Friday, January 06, 2006

Congress Cuts Drug War Pork

Yesterday's cartoon depicted the unlikely politics of Republican budget cutters slashing drug war pork-barrel programs, while earlier this week Grits documented alernative pork sources drug warriors might turn to instead. Now, this week's Drug War Chronicle details which Drug War programs were cut by Congress and President Bush and which ones survived. Reports DRC Net:

Emboldened by the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget, which called for cuts in federal funding for multi-jurisdictional drug task forces and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, as well as by conservative watchdog groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste, which criticized spending inside the drug czar's office, Congress made significant dents in funding for a number of drug war programs:

  • Byrne/Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) block grants to the states: Cut from $725 million in 2004 and $625 million last year to $416 million this year.
  • ONDCP media campaign: Cut by $20 million.
  • President's student drug testing fund: Cut by $1 million.
  • Safe and Drug-Free Schools program: Cut by $100 million.
  • Drug Court Discretionary Grant program: Cut from $40 million to $10 million.
One program lined up for the budget ax that survived intact is HIDTA. The Bush administration wanted to slash its funding in half and move it out of the drug czar's office and into the Justice Department, but after a strong campaign by law enforcement lobbyists, that didn't happen. HIDTA instead got a $1 million budget increase, but that is effectively a small cut because it doesn't keep up with inflation over last year. Another program, Byrne/Justice discretionary grants to localities, went from $159 million in 2004 and $168 million last year to $191 million this year. But that increase is small compared with the cuts in the Byrne block grants.

"The Byrne grant and the media campaign cuts are the most significant," said Drug Policy Alliance national affairs director and Capitol Hill denizen Bill Piper. "Those Byrne block grants go directly to the states and keep the task forces alive. If that money were to disappear, the states wouldn't be able to afford a lot of their drug war. The more we cut into the federal subsidies for the drug war, the more likely we are to get reform in the states. We've already seen some of that in the last couple years, where Byrne cuts combined with economic recession forced the states to make some tough choices, and some of them reformed their drug laws as a result," he said.

That's what's happening in Texas, where budget cuts have forced Governor Perry to make tough choices, shifting Byrne grant money from rural drug task forces to other criminal justice priorities like drug courts and border security. I agree with the sentiment expressed by regular Grits visitor kaptinemo in the comments to this post:
how much longer does anyone believe that we can afford this 'rich man's hobby' of a DrugWar? How much longer can a politician afford to explain to an unemployed factory worker whose job has vanished and whose unemployment bennies have run out that to 'save' his kids from drugs (when ol' Joe Sixpack will soon have things like losing the mortgage and feeding those kids to worry about) he has to divert funds from those social safety net programs to pay for the fancy toys of DrugWarriors?
How long indeed? BTW, if Republicans including President Bush's Office of Management and Budget want to cut drug war programs, who is leading the charge to save them? That's right -- Congressional Democrats. John Kerry and Tom Harkin are the Byrne grant program's biggest Senate supporters. I've argued before that Democrats need to get over their reflexive Bush-bashing on this and get behind budget cuts for Byrne grants and HIDTA programs -- after all, even a stopped clock is right twice per day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To reiterate my point from a global perspective: China hints at shift away from dollar

Too many Americans don't realize what this means. Think of it as the bank loan officer threatening to call in the collateral on your impossibly huge loan because you've been spending that loaned money like a drunken sailor. If that happens, we are in very big trouble, as that will have a 'domino effect' upon other international lenders like Japan, leading to a mass abandonment of the dollar, a currency which has become practically nothing more than an IOU to pay an IOU with another's not backed by anything like gold, anymore.

What would this mean on the home front? Think of those stories you heard in school of Weimar Republic Germany, where they brought wheelbarrows of paper money to the store to be weighed because so much had been printed (this is the source of inflation, folks) that it was almost worthless, and its' value dropped almost hourly. The dollar could face that here. I hate to think about what comes next.

With all this international stuff going on in the backdrop, it's imperative that the US government can show it means business in cutting out as much fat from the national budget as possible before those creditors pull out of the dollar, and soon.

Kinda makes you wish we hadn't spent that 200 billion+ ( using the GAO's own figures 1981-2000 ) that we did on the latest phase of the 92 year old DrugWar, don't it? We're going to need that, and we don't have it, as it's been tied up in arresting and imprisoning mostly non-violent drug offenders...and paying for the salaries of and the high-priced toys for DrugWarriors...which they are just itching to use on the taxpayers (most of their quarry have regular jobs and pay taxes) who foot the bill. Some 'investment', huh?