Friday, February 05, 2010

Border pork wrong priority for federal stimulus funds

I'm disappointed to learn of plans to spend federal "stimulus" money on Governor Perry's pet border-security pork program instead of on tactics that actually boost the economy.

Brandi Grissom at the Texas Tribune reports that the Department of Public Safety has outspent its budget - and was prepared to slash grant funds to Border Sheriffs, which are used to pay for equipment and overtime - but now they may plug the gap with federal stimulus funds, which is a tad ironic considering the Governor's criticisms of the policy. Reports Grissom:

The Texas Department of Public Safety is planning to use federal stimulus dollars that Gov. Rick Perry begrudgingly accepted from Washington to plug a hole in the border security budget.

The decision follows a mandate by Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus that state agencies chop 5 percent out of their bottom lines to meet an anticipated state budget shortfall. For the Department of Public Safety, which is already struggling financially, the cut ordered last month will mean a $14.6 million hit, and border security funds could take the brunt. The agency is proposing to cut $10.3 million in border security grants to local law enforcement, according to an internal e-mail from DPS director Steve McCraw obtained by the Tribune. "I'm not happy that the efforts on the border might be reduced because of this, but that’s part of operating a state agency," says Texas Public Safety Commission Chairman Allan Polunsky. "Sometimes you have to make hard decisions that are going to be problematic somewhere."

That hole in border funds, though, could be plugged with $16 million in federal stimulus funds that Perry had already planned to dole out to local agencies for border security operations. Perry groused about taking the $15 billion in stimulus funds that Washington sent to Texas last year and said the money should only be spent on one-time expenditures. Since 2006, Texas has dedicated more than $200 million to border security operations. ...

DPS was already $27.5 million in the hole in January, according to McCraw’s e-mail to agency staff earlier this week. He said DPS has been using money from unfilled jobs to keep the agency running. With the mandatory cuts coming on top of the shortfall, the agency will slice funds from several programs, but the largest chunk will come from the $21.9 mllion set aside for grants to border law enforcement agencies over a two-year period. DPS has proposed cutting nearly half that amount. “This would reduce overtime to local law enforcement about 43%,” McCraw wrote. He added that Perry’s office planned to give local departments $16 million for border operations.

I've argued before that spending "stimulus" money on law enforcement grants is counterproductive, and that goes double when the state is paying overtime for local Sheriff's deputies, which should normally be paid for out of county coffers. There's no evidence overtime spending has contributed significantly to public safety, as Grissom reported back when she was with the El Paso Times.

In any event, "stimulus" money shouldn't be spent on pure enforcement because the economic multiplier effect is so low. A deputy may have more money in his pocket for overtime, but everyone they arrest then costs the system money in areas that aren't federally subsidized - county jails, local court dockets, state prisons, etc.. And when the end result of an arrest is incarceration, it takes a consumer out of circulation instead of enhancing their contribution to the economy. That may at times be a worthwhile public safety goal, but it's the opposite of stimulating economic growth.

If stimulus grants are going to be spent on criminal justice projects, they should be focused on things that promote instead of deter economic growth. That includes programs that supervise offenders (read: consumers) outside of prison and preferably keep them gainfully employed. Job training and reentry services would also fit the bill.

Bottom line: "stimulus" money should go to programs that encourage offenders to reconnect with the economy - to remain in the community, supervised, earning and spending money, even paying taxes - instead of sitting in prison or jail living 100% on the taxpayers' dime. Otherwise, such grants can produce more costs than benefits for the economy.


Anonymous said...

Grits:"but everyone they arrest then costs the system money in areas that aren't federally subsidized - county jails, local court dockets, state prisons, etc.. And when the end result of an arrest is incarceration, it takes a consumer out of circulation instead of enhancing their contribution to the economy."

You're joking or being sarcastic here right, Grits? Tell me you're not serious! If you are, then you could knock me over with a feather. Of all the ridiculous ideas you've advocated on your blog, this notion that it's an economically beneficial thing to scale back on law enforcement so we'll catch fewer criminals thereby leaving more "shoppers" in the market must take the cake! Using that same logic, why don't we just let everyone out of prison and give them a Wal-Mart gift card? The recession would be over in days! I hope to God that Obama doesn't read this forum! Amazing, absolutely amazing!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So in your view, 10:46, taking a consumer out of the economy over, say, drug possession, and having taxpayers fork over 100% of their room and board is an economically beneficial decision compared to, say, supervising them in the community and getting them into treatment?

