Power Addicts


Last April, House Speaker Newt Gingrich proclaimed that the war on drugs had entered a "new, winnable stage." (See "Just Say Newt," Citings, July.) Newt's battle plan included 14 bills and resolutions intended to bolster morale, arm the troops, defend the borders, and take the offensive in foreign lands.

On September 16, the House escalated Newt's war by passing two pieces of anti-drug legislation. By a 396-to-9 vote, it approved the Drug Demand Reduction Act, which would spend nearly $800 million of taxpayer money over the next four years on yet another anti-drug propaganda campaign.

Among other things, this bundle of big-government hubris instructs states to drug-test teens seeking driver's licenses, making test results available to the would-be drivers' insurance companies; asks the secretary of education to develop a drug-free school rating system; creates the Drug-Free National Clearinghouse, which would serve as a one-stop shopping center for anti-drug materials; and encourages states to encourage businesses to adopt anti-drug programs.

To eradicate supply, the House passed the Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act by a vote of 384 to 39. This bill authorizes $2.3 billion over the next three years for airplanes, helicopters, ships, a military base, and training academies that would target overseas drug cartels. At press time, both bills were awaiting action in the Senate.

Tellingly, one piece of drug legislation didn't pass this year: a rule to require drug testing for congressional members and staff. If test results were made available to employers, i.e., constituents, we'd finally have an answer to the perennial question: "What are they smoking?"