Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fix the Deficit - End the Longest War in American History

Forty years ago, on June 17, 1971, President Nixon declared war on drugs. We’re still fighting that war with no end in sight. If ever a war was not winnable, it’s this one. America has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. We have the second highest incarceration rate in the world with many prisoners being held for drug offenses. Meanwhile, there has been a rise in violence caused by drug cartels and gangs.

It's often said that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. In 1919, the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale, trafficking, and consumption of alcohol went into effect. People who wanted to drink managed to continue to do so by buying it illegally, going to speakeasies, or making it themselves. Meanwhile, the Mafia rose to power and there was a rise in organized violence. The majority of Americans realized that Prohibition was a disaster and in 1933, it was repealed with the enactment of the 21st Amendment. Sound familiar?

Now the powers in Washington are engaged in a battle over the deficit and the very existence of our fragile social safety net is threatened. The Tea Party and Republicans in general seem determined not to levy even one more penny of taxes on the wealthiest 2% among us. Yet there is a solution at hand: We can surrender in the war on drugs. If drugs become legal, the sale of drugs like that of alcohol, cigarettes and other legal but harmful substances can be taxed. Think of all the tax revenue that will bring in. While we Americans seem to have a problem taxing the uberwealthy, few people from either party will object to taxing drug dealers. In addition, we can drastically cut our law enforcement and prison budgets and spend the money instead on the many social problems that desperately need attention. Maybe we can even start to fill the gaping holes in our social safety net.

 So to bring back a slogan from a war that President Nixon finally was forced to end, Hell No, We Won’t Go! Yes, it’s time to surrender in the War on Drugs.




Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, Lisa! Not only is this war unwinnable, but it has also cost us dearly in human capital as low level folks (especially in the marijuana trade) have been imprisoned -- sometime for LIFE without parole (yes -- for growing grass under mandatory sentencing laws)! What does it cost to keep that person in prison for 60 years? What have we lost in that person's ability to get out of drugs and contribute to society? What happens to that person's kids? it's also unfairly targeted people of color. What a stupid waste of money! Great post!

Lisa Sachs said...

Thanks anonymous. You've brought up some additional reasons why it's time to end the War on Drugs. We all need to stand up and be counted. In the past month at the 40th anniversary on the War on Drugs, many people have said similar things including some politicians. Tony Preckwinkle, Cook County board president, is one who comes to mind. I hope that next time the political climate feels less punitive and you are not afraid to leave your name.