When a recession hits, we all focus on the government policies that are most immediate to the economic downturn: unemployment, income, taxes, debt, etc. But in the “never waste a crisis” vein, it appears Wisconsin Democrats are trying to parlay the recession into a major change in the way we deal with those who have committed crimes.
The most obvious example to date is Governor Jim Doyle’s plan to save the state money by granting early release to up to 3,500 “nonviolent” offenders in state prisons. Somehow, in a budget that Doyle claims “cuts” $5.9 billion, he was able to spend $500 million more on K-12 education to pacify the teachers’ unions, while reducing prison spending by $20 million. Perhaps the citizens of Wisconsin should form the “Association of People Who Don’t Like Being Stabbed in the Head,” give Doyle some campaign cash, and he might change his mind about letting criminals back on the streets early. Of course, these offenders will be hitting the streets at the very same time unemployment in Wisconsin has exceeded 8.5%, meaning they’re not exactly going to rush back to lives of productivity.
But legislative Democrats have an answer – they have begun circulating a bill they’ve dubbed the “Job Opportunity Tax Credit” that they boast gives businesses tax credits to hire certain people – veterans, poor high school students, ex-felons, people in vocational rehabilitation programs…
Oh, did I skip over that one too quickly? I’ll say it again.
You read that right – their proposal would actually give a business a tax credit for hiring an ex-felon. Naturally, this gives the business a financial incentive to hire criminals over people who, say, may have managed to avoid molesting children or gunning someone down in the street. (I believe the bill exempts killing someone softly with love songs.)
Of course, we should encourage people who have served their time to make a living. Ex-cons (and even current-cons) are already protected by state law against employment discrimination for past arrest or conviction record, which gives them a decent chance at getting a job with employers who are fearful of a lawsuit if they don’t hire them. If they emerge from prison and can’t find meaningful employment, society is asking for a world of hurt.
But actually giving criminals preference for jobs simply goes too far. The world is officially upside down when someone can live on the straight-and-narrow their entire life, then lose out on a job opportunity specifically because someone else couldn’t. (Note to self: During my next job interview, I should actually jump over the desk and dump battery acid on the boss- then explain to his charred skeleton he should hire me because he’s now eligible for a tax credit. Everyone wins!)
Side note: How do you think veterans feel about being lumped in with ex-felons? If you hire an ex-con who is also a veteran, do you have to immediately have to make him the CEO of your company?
Showing that they also have a sense of humor, legislative Dems have also begun circulating a bill draft (LRB-0910) that would impose a one-year prison sentence on any legislator that engages in lobbying within one year of leaving office. The bill is an attempt to convince the public that legislators no longer in “the club” are the cause of corruption in our state – not the current legislators who agree to be corrupted by lobbyists. As if everyone will forget who a representative is a full year after they leave office. Maybe we should erase their pictures from all the old Blue Books just to be safe.
So, apparently, our prisons are so overcrowded, we have to let 3,500 offenders out, but we have plenty of room for “violent” offenders like lawmakers who get a job lobbying after they quit.
Here are some crimes considered to be “nonviolent” by the state:
- Possession of explosives
- Causing mental harm to a child
- Manufacture, distribution or delivery of drugs
So all you guys in the “incest” line – you can all go free. You legislators over there – you can take their cells.
Obviously, the recession hits everyone hard (except for, of course, state government, which will continue to grow.) But using the financial crisis to socially engineer changes that benefit those who have harmed others isn’t the “stimulus” we need.