How the 1994 crime bill created mass incarceration

It didn’t.  Not at all.

And while it’s great that liberals take criminal justice reform seriously these days.  It’s very not great to totally misunderstand what’s driving the problems and to do things like place blame on that crime bill.  Love this post from Drum.  Mostly, this chart says it all:

And, some good editorializing nonetheless:

As you can see, the 1994 crime bill had no effect on this trend. Incarceration rates started skyrocketing in the late 70s as a response to rising crime rates, and after the crime bill passed the increase in incarceration started to slow, eventually peaking in 2000.

The crime bill, of course, deserves credit for slowing incarceration no more than it deserves blame for increasing it. It was a null factor. Incarceration increased as crime rates increased, and then started to fall about a decade after crime rates started to decline. Mass incarceration in the US was a panicked response to mass crime, and the 1994 crime bill had little effect on it one way or the other.

I don’t really care what anyone thinks of Joe Biden, but liberals should stop inventing reasons to blame him for things he isn’t responsible for. The 1994 crime bill (a) included a lot of good ideas, (b) included some bad ideas at the insistence of Republicans, (c) had nothing to do with skyrocketing incarceration rates, (d) was supported by most black lawmakers, and (e) was a reaction to the fact that violent crime really was high, and nobody at the time had any reason to think this was likely to change.

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The problem with “Washington”

Is Republicans.  Seriously.  But we’ll get back to that.  What I like about reading somebody criticizing “the problems in Washington” is that it lets me know I don’t need to take them seriously.  They are either a) ignorant/naive, or b) know better and willing to lie about it.  Paul Waldman on the problem with blaming all our problems on “Washington:

That points to a key factor in how governing works these days: The Republican agenda has gotten quite narrow, and it contains almost nothing that’s affirmative in any way. Republicans want to dismantle regulations on the environment and labor rights. They want to take health insurance awayfrom as many people as they can. They want to attack abortion rights and make life more miserable for transgender Americans. And, of course, a giant meteor could be headed to destroy the Earth in 48 hours and they’d try to force through one more tax cut for the wealthy and corporations before we’re all vaporized.

But in terms of actually doing anything positive, they’re not really interested [emphases mine]

Meanwhile, Democrats have a long list of ambitious things they’d like to do: achieving universal health coverage, expanding pre-K, fighting climate change, guaranteeing voting rights, making college affordable, raising the minimum wage — but Republicans are opposed to all of it.

Which isn’t surprising, because the two parties represent fundamentally different value systems. Yet we keep telling ourselves that with enough openness and good will, we can make those value differences fade away and come up with solutions to our problems.

Unfortunately, politicians do a great deal to mislead voters about how politics works. Every election, candidates for the House and Senate tell voters that the problem is this thing called Washington, whose dysfunctions can be cured with the proper kick in the keister. And I, the candidate says, am just the person to do it, to change Washington into what it ought to be. Why? Not because I have policy expertise or relevant experience; those things don’t matter. No, it’s because I have common sense, and I know how to get things done…

The reality is that we’re in an era when, unless there’s unified government, not much is going to get done, at least in terms of legislation. That’s not because there’s something wrong with Washington; it’s because the two parties have fundamentally different ideas about what we ought to do.

Stop reporting about abortion bills like this!

I get that it’s a big deal that states keep on passing laws basically outlawing abortion.  But mainstream news outlets simply need to stop reporting this stories as if the laws have actually outlawed abortion.  We have three branches of government and until the Supreme Court decides otherwise, courts basically have no choice but to throw these laws out.  They are not going to go into effect.  But, we keep getting reports like this, from NPR:

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill on Friday that criminalizes abortions in the state after eight weeks of pregnancy, the latest in a series of sweeping restrictions passed by Republican-controlled legislatures that now threaten nearly 50 years of federal protections for abortion.

Under the law, any person who performs an abortion after eight weeks — which is often before many women are aware they are pregnant — could be charged with a Class B felony punishable by five to 15 years in prison.

The final version of the legislation does not have exceptions for victims of rape or incest. It does have a carve-out for cases of medical emergencies…

Supporters of the Missouri legislation say it is distinctive from the Alabama law in one significant way: It was not written to topple Roe v. Wade. Rather, its backers say, it’s aimed at curbing abortions within the bounds of the law.

“We do not want to run through the courts and try to overturn Roe v. Wade like some of the legislators in other states, like Alabama. We just want to save as many lives as we can while withstanding judicial challenges,” Missouri Rep. Nick Schroer, a Republican sponsor of the bill, told NPR. “We want to get as close to the line as possible on what previous judges have thrown out.” [emphasis mine]

Other states, including Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi, have recently passed bills that forbid abortions when heartbeat activity is detected.

Let’s be clear– that’s balderdash.  And NPR should not be reporting it unquestioned.  The simple fact is that an 8 week ban is completely inconsistent with both Roe and Casey.  Until the Supreme Court clearly overturns those precedents, there will not be any 8-week abortion bans in effect.  And, yet, nowhere does the article make this simple fact clear.  Ugh.

Meanwhile, conservatives can go on believing that NPR is somehow just liberal propaganda.  In reality, this is a great example that the huge problems with political journalism are so not any sort of ideological bias, but an over-emphasis on “the game” and a “both sides” approach that often obscures the truth as much as it illuminates it.

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