House Republicans vote for more violent crime and mental retardation

A 50% cut in lead removal funds? Pure evil.

Evil. No other word for it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

30 thoughts on “House Republicans vote for more violent crime and mental retardation”

  1. Amusingly, I sat down to the computer this morning, my eyes still gunky, barely able to see, and was just able to make out the heading on this post. The instant thought was, “That’s Mark, alright.”

    A few minutes later, when my vision had finally cleared, I confirmed it. But, just like J. Jonah Jameson with his, “Spiderman: Threat or Menace?”, you’re iconic.

    Evil, huh? Couldn’t be, oh, that they think the spending should be proportional to the problem, and the problem is shrinking with the passage of time? Spending less than you want spent is evil.

    1. Brett writes: Couldn’t be, oh, that they think […]

      Nah, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t.

      1. Did you read the linked article?

        Using the most conservative estimate of $17 in benefits for every dollar invested, the $6 million that sequestration already cut from lead removal programs will cost our country at least $102 million. The House Republican cut of $64 million below sequestration would cost over $1 billion.

        Now, maybe those numbers are wrong. Maybe they are exaggerated by a factor of two, say. Even so this would be a great deal. More important, if you are going to claim that the extra $64 million was a waste, I think it’s incumbent on you to point out what’s wrong with those numbers.

        1. Yes, I read the linked article. I’ve read everything Kevin has written about lead and agree with him completely.

          Now, your turn. Did you mean that reply to be to Brett? Or did you miss the point?


    2. Nah. The House GOP (the GOP in general?) simply doesn’t care that much about the quality of our air, water, or health. The record bears that out.

      1. That is to say, Evil. Being too polite to call evil, sin and depravity what they are only legitimizes the evil, sinful and depraved.

        Which leads to Fox news.

    3. Brett, as with so many other threads, you’re basing your opinion on pseudo-expertise. That is, you don’t understand the background data. You don’t understand the particular science or economics behind the situation. But it just strikes you as “common sense” that blah blah blah.

      Without evidence, you have no argument. And you embarrass yourself.

    4. Sometimes a shrinking problem means you can keep spending the money, and thus have it shrink even faster!
      For example, the eradication of Smallpox. If we still have lead in our water, air, and food, it’s still worth reducing.

    5. “Couldn’t be, oh, that they think the spending should be proportional to the problem, and the problem is shrinking with the passage of time?”

      Why in the world would anyone think that that’s how one decides how much resources to devote to a problem?

      Amusingly, I clicked on the comments button thinking, “I wonder what bizarre rationalization Brett will come up with for this.” Iconic.

      1. Possibly because there are finite resources to be allocated, and if you allocate some here, you cannot allocate them elsewhere.

        1. Fuzzy Face, you’re absolutely correct. When you have limited resources, you have to make decisions about how to allocate them.

          Traditionally, of course, those are “cost/benefit” decisions, which Brett knows very well. In my career, I seldom heard sensible engineers like Brett making a resource allocation decision for this year’s budget based primarily on the question “how has the magnitude of the problem grown or shrank since we measured the same problem last year?” Normally, it is a “zero based budget” type of consideration: “How much bang for our buck can we get for spending X dollars on this problem?”

          Note, however, the word “seldom” in my prior paragraph. There is a notable exception. In any conversation about resource allocation, it is reasonable to ask “What’s our experience spending resources on this problem? If it’s primarily negative, can we find a better way to reallocate for the coming year. On the other hand, it it’s highly positive, and the problem continues to be important, can we be confident that a reallocation will return an even better result?”

          In other words, the one time it’s relevant is to show that proven success ought to be continued so long as the expected return is highly positive and highly confident.

          Which is the exact opposite of what Brett implies.

        2. That only implies that a shrinking problem should have shrinking spending if you assume that the previous spending was (at least) the optimal level, which of course in the real world is an incredibly stupid assumption.

  2. one of the tenets i use to guide my interpretation of the world around me is “never attribute to malice what can just as easily be explained by stupidity.” given the remarkable correlations between environmental lead and violent or criminal behavior would definitely have to be put into one category or the other. given the republican tendency to needlessly immiserate the poorest in our country i can understand mr. kleiman’s immediate assumption of this being an act of evil but stupidity is still a possibility.

    1. Stupidity can be the source of evil.

      When the facts are all around and representatives intentionally ignore them, what else can you call it?

