Mother Jones Worries That Sequestration Will Hurt the Poor, the Environment…and the War on Drugs?


Mother Jones

This week Mother Jones has been sounding the alarm about the deleterious effects of the automatic budget cuts that started taking effect last Friday. On Monday, for example, Erika Eichelberger counted "12 Ways the Sequester Will Screw the Poor." Yesterday morning, Zaineb Mohammed listed "6 Ways the Sequester Will Mess Up the Environment." In the afternoon, Andy Kroll warned us that "More Cocaine Could Soon Be on Our Streets, Thanks to the Sequester."

Hang on. One of these things is not like the others. You would expect a progressive magazine to defend welfare and the evironment. But the war on drugs? Isn't Mother Jones supposed to be against that?

Yesterday Nick Gillespie tweeted Kroll's piece, wondering if "@MotherJones really frets #sequester will lead to less drug interdiction." Mother Jones Co-Editor Monika Bauerlein replied: "More 'takes note that.' We try to keep our fretting to a minimum in general." In other words, Mother Jones, which frequently condemns the war on drugs, is making no judgment about whether de-escalating it would be a good or bad development. Is that really such a hard call? It seems obvious to me that less enforcement of drug prohibition, like less imprisonment of people whose only crime is living and working in the United States without official permission, should be counted as a benefit of sequestration. In their eagerness to decry allegedly draconian spending cuts, the folks at Mother Jones seem to have forgotten that they do not actually like everything the government does.

Contrary to Bauerlein's description, Kroll did not merely "note that" the Navy plans to cut back on its drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean. He implicitly endorsed the idea that drug interdiction is an effective way of preventing Americans from obtaining psychoactive substances that politicians have arbitrarily decreed they should not consume. He worried that sequestration will result in "more cocaine on our streets" because "the Navy is pulling back from an operation that kept 160 tons of cocaine and 25,000 pounds of marijuana out of the United States last year." It is interesting that Kroll does not seem worried about more marijuana on our streets, which may have something to do with his own pharmocological preferences—a possibility I am just noting, without passing judgment one way or the other.

In any case, Kroll seems to have a naive view of how drug interdiction works: When the Navy seizes 160 tons of cocaine, he seems to think, it reduces the supply of cocaine by 160 tons. If so, it should be a snap to eliminate all cocaine use in this country. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Americans consume something like 188 tons of cocaine a year. So a few more ships should be all we need to decisively defeat the cocaine scourge.

In reality, interdiction merely imposes a cost on cocaine traffickers—and not a very big cost, since cocaine acquires the bulk of its value after it arrives in the United States. Kroll inadvertently makes that point by quoting a Virginian-Pilot article that says Operation Martillo, which involves the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as the Navy, last year "intercepted and captured $4 billion worth of cocaine, valued at $12 billion in street resale value." Although we should not put too much stock in government estimates of seized drugs' value, which law enforcement agencies have an interest in exaggerating, the gap between those two numbers is notable, and the $4 billion estimate presumably reflects the wholesale cost of cocaine once it gets to the U.S., which is several times the replacement cost for cocaine seized in transit.

Given all the myriad ways in which smugglers can avoid interception, the best drug warriors can hope for is to raise traffickers' costs enough to boost the retail price of cocaine. But that strategy has never had a lasting impact on prices or consumption. As drug policy scholars such as Peter Reuter have been pointing out for decades, the economics of the black market make interdiction a highly inefficient way of stopping Americans from putting forbidden chemicals in their noses, lungs, or veins. 

Am I really explaining to Mother Jones that the war on drugs has been a disastrous failure? Yes, I am, and I guess we can count that as yet another cost of sequestration.

NEXT: Police Officer Gets Eight Years for Rape, Kidnapping

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. You expect “progressives” to be happy about spending cuts? How naive.

