Thursday, May 24, 2012

Roger Clemens and the Cost of Potentially Incarcerating Someone in a Minimum Security Prison/ Wellness Center for 2 or so Months

The likes of Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Paul Ryan et al have all made bashing big/ small/ medium government trend worthy^. The thinking goes that government should be minimized or in some cases eliminated because of frivolous spending or because it won't let landowners develop properties that rest on watersheds or because the current Administration wants everyone to share the cost of healthcare^^.

While such a pejorative view of government tends to disregard the vast majority of good in government, some of the waste is conveniently ignored while it buzzes on every few nights on Sportscenter and the nightly news. It might come as a surprise to some but Roger Clemens' steroid trial-cum-debacle has been going on now for its fifth year. In February 2008 Clemens, an all-time great pitcher who probably cheated and used steroids but is as worthy of Congressional attention as a national spelling bee champion, lied to Congress about his use of performance enhancing drugs.

Consider that his--along with other baseball players of questionable repute--Congressional hearing probably consisted of a dozen-plus members of Congress (likely more considering there were high profile baseball players involved; in other words this wasn't some appropriations hearing for the Department of Transportation), who make in the $170K per year ball park. Each member of Congress also has her/ his personal phalanx of aides who can make anywhere from $30-$150K. This says nothing of the utilities and security costs associated with protecting one of the US's most cherished institutions. For those keeping score its reasonable to assume that it cost tax payers over $1 million to have Roger Clemens' lie to Congress about his steroid use.

(As luck would have it committee members noticed inconsistencies in Clemens' story and involved the FBI, which if you don't think Michael Vick was shocked to learn he could do time for dog-fighting there was no way Clemens was prepared for the penal crap-storm blowing his way.)

Fast--or slow motion--forward three and a half years and Clemens has a trial set for July 2011 on charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. Inevitably there is a mistrial followed by a new trial, which we are now weeks into--but maybe longer, people have kind lost track. Federal prosecutors have called seemingly countless witnesses, and the judge has had to scold both sides for making the whole judicial experience "boring", which probably explains why one juror got dismissed for sleeping during the trial. All the while the cost for federal prosecutors, judges, the opportunity cost of applying these resources to non-Cy Young winners that allegedly lied to Congress about taking bovine muscle enhancers (or whatever) grows.

The costs will likely continue to accrue until the judge can take no more and a jury will decide that Clemens can either return to Texas and play golf six times a week or spend 90 days in a minimum security prison and then return to Texas to play golf six times a week. If convicted the taxpayers will pick-up the Cy Young winner's tab and the whole time the champions of small government will continue to argue that the problem and cost of government result from some combination of other people's elected representatives and any governmental action aimed at regulating behavior that imposes long-term social cost. Regardless if Clemens is convicted DBSF just hopes that since he's contributing to Clemens incarceration at the security-wellness center that there at least be a putting green so while resting he can maintain his short-game.

^DBSF aside: Regardless of what anyone might tell you, no one is actually opposed to government. Proselytes of the anti-government philosophy simply want a government that provides them the services that they use while eliminating services they don't use. Others recognize that some of those non-personally used programs offer some social benefit and, thus, are worth maintaining. The national dialogue might seem infinitely complex but in reality it's not much more than that.

^^DBSF aside 2: From a strictly policy-no-politics perspective we always, like 100% of the time, pay for other people's healthcare whether it is government-mandated or not. Without government-mandated healthcare we simply pay higher fees at the hospital or healthcare provider, which increase costs for insured patients to recoup costs associated with servicing the uninsured. So we either pay for the un- and under-insured through increased hospital and healthcare bills or we contribute to their health insurance. Like, literally no other option. Of course, the alternative to eliminate any support for the the un- and under-insured requires that we urge our legislators to demand that healthcare providers reject the Hippocratic Oath so the un- and under-insured don't receive any healthcare. Of course, this alternative drags one into the depths of a psychological quagmire that challenges some of the most fundamental tenets of Western thought.

1 comment:

  1. What is your position on Jimmy Johnson's admitted use of ExtenZe?