The federal government has led a national charge against the importation, manufacture, distribution, and consumption of drugs. Over the past four decades, hundreds of billions have been spent to interdict drugs coming from foreign countries, and countless lives have been lost in drug raids and skirmishes with drug cartels and domestic gangs. And the number of Americans who are addicted to drugs as a percentage of the overall population has stubbornly refused to budge despite a huge commitment of resources.
Reason.com recently printed a chart showing that federal and state governments have spent about $1.5 TRILLION dollars over the past 40 years on the “war on drugs.” This figure comes from estimates of law enforcement spending at federal and state levels as well the cost of rehabilitation programs and the bill for keeping drug dealers and consumers alike in prisons.
The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the population of addicted Americans fluctuates between a band of approximately 1% to 1.5% of the population over the same 40 year period. There is no discernible impact despite the large commitment of resources.
We believe the role of running rehabilitation programs is best left to private individuals and charities who choose to exercise their freedom to run such programs. Many people incorrectly assume that if the government stops performing a “needed” function, that it will just go away and nobody will step in to fill the gap. But if government is determined to play a role in rehabilitation, we think this is a better use for tax dollars than building prisons and training law enforcement to engage in military style tactical operations against drug distribution networks.
We also believe that the private sector, if given the opportunity, would provide a better, safer, cheaper product to the market. Buying beer and liquor is, for the most part, a legal activity in most US counties. Nobody is routinely gunned down over a case of red wine or beer in a “deal gone wrong.” But rewind nearly 100 years in time to the era of federal Prohibition when alcohol was illegal to manufacture and distribute, and this is precisely what happened. We suggest the same dynamic is true of the “war on drugs.”
We believe citizens are responsible adults and need to be accountable for their decisions. If they choose to engage in drug use, this is their choice. We find that distributing drugs would be far safer for all involved if the activity took place in a respectable store front rather than in the shadows and back alleys of communities.
To start the year with the appropriate bang, we propose ending pensions for Congress. Immediately. Being a Member of Congress was not intended to become a way of life, and the idea of a “professional politician” is one that stinks like…well like over-ripened sauerkraut at New Year’s. It’s time we gave professional politicians an incentive to shorten their stays in America’s legislative body, and take some time out of their busy schedules of campaigning, fund raising, and passing bad laws in order to live under the laws that they’ve created.According to the Congressional Research Service, taxpayers are footing pension bills for some 495 retired members of Congress. If you actually want to read up on how Congressional pensions are calculated, good luck. The report we’ve linked you to above takes about 20 pages to go through the various options, permutations, and categories of pension benefits. Of course a pension benefit is impossible to calculate to an exact figure. This depends on each recipients years in office, their salary while there, which retirement system they paid into, and how long they plan to live after leaving office.
As of 2011, the annual estimated bill for these retired Congress critters is some $28,282,440 per year. This is an annual pension payment. By our reckoning it doesn’t include retirement matching funds paid by taxpayers into individual retirement accounts during a member’s term of office (called a “Thrift Savings Plan”), does not include health benefits paid by taxpayers via the Federal Employee Health Benefit plan, and does not include pension death benefits that are paid to surviving spouses of deceased congressmen and senators. All that to say: the $28.2 million price tag we apply to this proposal is probably a low-ball number.
Eliminating an unnecessary pension expense frees taxpayers from the financial burden of paying congressmen and women for the less than lusterful work they perform. But more importantly, if the idea succeeds in encouraging politicians to leave office before they become too entrenched in the culture of Washington waste, this has the potential to save much more than the sum of the pension checks. Imagine if some questionable laws would be passed if congressmen had to go home and actually live under the laws they passed. Would they still write multi-thousand page laws that leave still more thousands of pages of regulations to be written and imposed on business owners and citizens?
For our first proposal, we estimate a conservative savings of $28,282,440 to the taxpayer. Not a bad way to start the year!
Photo Credit: bclinesmith
Happy New Year! As is the accepted custom for a New Year’s arrival, we resolve to offer one idea per week on how to promote freedom. Our ideas may be policy proposals, spending/budget proposals, or whatever else we can forward with the goal of improving freedom.
If you happen to find this post well into the year, then WELCOME, you can find all of our ideas summarized under the “Freedom Proposals” category.