Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We are all casualties in the War on Drugs

One of the most simple and effective ways of controlling the thoughts and actions of the American public is, and always has been, the War on Drugs. Through this “War”, those who hold true power in this country can redirect the anger, dissatisfaction and sense of justice that the citizens become self-aware of as a collective entity every few years. This allows those in power to shape the common ideal of who is desirable and undesirable as Americans and who can be scapegoat for punishment. The most vulnerable of our society, those with little or no money and those with no political or economic leverage are the ones who are targeted for punishment.

We allow this to happen because we are conditioned to accept the jingoism of the propaganda created by our political and business leaders. The payoff we receive for unquestionably following the conditioning is the promise that someone, who is always stereotyped as less worthy and productive as the rest of us, will be ostracized from our society and incarcerated. We will be given a self-fulfilling sense of pleasure that “good” is being done for our society at large and that our self-righteousness will lead to greater safety in our own homes and for our loved ones. The beneficiaries of this propaganda are not the average citizens; the beneficiary is in fact the ones who maintain economic, political and theocratic control over America.

Poverty and lack of education are often cited as the two main causes of drug addiction. My belief is that while drug addiction is indeed a socio-economic problem, the actual root cause is hopelessness and pain. Poverty may increase the chances a person will become an addict but a lack of good paying jobs, fear of what tomorrow may bring and an ultimate sense of “giving in” to the futility of being a “tilting windmill” is what causes the impoverished to turn to drugs. The emotional pain that comes with this act of giving in is no different than what is felt by the victims of tragedy or abuse. The latter, tragedy and abuse are aspects of drug abuse that know no socio-economic boundaries.

No one aspires to be a drug addict when they are young. Addicts turn to this vice in response to what they believe about the outside world or to numb internal pain. Feeling good or better than your outlook on life is alluring, deadening pain is critical when all you feel is pain. These are traits that are shared with not only the addict but also the casual drug users who often get caught in the net of the War on Drugs. Their fate of the recreational user is the same as the addict if they do not have economic or political ties that may shield them from the full brunt on the American legislative and judicial branches.

The closed loop system of drug abuse, drug addiction, drug trafficking, drug legislation, enforcement of drug laws, state mandated drug treatment and incarceration is self-sustaining and needs little outside stimulus to maintain itself. The War on Drugs and a variety of legislative practices do not limit or reduce this system but instead cause growth of the system, which in turn increases the size and power of government as an end result. Society does not benefit from drug addiction and the War on Drugs does not benefit society either. This “War” merely marginalizes citizens and dehumanizes the victims of addiction as well as the one-off cases of individuals who self medicate for the treatment of any professionally diagnosed medical condition that decreases the quality of life of the patient.

The central method the government uses in delivering anti-drug propaganda is to demonize all drug users as deviant, dangerous and crazed. They are portrayed as immoral and outsiders of accepted society. This removes any and all sympathy the average citizen may have for the victims of drug addiction. Punishment of drug offenders satisfies the sadistic and vengeful impulses of the citizenry.

If 10 meth labs were raided in a single day, in a single state, and only 1 person was arrested for possession of the drug, the law enforcement agencies would use the single arrest of a user as justification for increasing their funds and power. The labs would be verification that their policies and laws are valid, the single drug addict would be the sign that even more needs to be done.

Law enforcement, judicial and penal systems do not grow when crime rates are down. All three of those systems need a constant rise or growth of crime to not only maintain their funding but in reality they need an increase of crime to justify what they always demand, more money. What those systems gain from the War on Drugs is far more than just public funding. What they gain is greater control of the public at large and in the end they gain a person’s money, property and life.

When a person is arrested for possession of drugs, depending on the type of drug and the amount of the drug they are arrested for, the following things occur:

1) The accused is now added to the state and local drug crime statistics.

2) The accused may try to make bail or bond out of jail, which adds money to the local bail bonding industry. If the accused does not show up for their hearings, trial dates or sentencing date the bail or bond is forfeited to the state or local coffers.

3) The accused must seek legal representation, which they may or may not be able to afford. If they can afford the legal expenses they are adding money to the local legal community. If they cannot afford representation they must petition the court, which places an added burden on the government budget.

4) If the accused is found guilty they will be paying fines, which adds to the government income. They may spend time in jail, prison or on probation and in all three cases a burden is placed on the government’s budget.

