. ‘Our reliance on mandatory minimums has been a great mistake. I am not convinced it has reduced crime, but I am convinced it has imprisoned people, particularly non-violent offenders, for far longer than is just or beneficial. It is time for us to let judges go back to acting as judges and making decisions based on the individual facts before them. A one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing does not make us safer.’

Paul said that ‘Our country’s mandatory minimum laws reflect a Washington-knows-best, one-size-fits-all approach, which undermines the Constitutional Separation of Powers, violates the our bedrock principle that people should be treated as individuals, and costs the taxpayers money without making them any safer. This bill is necessary to combat the explosion of new federal criminal laws, many of which carry new mandatory minimum penalties.’
The federal prison budget has grown by nearly $2 billion in the last five years, and the increasing financial demand means less money for police on the streets and funding for crime prevention programs, as well as prisoner reentry programs that seek to avoid repeat offenders. The Judiciary Committee heard testimony last year on the costs of rising prison populations, and innovative ways that states including Vermont have adopted sentencing reforms and other policy changes to address the issue and ultimately prevent crime.
# # # # #

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On the Introduction of S. 619, the Justice Safety Valve …read more
Source: RAND PAUL

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The Iraq War Was No Cake Walk

March 20, 2013 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

Tragically, the Iraq War was not worth the costs. The leading advocates for war understated the costs and exaggerated the benefits. They claimed that the war would be cheap, perhaps even profitable, thanks to lower oil prices. They suggested that it would be easy, a “cakewalk,” not requiring a long-term U.S presence to stabilize the country after Saddam Hussein’s ouster. They blithely dismissed concerns about the tensions between Arabs and Kurds, and between Sunnis and Shiites.

We now know how wrong they were. A new report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University tallies up the costs: nearly 4,500 U.S. troop fatalities, more than $1.7 trillion spent, and another $490 billion owed. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed in the sectarian bloodletting that occurred after the collapse of Saddam’s regime exceed 130,000. Millions were displaced, many still have not returned to their homes. The Iraqi Christian community has been decimated.

The war’s benefits are few, and could have been obtained by other means. The demise of a brutal dictator is a result worth celebrating, but the imperfect and fragile government that has emerged in Iraq was hardly worth the costs incurred. As for U.S. security, war boosters declared that Saddam Hussein was actively developing nuclear weapons. Equally important, they asserted that he would use them, or give them to terrorists who would. War skeptics pointed out that this was unlikely, and they also identified crucial holes in the evidence of Saddam’s nuclear program.

The demise of a brutal dictator is a result worth celebrating, but the imperfect and fragile government that has emerged in Iraq was hardly worth the costs incurred.”

War supporters hinted at possible linkages between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks; most Americans believed them. Some still do. But al-Qaida has been decimated since 2001, and the war in Iraq was, at best, irrelevant to this successful effort. If anything, the misallocation of resources to Iraq impeded the hunt for bin Laden and his cronies.

Elected officials who backed the wars have been punished at the polls. The unpopular war probably cost the Republican Party control of Congress in 2006, and Hillary Clinton’s support for the war arguably cost her the presidency. (The reputations of pundits and think tank scholars who promoted the war on faulty pretexts remain strangely intact.)

But the voices of those who warned that the war would …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Watch These AERC Lectures Live, Starting Tomorrow

March 20, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

The 2013 Austrian Economics Research Conference starts tomorrow. The following lectures will be broadcast live. You can watch them either on our Ustream channel page or through the embedded feed on the Mises.org home page.

We’ll also be live-tweeting these lectures. Follow us on Twitter @mises. We’ll be using the hashtag #AERC.

All times Central Time.

Thursday, March 21

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. The Henry Hazlitt Memorial Lecture sponsored by James M. Rodney
Robert Wenzel, EconomicPolicyJournal.com “An Examination of Key Factors in the Collapse of the Soviet Union”

1:30 -1:50 p.m.  Tribute to William H. Peterson, 1921-2012
Joseph Salerno, Mises Institute and Pace University
Lew Rockwell, Mises Institute
Tom DiLorenzo, Loyola University Maryland
Robert Luddy, CaptiveAire

5:30 – 6:30 p.m.  The Lou Church Memorial Lecture sponsored by the Lou Church Foundation
Gary North, GaryNorth.com “How Come We’re So Rich?”