  2. why can’t i post

    1. So it’s not just me.

    2. amazed that I was able to post above

      1. something is definitely screwed up today

      2. Me too, I was worried it was finally going to go through and I’d have like 15 posts.

        1. I blame the sequester.

          And BOOOOSSHHHHH!!1!!!1!!1!!

    3. The Reason site is definitely Tango Uniform today.

      1. I reported it. They say Drudge linked to Doherty’s article and the traffic is gumming things up.

    4. I have found that cursing the name of the server squirrels will startle them enough to let your posts through.


        1. How’d that work? I couldn’t post before.

    5. The Reason squirrels are filibustering us today.

    6. why can’t i post


      Just sayin’.

  3. MJ’s gonna fret over any cut, real or imagined, to fedzilla’s budget. Allegiance to govt trumps all.

  4. The only reason TEAM BLUE supposedly opposed the war on drugs was because it was kind of perceived as a more conservative, TEAM RED issue. These people are the lowest form of scum and only do things to oppose the other team. Never, ever, expect consistency or intellectual honesty from them.

    1. Well ending the War on Drugs would meaing ending some government programs and would imply that the State should not stop people from engaging in unhealthy lifestyle choices. So TEAM BLUE can’t get behind that.

      1. The war of drugs is predicated on the legal theory that your body belongs to the state.

        Nearly everything precious to the progtards depends on this position and allowing it to be undermined is terrifying to them.

        So, the war on drugs must go on. And on . Forever.

        If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

        1. Yup. That little blip of liberty called America will be just that. A blip. It’s only a matter of time before humanity returns to it’s default state of poverty and slavery.

          1. Bad luck?

        2. When Raich was being decided, the progressives in the court openly fretted that if intrastate marijuana production to consumption was removed from the scope of federal legislation much of the rest of the progressive agenda would similarly die.

          And yes, to a progressive, ending the drug war would mean ending a significant component of their attempts to “improve” the lesser races and ethnic groups by imposing the progressive standards for how noble savages are supposed to live.

          1. somebody go tell John Cusack about this. Then point out that he agrees with Clarence Thomas. In a nice way.

        3. Plus, All those cops involved in the drug war are unionized. If we end the drug war, that means we need fewer cops, which might justify cutting some spending, and we can’t have that.

          Cops, teachers, and firefighters, they’re the mascots of the public sector unions.

    2. Which is why the comments last night that “libertarians are OK on drug policy but for the wrong reasons” were all the more baffling. What reasons does the left have for opposing the drug war that libertarians don’t agree with?

      1. Leftists are against the drug war because it largely hurts minorities. If the drug war mostly hurt white men, they wouldn’t care.

        Libertarians are against the drug war because it hurts PEOPLE. Apparently the only legitimate reason to be against the drug war is identity politics.

        1. Or maybe progressives have just convinced themselves that libertarians are really fucking high all the time, and that the only reason we’re opposed to the drug war is because it makes it harder for us to get our hands on Grade-A heroin.

          1. A lot of them only oppose the WAR aspect of the WoD.

            They say “It’s a public health issue,” and want more money spent on large treatment centers. Some are for more coercion to get people into the treatment centers than others but nevertheless, they aren’t opposed to getting the government out of the business of ridding the country of our narcotic menace.

            Except for pot. Everyone wants to smoke pot freely.

  5. Ok, I’m calling it. Progressive vs. Liberal cage-match soon to commence.


    1. Hey, it worked.

      1. The squirrels respect the courage to confront them directly.

      2. Thanks man.

      3. I was having problems for a long time, too. 🙁

    2. some posts appear after a few minutes.
      some posts go to the /post blank post
      May the squirrels face a nut shortage this winter.

      1. cursing works

      2. nutquester

  7. I can post in firefox but not chrome?

    1. I was having problems with both Opera and Firefox; I don’t have Chrome on my computer.

  8. Since squirrels are being jerks today, I’m putting this here:

    Me : So, just for the record, the US govmt isn’t going to just summarily execute U.S. citizens on U.S. soil that they don’t like (and who aren’t posing some immediate physical threat), right ?

