The Other War That Isn't Covered by Obama's Spending Freeze


The Office of National Drug Control Policy released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 on Monday. Over at The Raw Story, Stephen C. Webster argues that it shows drug czar Gil Kerlikowske was "full of hot air" when he talked about "handling drug addiction as a medical problem, moving away from the brash enforcement tactics that hallmarked prior administrations." Webster certainly has a point, although he and I might disagree on the question of what exactly Gil Kerlikowske is full of. The share of the anti-drug budget allocated to "treatment and prevention"—as opposed to domestic law enforcement, interdiction, and international source control—averaged nearly 40 percent under Bush. Under Obama, it is 34 percent in the current fiscal year (down from 35 percent in fiscal year 2009) and would rise to 36 percent next year. So there is not much evidence that the Obama administration is reallocating resources from supply reduction to demand reduction, as is typically advocated by critics who say drug abuse should be treated as "public health" issue. For Kerlikowske to call this budget "balanced" is indeed a joke by that measure.

Then again, the total drug control budget under Bush increased an average of almost 6 percent a year, compared to increases of 1.5 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, in Obama's first and second fiscal years. So far, in other words, drug control spending is rising by an average of 2.5 percent annually, less than half the rate under Bush. I'd rather see a smaller total budget than a bigger one with more money allocated to "treatment and prevention," especially since the programs the government chooses to fund in those categories are not likely to be any more effective than busting pot dealers or tearing up poppies in Afghanistan. Nor will they necessarily be less coercive, since illegal drug users are typically forced into "treatment" under threat of imprisonment. Kerlikowske's eschewal of martial metaphors and embrace of medical language, like Clinton drug czar Barry McCaffrey's, probably will turn out to be a cover for business as usual. But even if it led to some rejiggering of the anti-drug budget, I'm not convinced it would yield a noticeable improvement.

By the ONDCP's reckoning, by the way, the total federal drug control budget is around $15 billion, but the actual total is subtantially higher, even without taking state and local spending into account. Go here (PDF) for an explanation of how accounting tricks hide a lot of federal anti-drug spending.

Drug control budget numbers through fiscal year 2010 are here (PDF). The ONDCP summary of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 is here (PDF). I express my skepticism about the change of course signaled by Kerlikowske's rhetorical shift here. I discuss the hazards of medicalizing the drug war here and here.

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  1. Is anyone actually surprised?

  2. Remember kids-

    If you want to have stiff drink or a beer when you get home from work, that's fine. If you want to light up a cigarette, go right ahead. But if you light up a bit of that "devil weed"- MARIHUANA!!!- you need to go into treatment immediately.

    A message from your friend Boozy the Clown and Nicotenie the Dancing Bear

  3. Ah, yes, the Whore on Drugs.

    1. I'll thank you not to insult me like that. Insult NutraSweet instead: "The Insidious Pancreas".

      1. The menace of Sugarfreejuana.

        1. Dopabetic?

      2. I rather like "Whore on Drugs." I'm sure it's not original, but I don't recall seeing it around here. Odd.

      3. My pancreas sits like an octopus, its tentacles encircling the globe.


        1. Careful, they may be planning to replace it with an artificial one. They fear your pancreas' testicles encircling the globe.

          1. One day, when I am more machine than man, I will destroy Steve Smith in one-on-one combat.

            1. Steve is an endangered species. You may be able to defeat him, but you will never defeat the EPA.

              "Damn it! Well, then you find 'em, and you get 'em back in the dome! And to make sure nobody else gets out, I want roving death squads around the perimeter 24-7! I want 10,000 tough guys, and I want 10,000 soft guys to make the tough guys look tougher! And here's how I want them arranged: tough, soft, tough, tough, soft, tough, soft, soft, tough, tough, soft, soft, tough, soft, tough, soft!"

              1. Screw the EPA. Put Smith in a dome where he cannot rape, or give us all individual-sized rape-proof domes.

                Some creature were meant to be extinct. I'm looking at you, Haast's Eagle.

              2. It hasn't been legal to hunt large man raping ape men in this country since at least the 1920s. Although I am told Mexican drug lords run clandestine hunts for rich sportsman down in Copper Canyon.

  4. I have had a couple of conversations, recently, with people who excitedly tell me "Obama sez not to mess with medical marijuana, so we're like totally in the clear."

    They don't seem to like it when I tell them they're full of shit, and the hammer is going to come down, sooner or later. All it takes is one eager beaver in Helena, calling the Home Office to say, "These people are openly carrying on as if that shit's legal. Send in the narcs, ASAP. And we're gonna need some tanks, too."

    1. Corporations can do drugs, you know.

      1. Akbar Zib! Does nothing work here anymore? And I still HATE nested threaded immoral comments! Arrrggghhhh!

        1. Try not escaping the quotes.

      2. Soon they will be having crack babies and we will need more regulation. For the children.

    2. I can't believe the people who are running marijuana coffee sops in California. God love them and I wish them well. But if they don't think the DEA is going to show up some day, they are dellusional.

