With fiscal woes so widespread and the Democrat’s D.C. porkapalooza so enormous, a mere $8 billion may seem like chump change.
But after the markets steady and the one-time spending binge is just a fiscal hangover with a huge interest payment that the Treasury can cover with inflated dollars, the enormous damage being done under the alleged authority of the Prison Litigation Reform Act will go on and on across the country, and the big rollout of the law’s vast reach is underway in California, where a federal judge applying the act has appointed a receiver of the California prisons’ health care system, and where a suit is also moving closer to an order releasing up to 50,000 of the states 170,000 inmates.
This is a huge story, but complicated, so focus just on one aspect of the federal receiver’s grandiose schemes –his grandiose vision of an eight campus new prison hospital system, which will run $8 billion in the construction and who knows how much in its annual operation. California is already paying approximately $12,000-$14,000 per year per prisoner, but the receiver, law professor J. Clark Kelso, has decreed the new prison hospitals will be built and he is demanding the first payment from an insolvent California treasury.
The demands of the unaccountable receiver appointed by the unelected judge to expend non-existant dollars on a five star prison hospital system has brought even the liberal Jerry Brown, California’s Attorney General and perhaps future governor (yes, he’s running again) to the side of fiscal discipline and constitutional order, where he found a great number of solid conservatives already organized to stop the absurd plans. Yesterday Brown asked the court to reign in Kelso, and later in the day he appeared on my show to explain why this craziness must end. The folks in the 49 states other than California should realize that they have a stake in this legal confrontation, as the example of what is happening in the Golden State will be replicated in every other state unless the law is interpreted here to prevent the sort of wild excesses that are presently unfolding.
The transcript of the interview with AG Brown is here, and the audio is here. A follow-up conversation with Dean John Eastman of Chapman University Law School and Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of UCI Law School follows the Brown interview on the podcast, which also includes a brief discussion of the implications of moving the Gitmo terrorists to prisons within the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, a possibility raised by discussions within the federal government of using Camp Pendelton as the new Gitmo.
I will keep trying to get Professor Kelso to appear on the program, but he’s not much for debating, only decreeing.
Three transcripts are posted from yesterday’s program.
The first is a conversation about Frost/Nixon with director Ron Howard.
I spent most of 1978-1980 with Richard Nixon, first in San Clemente and then NYC, so of course I was interested in the film, even though I arrived after the interviews were completed.
I was around to watch Nixon watch the slow collapse of the Shah’s regime and the Iranian revolution. I am amazed at Beinart’s enthusiasm for an outreach to the mullahs, and agree with Hanson’s skepticism.
In recent days, Michael Ledeen has been reminding anyone who can read that there is a long history of overtures to the Iranian theocracy, and it has always ended badly for the U.S.
But now with the Iranians on the brink of nuclear weapons such an outreach is wildly ill-timed, when only a resolute and united West can possibly deter the Iranians from the last steps in the process, and thus Israel from intervening.
There is some sound spending in the bill, just as there is some spending that will have an effect in the next six months.
But is overwhelmingly made up of pork, and pork that won’t be delivered until 2010 and 2011.
If the bill had serious relief for the housing sector, or a serious push on energy such as a broad and sustained drive for nuclear power, I could understand some Republicans holding their noses and voting for it.
But there is just not nearly enough to justify the massive expenditure that makes it porkapalooza.
What is astonishing is that President Obama is a smart guy and could easily demand a bill that at least works at some level to accomplish something lasting. He could order up a massive mass transit push, or a huge public housing push, or a vast network of public health clinics.
Instead he is settling for this goulash of warmed-over special interest goodies.
If the president actually sat down with Summers and Geithner and went through the bill section-by-section it is hard to imagine any of them saying “This makes sense,” or “That will work quickly to create jobs and growth.”
But they are being carried along by the long suppressed desires of their party in Congress to push through their pet projects.
Not a single Republican should vote for this bill. More than a few Democrats should also get up the courage to speak bluntly about the absurdity of this “stimulus.”
But more than anything else the president ought to call a time-out to reassess how the greatest legislative opportunity he is likely to be given. This bill is almost certainly the domestic initiative on which he will be judged for decades to come, and it has gone badly off the rails. Republicans have given him the opportunity to reassess its direction, but only he can actually turn it to some sort of effective and successful end.