    Senator Assface : That question doesn’t deserve an answer.

    Good to know.

    Also, from a tactical standpoint, I’m glad there was some effort by Rand to get a non-binding resolution that, you know, the 5th amendment exists and stuff. This demonstrates that, ya, there is a point of disagreement here. This isn’t just hot air. Some people just can’t admit that there is anything the govmt can’t do, and Rand isn’t going to comprimise with them.

  9. Hang on. One of these things is not like the others. You would expect a progressive magazine to defend welfare and the evironment. But the war on drugs? Isn’t Mother Jones supposed to be against that

    Come on, Reason, do we really need to ask that question again? I think we figured out a long time ago that progressives are NOT liberals. They are statist control freaks, so it was inevitable that they would come out against the war on drugs. You really think that someone who thinks they should be able to tell you what size soda you can buy, also thinks that you should be able to put whatever else you want into your own body.

    Also, what is wrong with preview? Is it just me?

    1. I meant FOR the WOD, fucking squirrels, I hatez em!

    2. I meant to say FOR the WOD, not against. Good grief, the squirrels have went crazy.

    3. Just another apocalyptic effect of the sequester. Then entire Federally-funded robot squirrel research effort has ben canned, and the robot squirrels released into the world. Talk about your dumb cuts! If is wasn’t for the food riots and collapsing bridges all around me, I’d march on DC to demand that they re-open the spigots!!

    4. I would expect a progressive magazine to support the war on drugs. I would expect a liberal one to oppose it. I haven’t read enough MJ to know which it is.

    5. progressives are NOT liberals

      They’re also not progressive.

      1. Mr Scotsman. Paging Mr. True Scotsman.

        1. Coming from definition of “progressive” “Promoting or favoring progress toward better conditions or new policies, ideas, or methods”

          Seems to me that modern “progressives” prefer embedding poverty via dependency, state created price inflation and employment regulation, and favors maintaining the status quo at all costs, including bankruptcy.

          1. Progressives are for new policies, ideas or methods. Mid 20th century progressive Germans put a whole new super-efficient industrial spin on the old-fashioned pogrom.

          2. So you’d accept the application of the label if they’d just get back to their roots of Alcohol Prohibition, Eugenics and Trust-Busting?

            I’ll accept that. These guys aren’t real progressives. They are pussies compared to Wilson and TR.

            Although they seem consistent in their support for fiat currency and wars for or against abstract concepts. So they’ve got that going for them.

            1. Not at all. I just think words like “progressive” and “liberal” are up for debate. The best way to piss off a so-called progressive is showing them how regressive (or stagnatist, in the word I coined for them) the effects of their policies are. I think you’re going to have trouble turning the word into a negative context because “what, you oppose progress?”


    Economist and columnist Paul Krugman declared personal bankruptcy today following a failed attempt to spend his way out of debt.


    His biggest mistake came in 2007, when at the height of the financial bubble he decided to invest in high-end real estate in New York City. His multi-million dollar apartment lost 40 percent of its value just months after its purchase, and has been underwater ever since.

    “You’d think a Nobel Prize winning economist could recognize a housing bubble,” says Herman Minsky, a retired television executive who purchased Krugman’s home at a huge discount. “But hey, I’m not complaining.”

    1. He needed to spend $10 billion more and get a government bailout.

    2. This never would have happened if only he had taken more loans and ran up his credit cards further.

    3. it doesn’t go far enough. Should have something where krugman is continuing to borrow money to make investments in the stock money, and that his children’s bank accounts are being held up as collateral for this borrowing.