5) The guilty may have to forfeit all property they own to the government depending on the law they violated. This also adds to the government coffers when the property is auctioned to the public.

6) If the guilty receives a prison sentence there is a strong likelihood that they will be forced to provide cheap labor while incarcerated, which also adds to the government’s coffers.

7) The government will use that person’s arrest and conviction in its statistical reports for its budgets. With an increase of crime, especially targeted crime there is a corresponding demand from law enforcement to gain funding to combat that crime.

8) Once the guilty is released from prison they now have a criminal record that will adversely affect their ability to gain honest and good paying employment. This reduces the taxable income that the government can access and it can add to a burden to other government programs such as welfare if the guilty has to support a family.

9) If the guilty is desperate enough they may turn to a full time life of crime that adds to this cycle.

This doesn’t include the ancillary charges that can be brought up against most addicts and dealers. Possession of illegal weapons, tax fraud, possession of stolen goods and many other ancillary crimes are committed by both the addicts and the dealers who live in the world of drug addiction. With the rise in meth labs being raided what we also see is a number of child endangerment cases as well and homeowners and apartment managers who rent to a person who runs a meth lab on their premises are also looking at massive bills to cleanup what are now being defined by the EPA as contaminated sites.

The War on Drugs as it has been waged does not address the root causes or the prevention of drug addiction. It targets users and sellers of illicit drugs to fund it’s own goals, expand the reach of government over it’s citizens and centralize the people who benefit from the spoils of this war. Its sole purpose is to consolidate power, perpetuate itself and ignore the root causes of the war.

A person can provide and contribute more to the overall health of society by being a tax paying, law abiding and conscientious citizen. All people in a community share in the wealth that comes from keeping people happy and employed as the citizens will pay taxes, work to improve their standing in society, help their fellow citizens and reduce the burden of the cost of government by being model citizens. Why is the War on Drugs focused on finding the addicts, drug suppliers and drug manufacturers and “eliminating” them instead of eliminating the factors that lead it’s citizens to create and fuel the demand for drugs?

If a society were to reverse the flow of funds from the legislative, judicial, law enforcement and penal systems that drain resources and talent for this War on Drugs and direct those funds to repairing the problems that cause drug addiction what would be the end result? What would need to be addressed?

As I mentioned earlier, it is my belief that drug addiction begins in the local community. When there is little or no hope for the citizens of a local community or if there is no advocacy of people who suffer emotional trauma, those people will turn to substance abuse to deaden their sense of pain. This means that local communities must maintain a strong local economy and provide medical treatment for those people who have suffered deep emotional trauma if they wish to reduce the drug problem in their community.

Local communities are severely limited by how much money they can generate from their citizenry. Property and sales taxes, possibly a small income tax, are all they can draw from. Too much taxation and they stifle the economic viability of their community. They have necessary services that they must provide such as law enforcement, maintaining roads and utility services. This leaves little for reinvesting into the promotion of the local economy. Providing basic medical care for its citizens is out of the question under these conditions.

Under these conditions a local community would need funding from the state and federal government to provide greater economic investment opportunities and medical care for its citizens. States have a much greater reservoir of taxable resources than local governments. They can tax not only income and property but they can also tax the sales of fuels, targeted business and industrial sectors, as well as taxing the use of its road systems via tolls. The state also has the same budgetary issues of providing necessary services but its pool of taxable resources is much greater and the state can also provide basic medical care for its citizens.

To address economic growth and medical care for its citizens the state is in a much better financial position to address those needs than a local government but they still do not have the massive resources that the federal government has. Not only can the federal government collect income and property tax from its citizens it can also tax imported goods from other nations, negotiate the interest rates it must pay for loans, it can also generate funds by charging for a much wider range of services that it oversees. Telecommunications services, postal and other communication channels and medical coverage are prime examples of federal government generating income outside taxation.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the funnel of funding and disbursal of funds were aimed at state and local governments instead of keeping the pool of money at the federal level and spending it on federal programs. State and local governments could share the burden of economic growth by sharing the funds directed at them. State governments could address general and physical health concerns and the local community could be funded to address the mental health of its citizens by creating local community hospitals, hiring mental health professionals and providing both long-term and short-term assistance to its citizens. Victims of assault, natural disasters and poor upbringing could be offered high quality mental health care from professionals who live and are a part of their local community. The driving interest of improving your community and empowering your fellow citizens is a powerful lure to many and this quality can be found in teachers as well.

