Government

Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, took time off from his busy schedule of not remembering things about his Russian contacts to announce he was relaunching the War on Drugs. How appropriate. Who else would know better than a retrogressive Southerner about fighting a pointless war?

The War on Drugs was first announced in 1970 with the idea that you could arrest your away out of drug abuse. At the time the proponents of the ‘addiction is a crime’ strategy could argue there was no evidence it wouldn’t work. But 47 years later, drug use is still prevalent, and deaths from opioids are spiking. And you might wonder why.

Then you remember Prohibition – unless you are Jeff Sessions.

But is an inability to learn from history the only reason conservatives love to spend so much money for so little result? Of course not. Let’s ask, who benefits? The criminal justice industry of course. How many law enforcement, court, and corrections personnel owe their living to the ‘tough on drugs’ malarky?

Liberals point the finger at the private prison business. Sure, why not? They certainly have thrown cash at willing lawmakers. But the army of public employees whose paychecks are dependent on criminalizing drugs represents a sizable voter base. Liberal politicians pay attention as well.

The strategy against crime at large is more of the same. The justice system is void of anything that encourages or enables convicts to become productive citizens. Education, job training, and mental health care for prisoners have vanished. This austerity may appease those who believe that felons shouldn’t be molly-coddled. And there are indeed some quick savings. But in the long term, the state is guaranteeing itself increasing incarceration costs as recidivism rates balloon.

The expense of this nihilistic strategy has become so evident that some fiscal conservatives, even those whose instinct is to punish, are demanding a new approach.

Which brings us to the government’s largest discretionary federal expenditure – defense. Military budgets are not the product of a rigorous analysis based on need. They are the aggregate of all the Christmas lists of Congresspeople depositing lobbyists’ checks while running a government-subsidized jobs program in their districts.

Conservatives preach that free markets are the guarantors of efficiency and cost saving, but when it comes to defense, they make the Soviet command economy model their guide.

Public largesse also lards the nation’s war on terrorism. Conservatives shower billions on police departments of towns ISIS has never heard of. And even if they had, what would ISIS do? They can only dream of causing the rate of death and injury Americans so casually inflict on each other.

But wait, there’s more. Should Trump get his way – and in fairness, there are many conservatives who are opposed – he would spend billions on a pointless border wall. A thrice useless endeavor. It would fail to prevent drug running, to deter undocumented workers trudging north, or dent terrorism’s capabilities.

It should be named the Maginot Line 2.0.

And then there is the biggest boondoggle of them all – healthcare. Whatever happens under this administration, Americans will still pay more than any others for their average healthcare. We can see a perfectly good, cheaper model in Canada. But that doesn’t put money under the insurance companies’ mattresses – so we shan’t see that without lobbyists’ feelings getting hurt.

Conservatives believe that all which ails us could be cured with a stiff dose of muscular market competition. Sadly, there is no evidence to suggest there is any merit to their faith. It would be interesting to see what economic philosophy would arise if its formulation could be shielded from the rapacious demands of corporate cash.

But in the land of the free, politicians are chained to their policies by the bonds of campaign contributions – so we shall never know.

 

 

 

 

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