That seems like a dodgy cost-benefit analysis you've got going there.

Anonymous said...

Grits, you didn't limit your remarks to the arrest of people for drug possession. You spoke globally in terms of taking deputies off the street to reduce the number of arrests in general. These same deputies (including ones working in border counties) would also arrest drug couriers, individuals engaged in human traffiking, and any variety of other offenders such as robbers, rapists, burglars, child molestors, spousal abusers, etc.. That's where the flaw in your logic lies. Are you really suggesting that it is economically beneficial to leave these offenders on the streets as well? I can't believe that even you would advocate such a preposterous idea.

Sus Domestica said...

You say "Pork" like you have an issue with it.

doran said...

Anon, federal grant have been used in border counties to purchase equipment and pay overtime to peace officers. That is what Perry is apparently going to do with those dirty ol' socialistic stimulus funds. Please, if you can, give us some hard, cold facts and figures which support your implied premise that the expenditure of those funds has in the past and will in the future achieve those goals you say "would" be achieved. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

What’s the problem, its government spending; more government, more spending!

This is how things work Grits; tax money is for government spending and it doesn’t really matter to them what they spend it on, it could be for huge bureaucracies like Pretrial Release that doesn't work, or for studying ant farms that serve no real purpose, or for a hundred people smoking pot so that a hundred people can smoke pot, I’m still scratching my head on how exactly they got some stimulus money.

You only seem to be concerned when the tax money isn’t being spent on criminal welfare.

The fact is that government serves government and the people get to pay for it!

It can be for one your tax funded projects, like they all are, or for making sure our politicians live a life of luxury, it is still a complete waste of tax dollars.

If we simply put an end to their spending and used our tax money for health, education and welfare in the true sense of the words we wouldn’t be moving into the realm of the third world nations and borrowing money that we can’t pay back.

You advocate spending tax dollars quite often; why not just stop!

Stop funding ridiculous research on ridiculous notions that fund ridiculous ideals that only serve to build government bureaucracy.

It is just as easy to point out all the direct cost related to crime in terms of the rising cost of everything due to theft, bad checks and property crimes that in fact tilt the scale heavily in jail space, while they may not be as bad to you as violent crimes, they still drive cost up, not to mention the fact that there is a cost to a victim for every defendant in jail for a theft crime.

Merchants raise their cost, insurance companies raise their cost and of course we have to feed, house, cloth, represent, and adjudicate the crook and we all get to pay for these things.

The criminal really is the criminal here, [and the direct reason for raising cost, jail overcrowding, and wasted tax dollars] not the horrible people that put them in jail.

Statements are made about how criminal defendants can be out working and paying the rent when in fact for a huge portion of our jail population their work consists of stealing from others, they don’t have jobs and aren’t even looking for one and somewhere in that scenario is a woman with kids on welfare that was housing the criminal defendant rent free before they got arrested on the tax dime anyway, and that is the life they intend to reconnect with just as soon as they get out of jail.

Your plan would work, but it would have to start with first offenders that have a choice to make, government schooling starting with GED, and finishing with a college degree or trade school certificate, Pretrial Release can help them fill out the student loan applications, with the other choice being the same crowded jail they came from if they fail to report or drop out.

I agree whole heartedly that drugs are a health problem and shouldn’t be illegal at all and that because of government a huge chunk of tax dollars goes into this never ending problem that has no restraints for spending, nor does it ever get fixed, go figure (government spending).

Anonymous said...

We must keep the border open. US citizens have no right to say who can enter this country. We must protest anytime a nickle is spent to secure the border.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:44, you're putting words in my mouth I didn't say. I granted that there are times incarceration is necessary and valuable, but it simply is NOT economic stimulus. It is the opposite.

As for non-drug crimes, etc., in times of budget crisis, priorities must be set. I agree it'd be wise to focus efforts on those more serious crimes, but that's not what's been happening with the border grants.

6:35, most of the government spending I advocate on this blog is designed to stave off MUCH more expensive prison building. It's the lock-em-up crowd who wants to spend ad infinitum no matter what the cost-benefit to society. I'm all for evaluating the costs and benefits you describe, and am certain that when they are taken into account, our current mass incarceration tactics wouldn't be justified.

Anonymous said...

Go you move your "a double s" down their on the border and live on a working ranch and just see for yourself what is going on.

It won't be long before some of you will want to move back to some liberal junket like Austin, which by the way, was recently named the 5th most intoxicated city in the United States.

