08 January 2010

Schwarzenegger, Jails, and UC/CSU

Stephen Bainbridge has a run-down of a Schwarzenegger's latest empty promises. Here's the relevant portion of Schwarzenegger's plan:
The amendment he introduced in his State of the State address would limit the state correctional budget to no more than 7 percent of state general fund revenue and guarantee that the University of California and California State University together would receive no less than 10 percent. The funding shift would begin in the 2011-12 fiscal year and be fully realized in 2014-15.

"Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future," Schwarzenegger said. "What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy. I will submit to you a constitutional amendment so that never again do we spend a greater percentage of our money on prisons than on higher education."
Bainbridge lays out why California isn't going to come through on that. The executive summary is that (1) anything people do that cuts the prison budget will get them tarred as being "soft on crime," and (2) the correctional union in CA is a rich and powerful beast.

I want to draw your attention to the sentence I highlighted above though. I'd say that the only thing spending more on X than you do on Y tells you is that the amount of X you want costs more than the amount of Y you want. It's not a moral judgement on their relative benefits. Students routinely spend more on tuition than they do on housing. Learning is important, but is it more important than having a roof over your head? Should it be a law that tuition must be less than housing? People spend much less on food than they do on housing, and yet food is even more critical to our lives. Do we need to mandate relative spending there?

The portion of a budget going to different activities is an interesting thing to note, but it's hardly a moral mandate.

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