Friday, March 22

1:30 – 2:30 p.m.  The F.A. Hayek Memorial Lecture sponsored by Toby Baxendale
Nikolay Gertchev, European Commission Brussels “From Monetary Nationalism to Monetary Imperialism: Fractional-Reserve Banking and the Inter-Government Cooperation”

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.  The Murray N. Rothbard Memorial Lecture sponsored by Helio Beltrao
Brendan Brown Mitsubishi UFJ Securities “The Global Curse of the Federal Reserve: How Its Monetary Virus Stimulates Destructive Waves of Irrational Exuberance and Depression”

Saturday, March 23

1:30 – 2:30 p.m.  The Ludwig von Mises Memorial Lecture sponsored by Dr. Don Printz
Dominick Armentano “Myths of Anti-trust: Speak Truth to Power”

…read more
Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Why You Should Root against Indiana University, and for Butler, in NCAA Tourney

March 20, 2013 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

If you love March Madness, but not unfair competition, there are three top seeds you just can’t root for: Indiana, Louisville or Kansas. That leaves only Gonzaga as a top seed you can support in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament. You can also, though, pull for any members of the soon-to-be-new Big East.

What makes Indiana Louisville and Kansas — all storied programs — unsupportable if you favor fair play? Are they stacked with ringers, cheaters, or just plain dirty dealers? No, but they have big subsidies from state taxpayers that give them huge advantages over little guys like the Zags.

The numbers are startling. Gonzaga, has a total enrollment of 7,764 students, making it a midget compared to its top-seeded peers. Louisville’s enrollment rings in at 21,153, Kansas has 27,939 students, and Indiana 42,731.

If you want a level playing field — er, court — in college hoops, root for Gonzaga and the new Big East, and against big state schools.”

Why the mammoth differential? As a private college, Gonzaga has to charge students a greater share of the cost of education than heavily subsidized state institutions, greatly limiting its ability to attract students and grow. To get a sense of the handicap, the latest data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers shows that in 2012 state and local subsidies stood at $4,869 per student in Indiana; $5,184 in Kansas; and $6,269 in Kentucky.

These subsidies can lead to substantial athletic advantages, in particular the huge fan bases public universities enjoy. These enable them to fill seats in giant stadiums and get millions of television eyeballs on games, especially football, the big cash cow. That, in turn, generates major revenues to support other sports, which either keeps big state schools in conferences with lucrative television contracts, or gets them in. And it doesn’t hurt that state and local governments often kick in big bucks for stadia and arenas, as Kentucky has recently done for Louisville’s football stadium and basketball arena.

In other words, thanks to forced taxpayer support, the rich keep getting richer.

Which brings us to the new Big East.

Formed as a basketball-centric league in the late 1970s, the Big East as we’ve known it has incorporated both schools that play bowl-division football and those that do not. The end result has been constant tension between the “football” and “basketball” schools, and a model that has fallen …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Why the Size of Government Matters

March 20, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

When one moves beyond all the budget numbers floating around Washington these days, much of the debate over future policy boils down to a question of the size of government. The Left often dismisses this issue as symbolism or rhetoric, but it is much more than that.

The question of big government vs. limited government is not an abstraction. How we answer that question has real consequences for real people. For example:

1. Big government is unaffordable. This year, the federal government will run a budget deficit of at least $845 billion. This does represent a decline from the deficits of recent years, but emergency appropriations or any slowdown in economic growth could easily push it back up toward $1 trillion before the end of the year. Although deficits are expected to continue declining for the next few years, eventually bottoming out at $430 billion in 2015, this is a temporary phenomenon, and by the end of the decade, we will be climbing back toward annual deficits of $1 trillion.

Moreover, our debt, already $16.7 trillion, more than 103 percent of GDP, is expected to exceed $26 trillion by the end of 2023. Throw in the unfunded liabilities of programs such as Social Security and Medicare and our real debt runs between $79 trillion and $127 trillion. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office said in 2008 that in order to pay for all currently scheduled federal spending, both the corporate-tax rate and top income-tax rate would have to be raised from their current 35 percent to 88 percent, the current 25 percent tax rate for middle-income workers to 63 percent, and the 10 percent tax bracket for low-income workers to 25 percent. It is likely, given increased spending since then, that the required tax levels would be even higher today.

Leviathan costs too much, sure, but its attack on freedom is the real problem.”

2. Big government is incompatible with economic growth. Economists debate the exact relationship between the size of government and economic growth, but few argue that government can consume an unlimited proportion of the national economy without its having a significant impact on that economy. For example, a pair of studies by Harvard’s Robert Barro found that “public consumption spending is systematically inversely related to economic growth,” and that there is a “significantly negative relation between the growth of real GDP and the growth …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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North Korea Is Not America's Problem

March 20, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is impoverished and decrepit. Its people are starving and risk death to flee their tragic land. The country is virtually friendless and suffers under a bizarre system of monarchical communism. Pyongyang’s armed forces are dwarfed by those of the U.S., the globe’s premier military power.

