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In order to ascertain where your country is headed you need look no further than where and how your government is spending your money. In the United States, over the past 20 years, state expenditures on prisons have outpaced spending on higher education by a factor of 6. Last year, California spent $9.6 BILLION dollars on their prison systems--nearly double the amount they spent on state colleges.
Surely all of this money is spent helping keep our society safer, right? Surely not. Unless you feel that perpetrators of victimless crimes are the primary scourge to your personal safety. And if that's the case, you're an imbecile and probably don't even know how to read these 'words' anyway (no offense). In 1980, only 15 inmates out of every 100,000 were in jail on drug-related charges. By the mid-90s that figure had sky-rocketed to 148 per 100,000. Today it is even higher. In fact, HALF of all federal inmates are in prison on drug convictions. Worse yet, 4 out of 5 of those arrested merely possessed contraband without any intent to distribute. Consequently our prisons have now ballooned to numbers unseen in human history, beyond even the Gulags of Soviet Russia--more than 6 million Americans are currently under 'correctional supervision.'
These staggering statistics are all a result of the so-called 'War On Drugs,' launched during the Reagan Administration and universally deplored ever since as an abject failure, by any conceivable measure. A recent report signed by Reagan's own Secretary of State, George Shultz, concluded that "vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have CLEARLY failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption." And in the wake of this war waged on our own citizens, we have seen the meteoric rise of drug cartels throughout South and Central America, leaving tens of thousands dead along the way, hundreds of thousands of families torn apart, billions of dollars spent (wasted). All this, yet recreational drug use in America is as prevalent in 2012 as ever before. In fact, it's thriving.
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How and why does this failed policy continue? Who on Earth would proclaim it a good idea to remain on the same path when even the country's most vocal moral pundits--like Christian Right Posterboy Pat Robertson--openly object? As with any questionable aspect of our ethically-bankrupt brand of Capitalism, it's essential to concentrate not on how much money is being spent (which is invariably a lot) but to where that money is going.
|Whitney Houston's House|
Too often debates get bogged down on the monetary sums associated with unimaginable failures. Take for example the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the average American is aware that over a trillion dollars has gone into these endless quagmires, what percentage of citizens knows precisely who received majority of those funds? The same can be said for the most costly war fought here on our own soil. Many Americans fail to recognize that the prison industry is a multi-billion dollar business swelling to the lucrative heights of the military-industrial complex. And the very same Reagan administration that fought so futilely to counter the scourge of drug-use in the 80s also brought us rampant, irresponsible privatization. So at the same time that we started accumulating more prisoners than ever before, large private companies arrived on the scene--many from overseas--to begin developing the infrastructure necessary to house all of these new detainees. A happy coincidence, no?
Nowadays, oversized corporate interests--that would happily see half the damn population incarcerated if it helped their bottom line--lobby Congress every year to insure that anti-drug legislation stays as heavy-handed and non-sensible as ever.
If you're not infuriated, you're not paying attention. But if you are paying attention, it's up to you as one of the few informed citizens out there to help spread the word about what this 'war' is really all about: corporate profits. And just because you advocate a sensible drug policy--one that doesn't pluck otherwise law-abiding individuals off the streets at a tremendous cost to taxpayers and families everywhere--it doesn't mean that you're enthusiastically encouraging everyone to try drugs. I am advocating that, but it doesn't mean that you have to in order for us to ally our common interest: putting an end to unscrupulous profiteering at the expense of the public weal.
If you are totally satisfied living in a country that spends billions more on incarcerating rather than educating its citizens, then by all means continue not doing anything and let's all see where this path leads...