For those of you what can’t read too good, or who are using text-to-speech software and therefore missed the headline image macro that accompanies this article, I’ll repeat it below.
“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”-John Ehrlichman, counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President Richard Nixon.
The quote came, once again, from one of the dirty tricksters of the Nixon Administration who confessed the original sin of this failed policy in a 1994 interview with Harper’s Magazine. Ehrlichman ended up doing some time for his part in the Watergate scandal and was reportedly seeking some moral absolution during his interview. Hence the confession.
The policy that kicked off the War on Drugs was put in place in 1971, and has followed the United States – shaping both domestic and foreign affairs ever since – predominately to the detriment of people of color.
There’s a fun story about this, insofar as anything touching the War on Drugs can be fun. It’s considered so much of a failed fuckin policy that even USA Today, the most oversimplified publication in the West, recently did a feature on how the drug wars disproportionately targeted blacks versus whites.
The joke is that if even USA Today has come around to admitting that things are wildly fucked up, then things have been wildly fucked up so long for the dumber portion of white middle America to take note. It’s the only funny thing about the War on Drugs. Except for memes.
Granted, most people in the country – 6 out of 10 – have been saying that the War on Drugs was a failure for quite some time.
Incidentally, that’s also the number who have tried the Devils Lettuce. GASP AND EGADS! TO THE FAINTING COUCH!
They should be saying that, too, since we’ve been waging this failed policy now for nearly five decades. And, since the 90s, we’ve been spending as much as $50 billion a year on this.
I like to pose this question to the mythical Small Government Advocate Fiscal Conservative: What has been the return on investment in spending $50 billion a year to expand federal and state law enforcement and occasionally use our own military and intelligence community to destabilize other Western Countries?
I’ll wait. I can ask this goddamn question all fuckin day.
They can’t answer right away. Some answer, after a time, that we’ve “made America safer!” which is demonstrably false. See, violent and property crimes have been in steady freefall since before the War on Drugs went into effect. Yet, we have the largest prison population on Spaceship Earth arguably outside of China. If those prisoners weren’t violent or property criminals to begin with, who were they?
Low level possessors of drugs. Full stop.
Not even traffickers or gangs. Those folks get brought up on other charges related to violence most of the time so they fall into the other categories.
Low level possessors of drugs, who could otherwise be existing in their communities yet are now forced to live in prisons. In more cases than we should be comfortable with, privately-owned prisons.
You might ask, “Who would want to own a prison, Mean Ol Publius?”
It’s a good, moral question, Random Hypothetical Audience Member. It’s also a stupid question. The answer, as with many such questions in the United States of America – Land of the Free, Home of the Brave – is: The Capital Class (or as me and my homie Adam Smith like to call them, the Economic Masters).
The rise of private prisons
Here’s where I take an aside for a minute.
Private prisons have been around a long, long time. A long time. I don’t have the time to waste on the scholarship of it, but word on the street is that they’ve been around far longer than the gladiator days. Certainly longer than ‘Murica.
There are many who just don’t get why they’re a bad thing.
“Why not make money off housing the scum of society, Commie Publius?” yells the
retarded intellectually-stunted man with the Confederate flag decal.
Well, my sweet summer child, I respond while tussling his greasy few hairs, it’s because sooner or later they’ll make money off you and yours. Like your brother-cousin TylerChad, who’s been in the joint since ’11 for rustling a 12.
“How come they can’t do it,” bleats the thing with the ‘fiscal conservative’ signage in their Twitter bio. “They do it cheaper, GRAGUMF!”
Sir or Madam, I respond, it’s only cheaper for the first couple years. After that the costs go up, Up UP! Not to mention the fact that the part of the formula that’s supposed to keep costs down is a negative impact on all local economies.
“…” responds every other wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Here’s the formula, for them what’s good at math and them what ain’t.
