Drug Czar Should GO; $400 Million Goes Up in Smoke

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 8, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Drug Czar Should GO; $400 Million Goes Up in Smoke


Voters are disgusted by the reckless spending of politicians in Washington. The backlash is coming, so policymakers are now scrambling to do something, or at least be seen as doing something, about the enormous federal debt. Now is a good time for Congress to abolish government agencies that are outdated, dysfunctional or just unnecessary.

A prime candidate for abolition is the office of the so-called drug czar.

The position of the drug czar was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1988. It was a time of drug war hysteria. Former first lady Nancy Reagan called casual drug users accomplices to murder. President George H.W. Bush vowed to make the war one of his top priorities. During his inaugural address, he said, Take my word for it. This scourge will stop. The conservative firebrand William Bennett became the first czar and made headlines with brash talk of beheading drug dealers. The nation's capital was declared to be a high intensity drug-trafficking zone. There were raids and arrests - including the notorious trial of then-Mayor Marion Barry.

In theory, the drug czar's office was supposed to develop a long-term strategy to win the drug war and bring about a drug-free society. Each year, the czar would call for more governmental efforts to reduce demand and to disrupt the supply of narcotics. Instead of millions, the government started to spend billions.

The bureaucracy flourished as more agents were hired and more high-tech equipment was purchased. The criminal justice system expanded to handle the influx of cases. More prosecutors. More judges. More prison guards.

And yet, millions and millions of Americans continued using drugs. We now know that Presidents Obama and Clinton were among them. Indeed, nowadays, police agencies like the FBI can only recruit young people if the agencies are willing to overlook past drug use.

The goal of disrupting supply has been proved farcical. Drugs are as widely available as ever. Indeed, Washington remains a city with thriving drug traffic. There are open-air drug markets in many neighborhoods. More than a decade after the drug czar went into business, a commission on federal law enforcement practices gave this blunt assessment: Despite a record number of seizures and a flood of legislation, this Commission is not aware of any evidence that the flow of narcotics into the United States has been reduced.

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Drug Czar Should GO; $400 Million Goes Up in Smoke


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