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January 26, 2010

How could (or should) proposed spending freeze impact federal crime and punishment?

As detailed in this New York Times article, which is headlined "Obama to Seek Spending Freeze to Trim Deficits," in his upcoming State of the Union Address "President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit." Here are more details:

The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, including air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks.

But it would exempt security-related budgets for the Pentagon, foreign aid, the Veterans Administration and homeland security, as well as the entitlement programs that make up the biggest and fastest-growing part of the federal budget: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

My first instinct is that the Department of Justice and other agencies involved in traditional federal law enforcement activities — other than terror-related homeland security — would be among the agencies and programs subject to a freeze rather than an exemption.  I likewise assume that the federal judiciary and its various departments — ranging from the US Sentencing Commission to federal probation offices to federal defender offices — will also be subject to this proposed freeze.

I know many persons working in DOJ and the federal judiciary likely already feel their budgets are (too?) lean.  I suspect that this proposed spending freeze, if it becomes a reality, could significantly alter who is working on federal crime and punishment issues and how they do their work.  But, as the title of this post asks, it is not thereafter obvious if and how such budget-driven changes would impact federal crime and punishment.  Perhaps fewer low-level immigration and gun and drug prosecutions?  Perhaps greater emphasis on economic crimes and punishments?  Perhaps some more serious discussion of marijuana legalization?

January 26, 2010 at 02:19 PM | Permalink


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It will not "impact" anything. Impact is not a verb.

Posted by: Scott Forster | Jan 26, 2010 7:47:12 PM

well maybe if they stoppped spending billions on making EVERYTHING a crime they wouldn't be running out of money.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jan 26, 2010 8:06:59 PM

As I have discussed What’s wrong with Economics? eventually they will let prisoners go and police will resort to graft ... they should have thought before spending.

Posted by: CrisisMaven | Jan 27, 2010 6:18:56 AM

"Impact" as a verb jars my ears, too, but we all have to "chillax" a bit about usage, especially in informal writing contexts, such as a blog. According to Bryan Garner's most recent usage book, "[t]he use of impact as a verb is now at stage 3 ('the form becomes commonplace even among many well-educated people but is still avoided in careful usage')," though Garner opines that writers should “reserve impact for noun uses and impacted for wisdom teeth.” Prof. Berman does great work here, so give him a little slack if he doesn't sweat blood over every word choice.

Posted by: AFPDRAK | Jan 27, 2010 9:18:53 AM

The entire third branch AND DOJ's budget isn't but a snowflake in the blizzard of the federal budget. You want to cut costs? Take the scissors to overpaid (and fraudulent) Medicare/Medicaid claims, means test social security, and cancel every other program the defense department runs. Strike that, cancel 4/5's of the defense department - the biggest waste of money in history.

Everything else is just deck chairs on the Titanic.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Jan 27, 2010 10:42:34 AM

i like most of what you listed ferris....except the means test for social security. Sorry 100's of millions of people have been forced to pay into it. they deserve the benefits they were promised and guess what if we told the rest of the world or F off we'd have plenty to pay it with 100's of billions left over.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jan 27, 2010 1:35:30 PM

Corporal punishment is cheap punishment.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 29, 2010 5:04:06 AM

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