Yet the DPRK has struck fear into the hearts of otherwise sober American policymakers and analysts. The administration announced plans to spend a billion dollars to add 14 interceptors to the missile defense in Alaska to guard against a North Korean attack. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter rushed to Seoul to consult the South’s government.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius worried: “Counting on North Korean restraint has been a bad bet. It may be wiser to assume the worst and plan accordingly.” The International Crisis Group observed that “North Korea has taken a number of recent steps that raise the risks of miscalculation, inadvertent escalation and deadly conflict on the Korean peninsula.”

Seoul, let us remember, can very well defend itself.”

The Associated Press’s Foster Klug warned: “Recent Korean history reveals a sobering possibility. It may only be a matter of time before North Korea launches a sudden, deadly attack on the South. And, perhaps more unsettling, Seoul has vowed that this time, it will respond with an even stronger blow.”

Worse, declared defense analyst Steven Metz: “Today, North Korea is the most dangerous country on earth and the greatest threat to U.S. security.” Indeed, the DPRK foreign ministry might be proved right when it “asserted that a second Korean War is inevitable.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Bruce Klingner argued that the U.S. needed “strong military forces to protect” itself from the North and denounced planned military budget cuts as undermining “U.S. military capabilities and credibility.” The ICG urged “U.S. officials, including the president,” to reaffirm “that the U.S. will fulfill its alliance commitments, including robustly against any North Korean military attacks.”

In Metz’s view this would be no minor affair. Rather, “The second Korean war would force military mobilization in the United States. This would initially involve the military’s existing reserve component, but it would probably ultimately require a major expansion of the U.S. military and hence a draft. The military’s training infrastructure and the defense industrial base would have to grow.”

It’s a frightening picture, and it seems almost as wildly overblown as the DPRK’s rhetoric. After all, …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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The Falklands and Entangling Alliances

March 20, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The U.S. government collects military alliances like some people collect Facebook friends: the more the better. Yet as Washington’s allies increasingly find themselves embroiled in potentially violent territorial disputes around the world, America may find collecting allies to be more expensive than collecting art.

Alliances should be a means rather than an end. Countries should join together to attain important common objectives. The most obvious purpose of a military coupling is security.

More than 30 years ago, Argentina and Britain battled over control of the lightly populated Falkland Islands (called Malvinas by Buenos Aires). Washington tilted toward Britain — it was during the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan had bonded with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Argentina was ruled by a brutal military junta.

Today those factors have passed into history, as Argentina vigorously presses its claim to the islands. In fact, the territory’s convoluted history gives Buenos Aires a good case for sovereignty, yet Falklands residents just voted 1513 to 3 to stick with Britain. London is pressing the Obama administration for diplomatic if not military backing. So far Washington has pled neutrality, causing British writer Robert Taylor to complain about President Barack Obama’s failure to show “loyalty to his ally” which had “fought side by side with the U.S. for the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.” British officials made much the same argument three years ago when the issue first reemerged.

America may find collecting allies to be more expensive than collecting art.”

However, there is no justification for Washington to offer unqualified support for Britain’s contested territorial claims. Washington and London no longer are united in a dangerous global battle. The status of the Falklands doesn’t even matter geopolitically to Britain. Only recently have the islands, located about 8,000 miles from the British Isles, turned into even a potential economic benefit, with possible undersea resources nearby. At the same time, the United States has much at stake in its relationship with Latin America. Washington’s principal interest is that the resolution of the controversy be peaceful, not that the resolution leave the islands in British hands.

At least the United States is not likely to find itself at war. Buenos Aires isn’t likely to reignite the conflict and even if it did London isn’t likely to expect Washington to dispatch a carrier group or two to reduce Argentina’s major cities to rubble.

Path Dependence

Since America’s alliances stopped …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Saving the Soul of Classical Liberalism

March 20, 2013 in Economics

The March/April 2013 issue of Cato Policy Report features an essay on the challenges facing classical liberalism from the late economist and Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan. “Classical liberalism cannot secure sufficient public acceptability when its vocal advocates are limited to ‘does it work?’ pragmatists,” wrote Buchanan. “A vision, an ideal, is necessary.” Also in this issue, Cato chairman Robert A. Levy discusses reforming the electoral college.

…read more
Source: CATO HEADLINES