Government Handout + Cost Cutting + Slave Labor + No Workforce Incentive =”Capitalism” (Good)
I know you don’t understand, Cletus and Bryannaa with three “A”s. I explain.
The work only exists within the private realm via government handing it to private entities. While this is sold as a cost-saving measure, it’s never that easy. See, the U.S. Constitution guarantees certain jurisprudence for people here.
It means that in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, if you’re going to lose your liberty to the Government, then the Government has a responsibility to prove it at every step of the way. From investigation (cops) through prosecution (attorneys) through sentencing (judges and juries) and incarceration (prisons). Except they’ve outsourced that last part.
Don’t make any bones about it, they want to outsource/privatize the whole fucking mess.
So from the start, private prisons are a handout to whoever’s waiting with infrastructure. In this case, it’s such companies as CoreCivic, the GEO Group, Inc., and Management and Training Corporation. If the last one sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because it was aped as Management & Correction Corporation and later, Polycon, in Orange is the New Black). The handout gets returned via
bribery campaign contributions, stock options and seats on the Board of Directors (HALLOWED BE THY NAME). Those links to CoreCivic and GEO above go to their financial overview pages on MarketWatch. Go and see.
That’s all done in the name of cost-cutting, but it’s not really cost-cutting, it’s just not taking care of the part of the criminal justice system where you offer rehabilitation to the inmates. Because if you rehabilitated them, how ever would they come back for round two and three? The purpose of cost-cutting is to make sure that they come back, because that slave labor doesn’t just grow on trees.
Oh you didn’t know?
Slave labor still exists in the U.S. and it has since Emancipation. The 13th Amendment has assured that thanks to the clause regarding “no slavery except in prisons” part. That part was included on purpose, but I’ll direct you to the documentary by the same name as the amendment for that.
And when private companies can get government contracts and employ slave labor from a captive workforce, that means they’re not just taking people out of local communities, they’re taking jobs out of local communities.
I’ll give you a moment to decide which you find more… deplorable.
It’s the people, you nonce.
We Now Return To Our Original Programming
Yet, all of this is crucial to the War on Drugs. This indispensable formula needs to exist to enhance the pipeline at home so that “regular” (white) people aren’t agitated too much by it.
Private prisons accepting government handouts to essentially take jobs out of the local economy and use slave labor to out-compete the market that voted it into place.
Meanwhile, market, why dontcha have these pills? It will take away the pain of being alive. Go ahead, it’ll only hurt once. You’re not working anyway since the license plate factory got sent to the prison…
Except something’s gone wrong recently. That something is when the Sackler Family, old money WASPs from Britain and founders of Perdue Pharma, came under fire when it was found that they had directed doctors to increase prescriptions and dosages of painkillers even when they weren’t needed.
Take a moment to think about this next question.
Why is the United States only one of two countries (other being New Zealand) that allow prescription drugs to be advertised on radio, television, print, online and in billboards?
See, the Sacklers came under scrutiny not because they were hooking America on drugs. It’s because so much of white America got hooked on their shit that the Political Masters couldn’t not do something.
When the crack and heroin epidemics were sweeping through our cities, that was just a dismissed as a cultural problem for black folks. But when an opioid epidemic swept through Appalachia and beyond, then it was treated as something more serious – by Jove this is a PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS! – because white people were getting hurt.
As an aside, that’s also why people are talking about the economy as a systemic failure now – because white folks were starting to get laid off en masse these last several years. Historically, layoffs and economic anxiety were for other people. You know. The difference is that when people of color had no access to good paying jobs they’d hustle 2-3 jobs or start their own business, while when “economic anxiety” hits white folks they throw a fit and elect Donald Trump as president. But I digress.
I know people don’t like reading that shit, and I don’t give two fucks. I don’t even give one. America’s been screwing over minority demographics since the Colombian Era and well through Colonial Times. The fact is that as much as this country loves to talk about how we’re better than the rest of the world, real systemic change only occurs when the largest demographic demands it. Historically that’s been white men, much to the oppression of all other demographic groups. The War on Drugs was a continuation of that and will remain so until we end the goddamn thing.