The local government would benefit from this by having a larger group of healthy, happy and optimistic citizens. This base of workers would in turn be appealing to private business not only because of the capability to maintain quality in the production of its goods and services, but also for the lower overhead that would arise because they would no longer need to provide or assist in the payment of health care services for its employees.

The state government would benefit because a large pool of happy, healthy and optimistic citizens contribute to the overall quality of economic selling points it can make to businesses who are considering a move to their state. The more businesses you have in your state and the more they produce, the greater the amount of money that can be generated by a state government in the form of taxes. Healthier, happier and more optimistic citizens and companies will steadily raise their incomes over their lifetime, which leads to more money generated by taxation.

The federal government benefits off this scenario by lower overall costs for medical care, a lower cost for providing social services, a lower cost in the enforcement of its laws since there would be a decrease in crime and it sees a greater tax base from which to draw from.

Addressing the root causes of addiction reduces the overall problem of drugs by taking away the demand for drugs. There would, of course, be a group of people that cannot be helped or aided no matter how much money is spent trying to help them. We as people have free will and we have to accept that some people simply would not accept help or want to change their lives. This is a fact of human nature that cannot be avoided but it should not be used as an excuse to not address the root problem. The key to this aspect of the War on Drugs is to recognize that the numbers of people who are beyond reach is small in comparison to the sheer volume of people that are swept into the net under our current policies. They, like career criminals, are a portion of society who will not change their behavior and they are a much smaller segment than we are currently dealing with.

This scenario as I described will never be addressed seriously. It may be hinted at or even discussed in a general sense, but it will not be addressed seriously at the higher levels of power in this nation. The reason is simple. The way we currently address the drug problem narrows the group of people who actually benefit short and long-term in the War on Drugs. These people bring true and pure power to the problem and sharing the benefits and wealth of the War on Drugs is not what they want. Who, then, benefits from the status quo in this war?

On the first level of the war, law enforcement gains funds and power. Law enforcement is the foot soldier and pawn of those in power. Law enforcement allegiance is bought and sold by those who wield true and pure power. In some instances the US Military is used in the same way as law enforcement in the war on drugs. They also act as a kind of canary in a coal mine when those at the top of the chain of power want something. If the ends they wish are new laws that restrict the freedoms of Americans, the means of that goal would be to make the law enforcement officials demand new laws to be enacted that they claim will make Americans safer. Use the statistics gathered from arrests to validate the point and people will fall into line when this propaganda is used.

The second level of this war is comprised of the individuals and companies who make a profit off this war. This level includes the obvious people and groups such as lawyers and corrections departments but there is an entire multi-billion dollar industry that drives this second level. That industry comprises companies such as Wackenhut and Aramark who provide outsourced services to the correctional facility industry by providing administrative, maintenance and food services to jails and prisons. Also in this level are the companies who make millions of dollars each year in the construction of new jails and prisons. This is the middle area where cash can be split, transferred and washed by those at the bottom and the top.

The third level of this war is the legislative and judicial branches of government, who provide the legal precedents, legal representation and oversee the funding for this war. These people guide the direction of the war to enhance and expand their power. They have even carried this power to the point where every citizen is considered a criminal regardless of what they actually do with their lives. All one has to do is look at the current missions of the US Intelligence Community and what it is doing in the NSA spying scandal as well as the process that the Intelligence Community uses when it accesses the private databases of companies such as ChoicePoint, to see that we all are being actively monitored in an attempt to not only catch us in the act of committing crimes but to predict when and/or if we will commit crimes.

The War on Drugs is a facet of a much larger operation of consolidating true power into a small group of individuals. Its sole purpose is to create instability in our communities, breed paranoia and suspicion about our fellow citizens and marginalize and target a select group of our own citizens. The very select few gain in this while the vast majority of Americans pay the price. The true price is our freedom and rights.

Even if you and I take no drug stronger than aspirin, we are still a part of the War on Drugs. We pay the price with a weaker community, a weaker economy and a more powerful government. We pay the price because we are under constant surveillance by our government and its representatives. The price we pay is our freedom.

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