Only Predatory Criminals Need Apply

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Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (in a press release that's not online yet) reports that the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has approved legislation that would let college students who have been convicted of drug offenses obtain federal financial aid, largely reversing a ban that has been in effect since 1998. (Because the committee rejected an amendment that would have completely eliminated the ban, students who commit drug offenses after entering college would still be dropped from the program.) Although the expansion of taxpayer-funded education subsidies is not exactly cause for celebration, it's hard to justify denying aid to pot smokers while giving it to rapists and murderers, a policy that epitomizes the upside-down moral logic of the war on drugs.

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  1. While I’m no fan of pissing money away for the sake of charity alone, some things do result in a tangible benefit to our society as a whole and financial aid for college is (IMHO) one of those.

    But since grants under the Bush Administration have all but been eliminated in favor of low interest loans that tend to follow the recipients around for decades, what are you compaining about?

  2. “Although the expansion of taxpayer-funded education subsidies is not exactly cause for celebration…”

    Does that mean that a better solution would be if the Bush administration also denied aid to rapists and murderers, thereby reducing government subsidies _and_ addressing your feelings concerning proportionate response (though you would certainly feel that drug possession is not a serious enough offense to be on the list)? Would you seriously be willing to donate some money to an organization with this goal? I assume you would be more comfortable with an organization oppossing all subsidies altogether, but I do think that would be the one organization with _even less chance_ of getting any legislation passed than the one already described.

    Anon

  3. First of all, what part of this organization’s goals are so reprehensible?
    Secondly, of course educational subsidies are already out of control and should be reduced, the point is this is another example of the wrong-headed thinking that produces and maintains such ridiculous public policy.

  4. Anon,
    I believe the ideal situation would be to deny grants to everyone. Grants drive up the cost of tuition and reduce the amount universities give to the truely needy. Barring that, it’s better to deny them to no one. The best way to get criminals off the streets is to give them useful skills and education so they can get a real job without resorting to crime.

  5. P.S. You’ll never get me on the bandwagon to…

    1. Reduce goverment spending by reducing financial aide for education

    until you FIRST…

    2. Reduce government spending by reducing corporate welfare for failing industries, farm subsidies and stupid, pointless pork, ALL of which eclipse College financial aide by hundreds of billions of dollars and all of which (unlike student loans) don’t have to be paid back.

  6. I couldn’t get one penny of financial aid from the federal government, but I was never even accused of a drug offense!

    But that was when I was an undergraduate. When I went to grad school I got about $10,000 to use as a downpayment for a house, interest free while in school and 2.75% over 10 years after that.

  7. Whatever one might think of federal financial aid for college students (and, for the record, I think it has a lot to do with tuition inflation), I categorically oppose the way that the insane drug war has commandeered unrelated government programs.

    When government programs are twisted to fit the “total warfare” mentality of the drug warriors, the end result is a government program being diverted from a dubious use to a worse use. Federal financial aid has dubious economic aspects, but when it is denied to people on the basis of victimless crimes the result is to worsen the social engineering of the drug war.

    So, the breakdown is this:

    Federal financial aid allocated without penalties for pot smoking = dubious economic policy

    Same progam with exclusion for pot smokers = worse economic policy + perverse social engineering that tilts the playing field to disfavor those who smokes pot.

  8. thoreau,

    While you and I may debate the efficacy/dubiousness of Federal Financial Aid (in the form of loans, for chrissakes) for getting a college education, as always, you make a very well-stated point about the reprehensible social-engineering aspects of the policies.

    Still, you must realize that the current mentality behind these policies is the same one that keeps trying to link (all) drug trafficking with terrorism all the while ignoring the notion that simply legalizing the drug activity would make it impossible for terrorist to fund there cause with illegal drugs.

    There is no such thing as “drugs = victimless crime” in their canon.

    Even I have some problems with that phrase as there are often tangential victims to the down sides of drug use just as there are tangential victims to the down sides of alcohol use and prostitution.

    The phrase “victimless crime” is a broad brush that paints responsible practioners along with irresponible ones as ‘just having a little harmless fun’.

    We should distinguish the responsible from those who may actually be in need of a little social engineering.

    I opt for the more accurate “responsible recreators” (not to be confused with “re-creators”).

  9. Madpad

    As a person who’s brother took a serious dive with the use of cocaine, cousin committed suicide because he couldn’t kick addiction, and a good, dear friend that followed the wrong path while snorting, injecting, and smoking, I still call it a victimless crime. Yes, these people hurt and dissapointed the family, but victims we are not. We watched these people turn to shit over time and intervened as much as possible, but tough love has become all we can offer until they choose to do something about their situation. Ultimately, these people are/were sick, not criminals.

    I do agree to the merits of financial aid increasing tuition. But, my loans came with extremely low interest rates, below market. And since I paid off a couple of high interest credit cards with financial aid money, I would say the public subsidized my debt interest. What makes me a small ‘L’ libertarian is I didn’t see a problem with this, still don’t, especially considering what you pointed out, corporate welfare, farm aid, pork barrel projects, etc. Since I pay into the system that feeds these albatrosses, I’ll gladly take mine when I need it the most.

  10. JSM,

    Good point and well taken.

    Yes it sucks when we have to watch loved ones deteriorate, and you’re right – we are not victims because of it.

    But a child who dies or suffers from their negligence or a person killed by a drunk driver IS indeed a victim of the irresponible users actions.

    This is the main reason I drew a distinction.

    It’s these issues and victims that the drug warriors will inevitably raise.

    I’m simply suggesting that the argument toward a more rational policy stance might start with making a distinction between the sane, responsible practitioners and the causers of pain chaos.

  11. Hey JSM,

    Your loans aren’t below-market at all. The “market rate” assumes that borrowers might be able to get out of paying the loan back in various ways. Bankruptcy is one way – simply lacking assets and income to a certain degree is another.

    But student loans are far harder to get out of. You can’t go bankrupt on them. You can’t avoid being garnished down to a “minimal” standard of living. That’s the government’s word, minimal. And if you live under a bridge for 20 years, they’ll just keep it on the books, one day you emerge and get a job at Burger King and blammo, they’ll steal your paycheck. At least, if they want to, they can. Collection law is much more favorable to the creditor in the case of a student loan than in an ordinary private-sector transaction.

    So the reason why the loan rate is lower? The government is willing to grant special legal privileges to the lender to facilitate collection even in extreme cases. Yet, this is still the “market” in action. Many “free market” type people would like ALL loans to be enforced the same way, and just WATCH the market bring down rates universally!

  12. “I’m simply suggesting that the argument toward a more rational policy stance might start with making a distinction between the sane, responsible practitioners and the causers of pain chaos.”

    I would refer to the life, liberty, and property model, in that any behavior is permissable as long as one doesn’t compromise the LLP of another. I would include reckless endangerment in there, too. So drinking oneself silly is fine, but getting behind the wheel (in public space) is not, and should be punished severly.

  13. Mr. Nice Guy,

    Exactly

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