A sure way for a person to get their life off track is to have misplaced priorities. The same is true for a business. What is true for individuals and businesses is even more true for a country. And, boy, has this country ever gotten its priorities mixed up. Recent events and news articles have made this very clear.
The world economy went into a tailspin in 2008. Credit dried up, people lost trillions of dollars in wealth, unemployment soared and, as a result, aggregate demand plummeted. Another result of the downturn was a large drop in government revenues. Government revenues will not return to their former levels until more people are employed. But instead of finding ways to raise demand, which would increase employment, governments are cutting spending and laying off public sector workers, thus lowering demand even further. At the very moment when governments should be increasing spending, they are focused on austerity. This brings to mind sayings about carts and horses.
The economy isn’t the only place we seem to have mixed up priorities. A news story getting some attention on left-leaning blogs in 2009 told about the harsh sentence given to a homeless man for stealing $100 from a bank. The man turned himself in the next day and showed a strong sense of remorse. A Louisiana judge, apparently feeling that the malefactor was a dangerous felon and needed to be taken off the streets for the good of the community, sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Two years later another story was in the news. In this more recent story, a CEO was convicted of participating in a $3-billion fraud. He was sentenced to 40 months. Apparently, stealing three billion dollars, which most probably ruined several lives, is a lesser crime than stealing $100 and returning it the next day. If these are our priorities, it’s no wonder the people that tanked our economy walked away with billions in bonuses instead of being prosecuted.
The examples already given may make most people shrug their shoulders and say, “Oh well, more of the same.” However, this next example is truly a WTF moment that makes one seriously wonder if we have plunged down the rabbit hole.
This is a headline from a ThinkProgress article, “Topeka, Kansas City Council Considers Decriminalizing Domestic Violence To Save Money“
From the article:
Faced with their worst budget crises since the Great Depression, states and cities have resorted to increasingly desperate measures to cut costs. State and local governments have laid off teachers, slashed Medicaid funding, and even started unpaving roads and turning off streetlights.
But perhaps the most shocking idea to save money is being debated right now by the City Council of Topeka, Kansas. The city could repeal an ordinance banning domestic violence because some say the cost of prosecuting those cases is just too high:
This must be more of that shared sacrifice we keep hearing about. The Tea Partiers should be very pleased. After all, we don’t have a revenue problem we have a spending problem. How better to bring spending under control than by telling domestic violence victims to suck it up and to pull themselves up by their bootstraps? This sounds surprisingly like the attitude Herman Cain expressed when he said people that don’t have a job in this economy have only themselves to blame.
What will be the next sacrifice we’ll have to make so millionaires and billionaires won’t have to pay the same tax rate they were paying a few years ago? Tell senior citizens to start eating their pets? Reestablish slavery? Oh wait, that one is already here. Georgia is planning on using prison labor to harvest crops, because their anti-immigrant policy drove undocumented workers from their state. Perhaps we should sell Yellowstone Park to Exxon.
Maybe the pessimists are right. Time to start looking for recipes for Soylent Green.
They did it. The Topeka city council voted to repeal the law that would have required them to prosecute domestic violence cases.
TOPEKA, Kan. – Over the past month, one by one, people suspected in domestic battery cases in northeast Kansas have been set free with no charges against them. Prosecutors say they’re overwhelmed with felonies and, faced with budget cuts, can’t afford to pursue the cases.
Busted budgets have forced tough decisions by governments and law enforcement officials nationwide, but the Shawnee County district attorney’s move to stop investigating domestic abuse and other misdemeanor cases has angered victims’ advocates who say austerity has gone too far.
The advocates are also outraged by the response from the capital city of Topeka, where the City Council and mayor repealed the city’s domestic abuse law Tuesday night – a move designed to ensure the city wouldn’t be stuck with the bill for prosecuting such cases.
“I absolutely do not understand it,” Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said after the vote. “It’s really outrageous that they’re playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they’re waiting to straighten this out.”
Topeka has had at least 35 reported incidents of domestic battery or assault since early September. Those cases are not being pursued, and as of last Friday, 18 people jailed have been released without facing charges, according to Topeka police. Prosecutors and police have refused to discuss details of the cases out of concern for victims’ privacy, making it difficult to assess in what situations suspects aren’t being prosecuted.
The use of a weapon in an assault or battery makes a crime a felony, which would be handled in state court.
Taylor’s decision has prompted furious reactions nationwide, and county commissioners say they’ve received hundreds of emails in the past few days from people upset by Taylor’s move and the city’s response. Outside the Shawnee County Courthouse on Tuesday, about two dozen people carried signs protesting the moves.
It also doesn’t help that the possible repeal comes during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“It can’t continue like this. They have to be prosecuted,” said County Commissioner Ted Ensley, a Democrat. “Supposing they’re charged and they’re not prosecuted and it ends up they go back and cause a death of a woman or a child.”
In a memo, Taylor’s office said budget cuts would force it to drop its prosecution of misdemeanors occurring within Topeka’s city limits and “of greatest concern are domestic violence cases.”
Topeka officials feared the city’s ordinance against domestic violence could have forced the city to take over prosecuting cases and file them in its municipal court. Local officials said Topeka couldn’t handle the $74-a-day cost per inmate of renting space from the county to jail several hundred suspected abusers or hiring additional staff to handle prosecutions.
There’s more in that article that is worth reading. This next excerpt really caught my attention.
As in other places across the nation, state and local governments in Kansas are struggling to balance their budgets and find new revenue. Earlier this year, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback won big cuts in general aid to public schools and eliminated state funding for arts programs while forestalling any effort to raise revenue through taxes.
A recent National League of Cities report said cities’ property tax revenues, a key funding source, are expected to drop nearly 4 percent in 2011.
“No one wants to make
these cuts in essential services, but that’s where we’re at,” said Gregory Minchak, a spokesman for the League of Cities.
Cities including Cleveland and Sacramento, Calif., for example, have laid off police officers. And in many Midwestern states, sheriffs have stopped busting meth labs after federal money aimed at cleaning up the crime scenes ran out.
We’re not talking about a huge sum of money here. The cuts amount to less than $6 per household in a county with a median household income of more than $40,000.
The current budget for the Shawnee County district attorney’s office is just under $3.5 million, and would drop to a little more than $3.1 million in 2012 under the spending plan county commissioners adopted in August. Taylor said the cuts imposed by the commission would force him to lay off 11 of his 63 staff members.