Keeping the war on drugs alive 

Follow the money: If

Follow the money: If you want to learn what this country thinks is important, there"s no better way than to see where we put our public dollars. Based on this straightforward form of accounting, it becomes clear that the key to staying funded is to find a way to make war part of your mission. I was reminded of this the other day while reading about the funding cuts that Gov. Frank O"Bannon has had to make in light of Indiana"s most recent budget crisis: $30 million, for example, in K-12 education programs; $95 million from Family and Social Services programs; $7.8 million from the Department of Health; and $3.8 million from the Department of Workforce Development. Now, one can reasonably argue that these cuts are the consequence of a combination of local inefficiencies, fiscal mismanagement and political short-sightedness. Indiana, though, is not the only state having to make these sorts of cuts; state governments throughout the country are finding themselves in similar situations. Indeed, the hard fact is that a loss of federal dollars has also contributed to cuts in human services on the state and local levels. Last fall, when President Bush declared war on terrorism, it was clear that this undertaking was going to create a financial strain that would eventually be felt throughout society. Sure enough, committing billions of unanticipated dollars to defense-related industry and activities has driven the federal budget into a deepening deficit that will, at best, take several years to overcome. Couple this with the Bush administration"s determination to force a "regime change" in Iraq and one can predict a future of even harder choices for local policymakers and human service providers. Unless, that is, they happen to be waging the domestic war this country"s been fighting for the past generation - the war on drugs. While $99,548 is being cut from family planning programs in Indiana, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration continues to make grants to state agencies like the Indiana State Police. This year the DEA provided $625,000 to the ISP as part of something called the Domestic Cannabis Eradication & Suppression program. This is the program that enables the State Police to search for marijuana patches by doing flyovers in helicopters and fixed wing planes. Low-flying surveillance aircraft have become a familiar summertime sight for folks living in South Central and Southern Indiana. According to the State Police, the cost of an average flight is $250 for a helicopter and $72 for a fixed wing aircraft. So while it"s impossible for us to maintain funding levels for women"s health, job training programs and small business services in Indiana, it is considered necessary for the State Police to have money for the aircraft maintenance, fuel and officer overtime pay they need in order to Ö bust people who grow pot. Last year, when the cost of our collective fear of terrorism was projected in the form of budget increases for the military and homeland security, a number of pundits speculated that now some semblance of rationality might finally overtake the runaway train called the war on drugs. After all, they argued, how could our law enforcement and investigative agencies be expected to focus on threats as elusive as Al Qaeda if they were also being distracted by this losing battle for drug prohibition? Wasn"t this actually a good opportunity to cut our losses and rethink drug policy - particularly in light of steps toward decriminalization being taken by allies like Great Britain and Canada? Logically, this made sense. Unfortunately, it failed to recognize one of the major subtexts to emerge since Sept. 11: the overwhelming belief of our state and federal bureaucracies in agencies of command and control. The word belief is operative here because real evidence of success - whether in the war on drugs or, for that matter, the war on terror - is debatable, if not scant. In any event, the reprioritizing of policy that some saw as inevitable after the terrorist attacks has not happened. Instead, the war on drugs has been made part of the war on terror. Attorney General John Ashcroft and newly minted DEA Administrator Asa Hutchison recently celebrated a museum-style exhibition that makes the case that the drug trade funds terrorist organizations. While doubtless true in some cases and to some degree, this argument seeks to sustain a larger puritanism that, as social policy, has proven to be ineffective as it is corrupt. The U.S. Public Health Service reports that the U.S. will spend over $19.2 billion on the drug war in 2002. State and local governments will spend another $20 billion. At a rate of one arrest every 20 seconds, 1,022,614 people have been arrested in this country for drug law offenses so far this year. Can we really afford this? Many people who believe the world is an inherently dangerous place felt vindicated by the attacks last September. For them, the attacks demonstrated our collective lack of discipline, an unwillingness to take the stern steps necessary to preserve and protect our way of life. War, in this view, is the natural state of things; our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be understood within this context. When it comes to public policy, war makes health care, housing, education and services for the old and very young seem like luxuries we can do without. America"s preference is to tax and spend for war.

Tags: ,

Readers also liked…

Around the Web


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

This Week's Flyers

About The Author

David Hoppe

David Hoppe

Today's Best Bets | All of today's events

Around the Web

All contents copyright © 2016 NUVO Inc.
3951 N. Meridian St., Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46208
Website powered by Foundation