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$1.5 Trillion for the Drug War? 5 Outrageous Areas of Gov't Spending That Should be Cut Instead of Social Services

March 5, 2013 in Blogs

By David Sirota, Salon

Let’s assume that the New York Times was right this week when it asserted that in 2013, “the only issue that truly unites Republicans is a commitment to shrinking the federal government.” Even though there’s ample evidence that the GOP doesn’t actually want to shrink the government, let’s nonetheless assume that Republicans are trying to rhetorically brand themselves to the concept of small government, past votes be damned. And let’s assume that gerrymandering means the GOP will control at least one house of congress for the remainder of the Obama presidency.

Does that, then, mean the next four years will automatically be mired in stalemate? Not necessarily, if Democrats call Republicans’ bluff and use the GOP’s small government argument for progressive ends. Indeed, with House Speaker John Boehner showing a penchant for violating the so-called Hastert Rule and allowing transpartisan bills to pass, the “small government” argument could be a perfect instrument for congressional Democrats to pick off just enough Republican votes to pass meaningful legislation in five key areas:

1. Ending – or at least limiting – the Drug War: To know the Drug War has been a disastrous failure at the policy level, take 10 seconds and look at this animated graph. And it hasn’t just been any run-of-the-mill policy failure involving unjust incarcerationsnegative health consequences and little success in combating drug addiction – it’s also been an extremely expensive Huge Government boondoggle. Yes, depending on how you count it, government has spent somewhere between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion on the Drug War over the last 40 years. According to the conservative Reason magazine, the Drug War now costs about $120 billion a year in direct expenditures. With Republicans showing awillingness to at least entertain questions about America’s existing drug policy, the “small government” argument could be the key to ending America’s longest war.

2. Reducing the military budget: As recently as last May, Republican leaders were still trying to add money to a defense budget that is already one of the largest in American history. But in just a few months, austerity mania opened up the real possibility that progressives have a chance to achieve their goal of a smaller Pentagon. …read more

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