In a characteristically misguided rant Ann Coulter claims that Libertarians focus on petty issues like the drug war to “suck up to liberals”. Her reasoning? There are more important issues at stake that we should be focusing on, like socialized medicine.
She argues that because we live in a socialist society she has the right to care about what we put into our bodies because she will have to pay for our health care. That sounds good if you don’t bother to think the entire situation through. Ann Coulter is forgetting that we are also paying for the drug war and we have paid far more for that than we have ever paid for socialized health care.
In fact, the drug war is one of the most expensive “social programs” in the history of the United States. But people like Ann Coulter think that using force against others can solve any problem and so she is willfully oblivious to any criticism of the idea.
Since the declaration of a “war on drugs” 40 years ago:
- America has spent at least $1 trillion on the drug war. It cost U.S. taxpayers at least $51 billion in 2009 at the state and federal level. That’s $169 for every man, woman and child in America – and that’s not counting opportunity costs or costs at the local level.
- Millions of people have been incarcerated for low-level drug law violations, resulting in drastic racial disparities in the prison system, yet drug overdose, addiction and misuse are more prevalent than ever.
- Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost to overdose and drug-related disease because cost-effective and lifesaving interventions are not sufficiently available.
The war on drugs drives mass incarceration of Americans:
- More than 1 of every 100 American adults is behind bars. In 1980, the total U.S. prison and jail population was about 500,000 – today, it is more than 2.3 million.
- The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world – both per capita and in terms of total people behind bars. The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it has almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.
- The number of people behind bars for drug law violations rose from 50,000 in 1980 to more than a half of a million today – an 1100% increase.
- Drug arrests have more than tripled in the last 25 years, totaling more than 1.63 million arrests in 2010. More than four out of five of these arrests were for mere possession, and forty-six percent of these arrests (750,591) were for marijuana possession alone.
- Arrests and incarceration for drugs – even for first time, low-level violations – can result in debilitating collateral consequences for an individual and their family. Aconviction for a drug law violation can result in the loss of employment, property, public housing, food stamp eligibility, financial aid for college, and the right to vote – even after serving time behind bars.
The war on drugs is the new Jim Crow:
- While African Americans comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population and 13 percent of drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and 59 percent of those convicted of drug law violations.
- Relative to population, African-Americans are 10.1 times more likely than whites to be sent to prison for drug offenses.