Convicted Felons: Another Step to 8 Million More Voters

Tomorrow, state officials in California will review a petition to gain a vote in November that would reduce prison sentences for non-violent felonies. Backers claim that there are more than 800,000 signatures already, which exceeds the 504,000 signatures needed. If passed, the law would reduce the long sentences for minor drug possessions, shoplifting, check forgeries, and other such non-violent felonies to misdemeanors.

Allow felons to vote? Watch this clip from Making Money with Charles Payne discussing the issue of allowing convicted felons to vote. Be sure to watch Charles' new show! It is on Fox Business Monday - Friday from 6 - 7 PM ET.

This is a curious turn of events for several reasons:

California became a tough-on-crime state, mostly through a brilliant union campaign that created the most fascinating fortuitous cycle. In 1980, California had approximately 24,471 inmates and approximately 2, 500 correctional officers. Then came the campaign pushed by the union that eventually lead the state to become the first state to embrace the three-strike rule.

Growth of a Union Powerhouse          Inmate Population
1980                                                    24,471
1983                                                    34,640
1991                                                    97,309
1999                                                  165,166
2005                                                  172,000

1980 to 2000 state built 21 new prisons

There are now 31,000 members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). The state spends $10 billion or 11.5% of the state's general fund managing its prison system. If this initiative is passed, proponents say it will save taxpayers $250 million a year.

Strange Bedfellows

Now, extraordinarily powerful and taking in close to $22 million a year, the CCPOA, which funneled $42 million into Governor Brown's 2010 campaign, should not fret about shortened sentencing. I have always found it interesting how the CCPOA and the communities with the most residence in those prisons have always voted along the same lines.
Perhaps, this is why we shouldn't expect any pushback from the union as the left is now mounting a nationwide campaign to allow felons to vote. With up to three million felons in prison at any given time, and another five million having served their time, it would be a giant voting bloc. The prevailing thinking is that this bloc would overwhelmingly vote Democrat, although Rand Paul has gone to bat for allowing non-violent felons to regain the right to vote.
Currently, two states allow felons to vote while incarcerated, while other states have a variety of ways to regain the vote.

Like many controversial issues facing America today, there is a human side of this and an economic side. Those seeking a vote for violent felons ignore their victims and the scar left on society. I suspect this movement will gain momentum during the last two years of the Obama presidency and opponents will be caught flat-footed.

In a country that's near full legalization of marijuana, I think non-violent felons, especially first-time offenders, should be able to earn back the right to vote. However, that's where I draw the line. The economic stakes are huge as the influx of all felons could tilt laws that reward and encourage the kind of behavior that demands financial assistance to make ends meet. Things like a so-called livable wage or higher unlimited unemployment payouts.

I discussed this on my show last night and got a lot of feedback, would love to hear from you.

Politics as Usual and Unusual= Bad News

"This was your victory. This is your congressman. And you can rest assured that what I'll do is be thinking about you and bringing those resources home" -Charlie Rangel

Last night, we saw two entrenched politicians defy the national mood to win reelection. In Mississippi, incumbent Thad Cochran beat Chris McDaniel, while Charlie Rangel squeaked by State Senator Adriano Espaillat in his bid to keep his congressional seat. Polls had McDaniel winning and demographic changes that now have Hispanics as the largest ethnic group in Rangel's district made these intriguing races. Mostly, it was a chance to see just how disappointed we really are with our elected leaders.

The polls say we're really fed up, but voting results say we like our own as long as they bring home the bacon...or as Rep. Rangel phrases it "those resources."

Ugly Politics

In the primary, Chris McDaniel beat Thad Cochran and polls had him with as much as a double-digit lead. So, what happened? The race/fear card was introduced as Cochran, with the help of national organizations like the NAACP, lured Black and democrat voters to the open primary by painting the Tea Party as the next coming of the Ku Klux Klan.

The plan worked, but we have to ask at what cost? Using buzz words and phrases like "don't be intimidated" and "return to a bygone era" conjures up feelings that impede all forms of progress, including economic.

I get where a poor voter would fear losing their benefits, but a nation focused on securing minimum income and education make their own abyss deeper. For politicians looking to upset the freebie bandwagon, the onus is on them for selling the idea to those that feel most vulnerable to change. Hatred and fear as political weapons is dangerous and wrong.

Thad Cochran came to Washington DC, in 1973, at first, as a Congressman. Cochran later became and has been a Senator since 1978. Charlie Rangel arrived at the nation's capital, before Cochran, in 1971.

During those forty years, these two elected representatives have been entrenched in Washington DC and have squandered the trust of the public while America's influence around the world has waned. The nation's debt marches toward $18.0 trillion and it feels like we've been stuck in the mud forever. From my vantage point, America loss big time, last night, but I guess the locals won and can rest assured that their guys are back on the job looting the joint.

Everyone expected a weak GDP revision, but -2.9 are beyond shocking and it cannot all be blamed on weather. It can be argued that this is old news, but it's also devastating news and yet another indictment on economic policies that have resulted in the poorest post-recession recovery on record.

Most economists have said that the negative impact of healthcare is the biggest reason for massive downside adjustment to the GDP. Not a great harbinger of things to come on healthcare.

Charles V. Payne is a regular contributor to the Fox Business and Fox News Networks. He is also the Chief Executive Officer and Principle Analyst of Wall Street Strategies, Inc. (WSSI), founded in 1991 which provides subscription analytical services to both individual and institutional investors.

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