The DEA: A Good Place to Cut the Federal Budget
By Alice Salles
23 January 2017
The US government’s efforts against illicit drugs have finally run their course. With over one trillion dollars wasted over the past several decades and nothing to show but failure, taxpayers are beginning to ask a simple yet pertinent question: Is it time to end the bottomless funding of this utterly ineffective anti-drug crusade?
With a $29 billion budget for the 2017 fiscal year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has secured vast resources to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). With a sizeable budget — $2.8 billion in 2015 — the agency tasked with the chore of enforcing “the controlled substances laws and regulations … and [bringing] to the criminal and civil justice system … organizations and principal members of organizations involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States” has continued to be the number one drug warrior within the federal government. But the DOJ’s Criminal Division, which is tasked with overseeing multiple offices, also houses the Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS), an agency that specializes in “developing and implementing strategies to disrupt and dismantle” gangs and organized crime, including drug trafficking. The 2017 budget for the Criminal Division alone is $198.7 million, which represents a “9.3 percent increase over 2016.”
Over the years, these agencies have time and again been tasked with capturing drug lords and low-level sellers, attempting to put an end to the flow of illicit substances into the country. But despite the copious amounts of resources used in this task alone — whether it’s through the DEA, the OCGS, or even the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — illicit substance use (and abuse) has only grown across the country.
According to data released by the federal government, for example, “[a]vailability of methamphetamine remains high as evidenced by its accounting for the largest percentage of drugs identified from law enforcement seizures and its declining wholesale price.” And yet, President Barack Obama requested an increase in funding for agencies such as the DEA, FBI, and OCGS.
More Government Money, More Drug Problems?
Despite these agencies’ failures, the supply of other substances, like heroin, has also increased.
With overdose rates doubling in most states between 2010 and 2012 and a staggering 28,000 Americans dying of opioid overdoses in 2014, it’s hard to understand the logic behind increasing the budget for an agency or group of agencies working unsuccessfully around the clock to put a stop to the drug trafficking business. Are these agencies helping to stop the flow of illicit drugs by enforcing current laws, or are they making the problem even greater by forcing users to rely on the black market?
In the real world, where employees of businesses or non-public organizations have to demonstrate proficiency in their trade to remain employed, these institutions are unable to keep their doors open if they are not delivering results.
When it comes to the federal government, however, results have nothing to do with budgeting. Why? Because the federal government doesn’t produce wealth. Instead, it taxes residents.
The federal government’s funding comes from the money earned through the ingenuity, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit of common people. But as we see almost regularly on the news, people tend to spend money unwisely when they haven’t earned it. The same happens inside institutions where employees and leadership all rely on the bottomless pit that is taxpayer “revenue.”
Individuals are free to act on their desires and needs, basing their decisions on information they have at hand, but also on past experiences. As free agents, humans have the natural right to pursue their own lifestyles, which includes the use of illicit substances. The very core of principles used to guide the creation of the US Constitution clearly shows this. And for most of the country’s young history, drug use was not controlled by governments or law enforcement. Some of the Founding Fathers even grew their own hemp — a variety of the cannabis plant.
At some point, even the consumption of alcohol in America was outlawed. The result? The creation of some of the most legendary, law-breaking cartels the world has ever seen. But what else happened due to alcohol prohibition? More alcohol abuse (which the federal government attempted to battle by imposing an ill-fated policy of poisoning huge supplies of alcohol).
Like alcohol, drug abuse has turned into a problem because consumers have to rely on the black market for their products. Without access to clear information on these substances, consumers suffer tremendously. And without free competition, which would flourish without governments constantly hampering these efforts, consumers would be free to only pursue their habits by relying on the safest, most trusted sources.
If the goal is to put an end to the illicit drug trade, the federal government is embracing the very opposite of what they ought to, allowing their attempts to restrict drugs to empower black market entities taking advantage of anti-drug laws. Increasing the budget of law enforcement agencies and adding to the ever-growing burden on the US taxpayer is not going to do anything to fix it.
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