    2. Are the categories exclusive? Many great evils are caused by stupidity, which may in turn be willed and so culpable.

  3. I agree with navarro’s tenet – I find it more usually accords with the truth that accusations like Marks. But… where does the estimate of $17 in benefits for every dollar invested come from? The Mother Jones article provides no source. My very brief searches indicate that this is being funded largely at a state level, and that the problem is rapidly diminishing – which I presume indicates that the states largely have it under control.

    I suspect that an information-based discussion would be much more constructive than blind accusations of evil.

    1. Following the links in Kevin Drum’s post, you find this paper from Environmental Health Perspectives with the full benefit/cost calculation.

      Yes, the problem is diminishing. That doesn’t mean it’s gone away.

      Of the 27.97 million children ≤ 6 years of age in the United States in 2006 (U.S. Census Bureau 2008), 24.7%, or 6.9 million, have BLLs between 2 and 10 μg/dL (NHANES 2003–2006).

      Here’s one small part of the benefit calculation:

      A 1-μg/dL reduction in the average pre-school BLL results in 116,541 fewer burglaries, 2,499 fewer robberies, 53,905 fewer aggravated assaults, 4,186 fewer rapes, and 717 fewer murders.

      There! Now that you have the information, what part of “evil” would you like me to explain more clearly?

      1. Well, this is at least a useful way of holding the discussion. It leaves me with some questions, of course, including:

        1) This statement in the paper intrigues me: “Although I posit an adjustment for this assumption in the final sections of this article, this restriction downwardly biases the costs estimates, inflating the return on investment.”

        That’s not very clear to me – it could easily be read as indicating that the suggested return on investment is not as high as the paper suggests. What supporting evidence is there for the return suggested by this paper?

        2) Are there in, general, other studies which dispute this one? The fact that somebody published a paper does not make it sober fact.

        3) Given the budget realities, what alternate cuts are you suggesting that would be better for the country?

        4) Given the political realities, what is the likelihood that the budget against which you are inveighing is going to be adopted, rather than an initial bargaining stance? If the latter, then of course I would expect the GOP to demand things that gets the Democrats livid, in order to trade for things the GOP wants more.

        1. re: 4.

          That logic pretty much sums up Mark Kleinman’s position – the GOP demands evil things. Health of our citizens versus tax cuts.

          Does it ever occur to you that the GOP could ALSO demand that lead is removed from our homes, and fund it?

  4. The evil/stupid dichotomy isn’t as clear as it seems. A lot of stupidity is motivated stupidity. Rightwingers fail to comprehend the benefits of policies such as lead abatement because those policies don’t have much impact on people they consider consequential. And that’s evil.

    Say what you will about Brett, he ain’t stupid.

    1. For those keeping score, I wish to point out that my comment preceded those by Dennis and James by 2 and 3 minutes, respectively. And while they were more succinct and direct, they failed to include any gratuitous insults. So I think I win on points.

    2. I forget who first said it, it’s certainly not original with me, but it’s still true: It’s very difficult to get someone to understand something when their paycheck depends on not understanding it.

    3. If we’re going to have any definition of evil it would have to include disregard for the welfare of others. Of course, openly attacking the welfare of others so that you may then attack them for being poor kind of proves that it is utterly intentional, and not from stupidity. Hence evil. Really fucking evil. That they sound stupid defending this crap is only a byproduct of doing things that are indefensible.

      1. A simpler construct:
        Most Republican officeholders are evil.
        Most Republican voters are stupid. Not necessarily low in IQ, but so filled with negative emotions that they cannot think.

    1. Almost anything he wrote…

      My favorite Upton Sinclair quote is about The Jungle: “I aimed for the public’s heart and hit it in the stomach.”

  5. I’m going to risk my official Libertarian Membership Card and “Quasi-Anarchist Decoder Ring” in order to agree with this Mark Kleiman post 100% in its entirety.

    I still reserve my prerogative to use the Secret Handshake of Liberty at my wont since I was led to believe that this right was inalienable.

  6. How much of the “health homes and lead hazard control” budget line item actually goes towards lead mitigation? What other kinds of interesting stuff fall under “healthy homes”?

  7. It would be so much easier to take concerns about big government more seriously if the logic was applied with more than 1/100 of the proportion to government action conservatives are actually motivated to support.

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