  5. Corporation only do drugs which enhance their evilness.

  6. Threaded comments are a plot by the NSA, and you have allowed yourself to become ensnared in their dastardly web.

  7. @PBrooks. I've heard that same crap as well. As long as Drug Warrior GI Joe is in the veep's seat, Obama is going abide by GI Joe's bidding.

    And for those who say we should tax and regulate the hell out of drugs once they become legal in CA, I usually tell them "you had me at legalization." And for some reason I get a bunch of dumb looks by these "enlightened progressives" when I say that.

    1. You can only regulate and tax if the Feds get out of it. The tax revenue won't come from the street corner dealers or people growing it in their basements and selling it to their friends. It will come from legitimate businesses who sell it. And no legitimate business in their right mind is going to sell pot as long as there is the possibility that the feds will show up.

    2. All Biden's fault?

      He pulls the strings like Cheney did?

      1. I voted "Present"...

  8. LibertarianMatt|2.4.10 @ 1:50PM|#
    "...And for those who say we should tax and regulate the hell out of drugs once they become legal in CA,..."
    Yep, a truly horrible idea. Taxing it will do nothing other than add one or more government agencies that will never pay their own way and become just one more excuse to add even *more* taxes.

    1. For all its flaws, I think the IRS seems to pay its own way.

      1. With those spiffy new tactical shotguns they can run a bigger profit.

      2. That's a good line. Thanks.

    2. Yep, a truly horrible idea. Taxing it will do nothing other than add one or more government agencies that will never pay their own way and become just one more excuse to add even *more* taxes.

      For all that it sucks, taxed but legal alcohol is still better than Prohibition.

  9. Spending money on enforcement is more jobs and money for cops which equals more cop union dues. Anyone who thinks the Democrats are ever going to end the war on drugs, is on some pretty good drugs themselves. The public employees unions do quite well because of the war on drugs. No way are they going to let the Democrats stop that revenue stream.


    Don't miss the extra special rationalization session in the comments...

    1. Is joe there?

  11. "Haha- You no fool-a me this time!"

  12. I've already posted it here several times, so I won't do it again, but in his Berlin speech, Obama compared those who sell drugs to terrorists.

    After that, I don't know how anyone could believe the drug war stupidity would be lessened in any significant way.

    1. The same way people beleived he was an anti-war President even though he spent his entire campaign out McCaining McCain on how tough he was going to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

      He is The Obama man. He is all things to all people, the yin and the yang. And there is nothing a little more cowbell can't solve.

      1. Who can tell some big lies? Wrinkle them with skew?
        Cover them with bullshit and a satirical or two,
        The Obama Man.
        Oh, the Obama Man can.
        The Obama Man can 'cause he mixes it with bluff
        And makes his words taste good.

        1. Didn't Sammy Davis Jr. sing that song? That is racist!!

          1. Not in the movie. Some candy-pushing white dude sang it. Naturally, I prefer Sammy's version.

  13. Go here (PDF) for an explanation of how accounting tricks hide a lot of federal anti-drug spending.

    Highly (NPI) recommended.

    We need that kind of expos? for *all* federal spending.

    1. Just read it, amazing really. Add in individual state prison/interdiction/treatment budgets and you are looking at a lot of money. They should also include federal to state law enforcement grants, and seized property used as budget supplement.

      The cost when summed with the amount lost in tax revenue is staggering.

  14. With asset seizure laws you need to work hard to reap the ultimate benefit from the WoD... What's a few percentage points when there's houses and cars and cash to be had with enforcement

  15. truth,,,,obama people have no idea of the extent to which they have to be gulled in order to be led."
    "The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell a big one."
    "All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it. Therefore, the intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it."
    "Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise."pelosi don't see much future for the Americans ... it's a decayed country. And they have their racial problem, and the problem of social inequalities ...obama feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance ... everything about the behaviour of American society reveals that it's half Judaised, and the other half negrified. How can one expect a State like that to hold TOGTHER.They include the angry left wing bloggers who spread vicious lies and half-truths about their political adversaries... Those lies are then repeated by the duplicitous left wing media outlets who "discuss" the nonsense on air as if it has merit? The media's justification is apparently "because it's out there", truth be damned. STOP THIS COMMUNIST OBAMA ,GOD HELP US ALL .THE COMMANDER ((GOD OPEN YOUR EYES)) stop the communist obama & pelosi.((open you eyes)) ,the commander

  16. The bit of Bush's "average" on treatment and prevention on Obama is kind of BS. In 2001 47 percent of the budget was spent on demand reduction, but by 2007 was down to 35 percent. So Bush's average is higher, because he inherited a much smaller drug war from Clinton.
    Congress has no appetite to cut enforcement budget because of the law and order vote. Obama can't do everything, and the politics stink.

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