And yes Doran, the Governor is going to spend the money on more border enforcement. That is the "majority will of the people opinion" which you are not a part of and have a right to be.

And the next Governor, whether it be Perry, a democrat or me, is going to follow suit because the majority of us want the border secured.

Here, take my wallet Mr. Obama said...

"the majority of us want the border secured"

And we're willing to get taxed into oblivion and destroy the economy to do it!!

Anonymous said...

If you - 805, feel this way then move to Mexico and shut your mouth.

Anonymous said...

I'm all about increasing the income of corrupt officials along the border. NOT!

Anonymous said...

We're led to believe that the purpose of stimulus funds is to stimulate the economy.

We want as much economic improvement as we can get for each dollar spent.

Putting folks in prison does not improve the economy.

If Texas wants to incarcerate everyone in sight for everything under the sun, Texans can pay for it, not the Federal Stimulus Funds.

I whole hartedly agree with Grits, Gov. Perry needs to take another look as his plan to spend federal stimulus funds on incarceration.

Anonymous said...

Keep that border open!

Anonymous said...

While cost-benefit to society is certainly a concern, there are a great many other concerns besides monetary that must be measured and taken into consideration that benefit society and they must be factored in to obtain a desired result.

The desired result to benefit society as a whole would be to reduce crime at (all) costs. A key factor may be in how future politicians view the WOD and its cost to society, it would appear that a great many Americans are sick and tired of the Republicans and Democrats and their politics, (somebody pinch me I must be dreaming). Take the crime out of that one and we have a whole new ball game and we can save enough tax dollars to pay back China.

I trust the opinion of the blogger that lives there more so than any other when it comes down to what they need to be safe on the border. The WOD is [the] major factor in their plight too.

I would prefer that anyone who advocates government spending for any reason other than the public safety, education, health and welfare of our citizens be taken to the woodshed, in short stop spending, we can not afford the bureaucracies that have been established for the drug war, (they must to go, starting with Pretrial Release, what a farce), no more jets for politicians to fly around in, no more trips to meet and study issues over wine with the girl friend or the family, no more flying in people to sit down and have a beer for photo ops, no more chuckles on the golf course, no more politics as usual that come at the cost of the taxpayer.

I am not an advocate of letting people out of jail for government financial reasons, indigence is a case by case study, certainly no one should be released from jail that steals for a living and has a prior criminal record for theft because of being poor. However we must also take into consideration the fact that in some cases the theft is a direct need of survival for some and a helping hand would serve society better than incarceration and so educational alternatives with the strictest of guidelines could very well be the answer.

We have more than enough philanthropist throwing huge dollars into things like the Vera Institute to study criminal issues, let their money and the money of all of the rest of the philanthropist who want to save the beetles and save the whales, be used to save the criminal, pay them to study, and pay for their room and board, and three squares.

That being said, stealing isn’t a health issue it is a moral issue, and if the thief can be rehabilitated through education then expunge their record and let them truly go on to live a rehabilitated life, if they can not then add another wing to the prison so that the cost-benefit to society benefits society and not the criminal.

doran said...

Anon 7:52, you are not thinking clearly. The crimes noted within the border counties, upon which our dear beloved Guv wants to spend stimulus money, are the same crimes that affect the entire state. The logical solution, if indeed there is a solution, is to throw ALL that stimulus money at law enforcement state wide. Why shouldn't law enforcement in counties in North, East and West Texas get their share of the booty?

I suspect there are a lot of people like you who think, on the one hand, that throwing millions of dollars of stimulus money at stopping crime is a great idea, but, on the other, think that throwing millions of dollars at other social problems, such as educational improvement, job training, community supervision, and the like, is some kind of kinky idea held only by bleeding heart liberals.

Here's a thought for you and all the other lawn order thinkers: IH-35 is by all accounts a major thorough-fare for drugs moving out of Mexico and into the mid-west and from there to god only knows where. Why don't we -- Texas, that is -- instruct our law enforcement to just spot those mules who are heading north, and let them go on through? That way, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, etc, can bear the costs of catching them, trying them, and putting them up prison, instead of Texas taxpayers. If they stop to unload in Texas, then bust'em, but if they don't then let someone else bear the tax burden of the "war on drugs."

This approach should appeal to you: It lets the bad guys get out of Texas and into some other state [about which we all, as good Texans, don't give a damn], and it saves Texas taxpayers money. A real, honest to god twofer.

Anonymous said...

Close the border!