So we’re not only screwing over nearly all of our own population here in the states, but we’re destabilizing what could be our business and tourism-partnering countries from Mexico through Chile. Want to know how many countries are in the Western Hemisphere? It’s more than just Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
North America: 23 (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and United States of America.). That’s not counting 22 territories out there with economies that should be fully functioning but get razzled by the Drug War fairly often.
South America: 12 (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.), plus four territories.
So we’ve got 35 countries and 26 territories – 61 distinct geographic places that could be trading partners if America didn’t have a hard-on for bombing the fuck outta brown folks. Sixty-one geographic entities that, when destabilized by our War on Drugs, have people with no where else to go but the
Shining Beacon on the Hill ‘Murica.
There’s an economic policy that most businesses hold true called “You break it you bought it,” that unfortunately doesn’t hold true for nation-states. Not that ‘Murica needs to “buy” the countries it’s breaking, but it could sure as hell do much more toward fixing them.
Instead, we’re spending $50 billion every year to destabilize the Western Hemisphere, which results in us sending people with substance abuse problems into slave labor of private prisons and barring people from entry at the border who are just coming here because we bombed their home nations to smithereens (or let the CIA pay their governments to do). Worse yet, if we don’t bar Drug War Refugees from entry we’re either allowing Tyson Foods and other corrupt businesses to hire them until they become problematic, then either deporting them to whence they came or concentrating them into camps along the border indefinitely.
We are doing this to ourselves, and it must stop.
There is no policy goal, no political platform, no religious purpose, no economic benefit for the War on Drugs to continue. It is five decades of failed public policy that has ruined uncountable lives through death, despair, addiction, persecution and senseless incarceration.
In the early 20th Century, the War on Alcohol lasted 13 years and gave footholds to the Irish-American and Italian-American Mafias. After 13 years, Americans were able to reflect on the carnage, the senseless violence and lost revenue that would never return and say, “We Fucked Up.” And that was that. A constitutional amendment was put in place stating that prohibition against alcohol was over for good.
All those bootleggers who were running speakeasies and breweries and distilleries were now able to trade their secrecy and firearms for accountants. Once it was brought into the light of day, the alcohol industry created huge leaps in revenue thanks to new payroll taxes from all those employees who could now admit where they worked; property taxes on the locations that could be built at permanent locations; plus sin and sales taxes for every transaction made.
The same could happen to – GASP – the Cartels. As much as we might want to continue this Forever War because “those are some bad hombres,” it’s pointless to continue. They’ve won, and it has cost us all immeasurably to get here.
But, just like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam and Anheuser-Busch, family names that may have once been notorious instead became synonymous with an industry – and all the fuckin jobs they created by going legit.
After nearly 50 years, it’s time to do it. Some Law Enforcement groups agree. Because it’s that simple. After 50 years, something has to change – and if 6 outta 10 Americans already understand that, we’ll drag the last four along for the ride.
We’d save lives, we’d be better positioned to rehabilitate those with substance abuse issues, we’d be saving the $50 billion every year we spend directly on the Drug War and other billions we spend on policing/prosecution/incarceration, we’d unclog the court systems and the dockets of public defenders, we’d poise the Western nations that are currently destabilized for re-stabilization, we’d increase the likelihood of trade with those countries thereby increasing American exports, and we’d create a better world in general.
Or we can continue doing the same thing, because, ya know, drugs are bad, mmmkay. We couldn’t possibly take the profits away from those dear, dear private prisons!
It’s up to you to decide, but would you rather be one of the 6 outta 10 who gets it, or one of the 4 outta 10 who wants to continue the same old-same old failed policy? It’s time for another constitutional amendment ending the prohibition on drugs. If 20th Century Americans could figure it out concerning alcohol, we can figure it out about drugs.