    4. Is that real? That has to be satire, right?

        1. I haz a sad now.

          1. Me too. I was anticipating the sugarfree treatment of Krugman’s pursuit of expensive Portugese wines.

            1. Good thing I scrolled down before posting it all over facebook.

        2. Damn. I thought it might be.

        3. They say always dress for the job you want,” Krugman explains. “So I thought maybe if I showed up in $70,000 Alexander Amosu suits they would give me ownership of part of the company. If I had only been granted a sliver of the New York Times Co., I could have paid everything back.”

          That was just too good to be real.

    5. OMG – that’s not satire?!?! HAHAHAHAAAA! Is it schadenfreude, or that other longass German word?

      1. It’s not ?Stra?enbahnschaffner? you’re looking for.

    6. That’s a beautiful bit of satire.

    7. Is this site like the onion?

      1. Yes, but I think the Daily Currant is a bit funnier. At least, I find a lot more of their articles I’m seeing to be amusing. The Onion, not as much. The Currant seems to be better at incorporating that touch of politics.

        1. The Onion was funny until they decided they wanted to be political. Their post-9/11 stories were incredible. But The Onion is nowhere near what it was in the late 90s/early 00s.

    8. in pursuit of rare Portuguese wines and 19th century English cloth

      Well played, daily currant, well played.

    9. I don’t think that’s a real news story, guy.

  11. I fail to see how keeping people out of environmental preserves is BAD for the environment. WTF, MoJo.

    1. You’re expecting them to admit the sequester might be good for the environment?

  12. We don’t need more coke. We need better coke.

    1. New Coke?

    2. THIS.

      1. With a few household chemicals and an internet connection you can change street coke to up to 90% purity.

        I heard from a guy that it’s a completely different beast, much smoother and less jitters at 9am.

        1. Really pure coke is fantastic. Amazing euphoria, no throat drip whatsoever (the more throat drip, the more your shitty coke has been cut, probably with speed), and you can just. Keep. Doing it.

          However, the next day your seratonin and norepinephrine levels are going to be shit and you’re not going to be feeling too good. So do more!

          1. I have heard the stories of the days of pharmaceutical grade coke. It is amazing I am told. Nothing like the shoe scrapings the current band of hoodlums sell.

            1. My parents have a friend who is a pharmacist. When he and his wife got married back in the early ’80’s they went on their honeymoon to Napa, and met up with some old college friends. At a party, somebody breaks out the nose candy, and the pharmacist casually mentions that he can “clean it up” with a few household items. He then spent the rest of the weekend purifying every stash of cocaine in the Napa Valley.

              1. I hope he got paid for that.

                1. I’m sure he got to sample each batch.

          2. “So do more,” Epi said, pausing just long enough from snorting his giant mound of cocaine to press submit.

            1. “So do more,” Epi said, pausing just long enough from snorting his giant mound of cocaine to press submit.

              His keyboard is made out of coke so that’s not a problem.

  13. Can anyone prove that the Sequester is not having disastrous effects in some parallel universe? I didn’t think so.

    /mother jones reader

  14. So Rand makes them flip on civil liberties to where they’re on the same side as McCain and Graham, and now the sequester is making them drug warriors?

    Progressive ideology has basically boiled down to if Obama is for it I’m for it and if Republicans are for it I’m against it.

    1. Progressive ideology has basically boiled down to if Obama is for it I’m for it and if Republicans are for it I’m against it, unless Obama is for it too in which case that trumps the Republican-opposing reflex.

      1. The posts at DU are instructive on this matter. A lot of “fuck Rand Paul” type threads, that he is just “grandstanding” and they keep using the word “imminent threat” and using bogus analogies to justify the assassination of US citizens on US soil without due process. It’s frankly amazing. There are a few principled holdouts, rightly disgusted at Obama’s “I am the decider” stance, but they are hardly a majority it seems.

    2. I couldn’t believe how bad the TEAM BLUE types were on Volokh about Rand’s filibuster. 🙁

    3. Progressive ideology has always boiled down to everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. They’re just far enough gone that their facade of liberalism is starting to slough off.

  15. You would think we could count on the progressives as allies in the “our body, our choice” realm. I’ll never get the disconnect between those who are adamant that human dignity demands the govt. get the hell out of personal decisions about one’s body (setting aside that the fetus is a dependent yet wholly unique organism… i happen to be pro-choice, but the fetus is not the woman’s body. It’s just dependent ON the woman’s body), with the argument that a fetus IS one’s personal body/personal choice, but then when it comes to something as basic as drugs, as controlling the contents of one’s own bloodstream, all of a sudden it’s no longer our body our choice.

    Really, when you have progressives coming out in favor of bloomberg’s soda ban, expecting them as allies in the fight against the WOD is asking too much I guess.

    1. Most people who use my “body my choice” don’t actually believe that as a broad principle. They just want abortions to be legal and that’s a code term for it.

    2. You are only free to put surgical devices and penises into your body. Anything else is only allowed by government fiat.

      1. Don’t forget dildos. Those are OK. And maybe pot. But not those other drugs. They are bad.

    3. You see, it’s like this Dunphy. Progressives are in favor of any personal choice that occurs between your waist and your knees. Everything else belongs to the government.

      1. So if I stuff food up my ass Cartman style, in a bout of reverse digestion, I guess I am ok

        1. Maybe food would be okay. But not a tampon soaked in vodka. Inserting alcohol into you anus, or “buttchugging”, has been declared dangerous by numerous government agencies. The epidemic of buttchugging on college campuses has lead to the practice being made illegal in numerous jurisdictions. To find out if you live in a city where buttchugging is illegal, consult the “Chug Map” developed by the SPLC (Some People Like Chugging).

          1. I try to bring up butt chugging in conversation as often as possible.

            1. Conversation? Hell, I’m doing it RIGHT NOW!

      2. You see, it’s like this Dunphy. Progressives are in favor of any personal choice that occurs between your waist and your knees. Everything else belongs to the government.

        “I was told by a very famous Harvaaard Law Review editor that my uterus, like a gay man’s asshole, is a very magical place. It’s the only place that the constitution is enforceable!”

      3. Next time I’ll read Irish’s comment before posting my own. Well put, sir.

    4. To a leftist, the only liberty that matters is that which involves the genitalia. Which makes them not really civil libertarians but pelvic libertarians. Beyond that you are the government’s slave.

      1. To a leftist, the only liberty that matters is that which involves the genitalia.


        Doesn’t apply to straight men. See my quote above.

  16. as Gladys replied I didnt know that a person can earn $9385 in a few weeks on the internet. have you seen this site and go to home tab…

    1. Gladys is a liar. She earned that money by smuggling tar heroin inside her vagina, from Mexico to Chicago. Not only is a highly illegal business to be involved in, it is also a very dangerous lifestyle. My recommendation to you Abella is to stay as far away from Gladys as you can.

  17. as Gladys replied I didnt know that a person can earn $9385 in a few weeks on the internet. have you seen this site and go to home tab…

    1. Yeah, but Gladys earned that money as a cam girl whoring for basement dwellers. What are the rest of us schlubs supposed to do?

  18. More likely the list of horrible sequester results was cut and pasted from JournoList 2.0’s template, with MJ failing to adapt it for their particular faction of the left.

    1. This is probably true. The court media doesn’t even try anymore.

    2. nice call. I think there is a very significant probability that is actually what happened.

  19. You would think that this would be an opportunity for cooperation. Think of all the money we could save by ending the drug war. But in fact all the progressives are interested in is growing the power of government. Less spending is bad, because it might lead to lower taxes and less government control of the economy. Ending the drug war would reduce the power and scope of government, which would be bad.
    if we end the war on drugs, the freedomists win.

  20. the folks at Mother Jones seem to have forgotten that they do not actually like everything the government does.

    Well, yeah.

    There’s a Democrat in the White House.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.