The Epic Failure That is the War on Drugs

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Author: Alex Pearce

Since the earliest days of my life, it has been drilled into my head that drugs are dangerous, deadly, and a poor decision to make. While in the right context this is largely true, the way in which the United States treats, handles, and “fixes” the drug problem needs to be addressed.

Under the Obama administration, a shift was seen in which the “get tough on crime” policies were altered when it came to drug sentences. In one of his final acts as president, he granted more than 330 commutations for nonviolent drug offenders. According to the deputy Attorney General this was done to restore “proportionality to unnecessarily long drug sentences…making a lasting impact on our criminal justice system.”

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population but is home to more than 25% of the incarcerated population. Over one million drug arrests were made in 2014. In both the federal and state prison systems, a majority of those serving drug sentences are black or latino. Finally, between 1993 and 2009, each year more individuals were incarcerated for drug law violations than violent crimes. Moreover, typical rehab options such as AA only work for 5-8% of those who participate in it. America is lacking in drug treatment and rehabilitation. Incarceration is not the answer.

When recently interviewed about this topic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed that he is looking to institute maximum sentencing and zero-tolerance policies in order to combat the drug problem and the subsequent crime that follows. I think Mr. Sessions is forgetting that crime is at an all-time low in the United States. Moreover, “get-tough” policies do not work. In 2006, when Mexico started their war on drugs, homicide rates doubled, over 150,000 people were killed, and 28,000 civilians went missing. Compare that to Portugal where drugs have been decriminalized. Though use of marijuana has increased, heroin addiction is down by 70% and overdose deaths have decreased significantly.

Drug use is a health issue, not a criminal issue. Are we to expect that drug use will decline with continued incarcerations and use of failing rehabilitation methods? If we are so concerned with the health and well-being of our citizens, why do we continue to impose social and economical barriers to those facing issues with drugs? I am not suggesting that we turn a blind-eye to those who are in need or that we ignore the dangers of drugs. Rather, we need to recognize the health and societal issues associated with drugs.

Incarcerations, employment barriers, and lackluster rehabilitation methods are all that face an individual involved in the drug world. Imagine if everyone with a drinking problem or a gambling problem was prevented from getting treatment, thrown into a cell, and then expected to become a productive member of society. Sure, there are cases where incarceration is the answer. However, we need to realize that rehabilitation, decriminalization, and education are better answers than putting somebody in jail for 10 years.

If the drug war policies were successful, we would not still be seeing growing incarceration rates, a heroin epidemic, or cartel wars. If stigmas of race and income weren’t placed on the drug scene, we wouldn’t be seeing blacks incarcerated at a rate 3x that of whites while whites are overdosing at a rate 3x that of blacks. If policing methods were successful and rehabilitation resources sound, we wouldn’t be spending a record-breaking $31 billion annually on the drug war. Clearly, something is wrong.

The Nixon-Era drug policies are outdated and costly. Moreover, they were only created to stop Nixon’s “two enemies: the anti-war left and black people.” I am not suggesting that we let drug users run wild and ignore the implications of drug use. Instead of using that $31 billion knocking down doors and making arrests, we should educate our youth, provide treatment and rehabilitation to those struggling with drug addiction and work to create employment and educational opportunities that will take the places of needles and pipes.

Fear tactics are not working. Building a wall will not work because no matter how tough immigration, customs enforcement, and other border laws have gotten, drugs still find their way into the country through any means possible. Where there is a demand, there will be a supply. Drugs are brought into and out of the United States illegally through means such as air travel, legal border crossings, etc. To put it simply, extreme drug laws, while making one drug illegal, create a demand for a new drug which in turn facilitates a supply that cannot be stopped by creating a wall around our country or by deeming the drug as illegal. The legality of the drug is not what determines its use, rather it is the mental and physical state of the user. That is what needs to be corrected.

We need to work to decriminalize low-level drugs such as marijuana. We need to stop acting as if drug use is only prevalent in low-income, minority communities. Politicians need to stop comparing marijuana to heroin, pretending addiction can be solved with handcuffs, and acting as if our judicial system is top-notch. As a country, we need to come to terms that the way we handle drug-use is barbaric and ineffective. In order to create an environment that rejects drug use, we need to work to help one another, not create a war where nobody wins.

 

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/how-jeff-sessions-wants-to-bring-back-the-war-on-drugs/2017/04/08/414ce6be-132b-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?utm_term=.3884dcba9fd0

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/10/opinion/a-decade-of-failure-in-the-war-on-drugs.html?_r=0

https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/DPA%20Fact%20Sheet_Drug%20War%20Mass%20Incarceration%20and%20Race_(Feb.%202016).pdf

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/policy-dose/2015/06/01/america-is-neglecting-its-addiction-problem

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-america-cant-quit-the-drug-war-20160505

 

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President Trump DOES Have the Right to Fire James Comey

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Author: Alex Pearce

Like any decision Donald trump makes, his firing of former FBI Director, James Comey, has received stark criticism, especially from the left. Amongst the criticisms, many are arguing that Trump had no authority to fire Comey, that the firing is only to protect the investigation into Trump’s campaign, and so on. All feelings aside, constitutionally speaking, Trump had every right to fire Comey.

I want to start this article by reminding readers that I am a harsh critic of Mr. Trump, especially in regards to his foreign and immigration policy and economic decisions. With that being said, there is some logic that lies behind this entire issue that I would like to bring to the attention of everyone reading this article:

First off, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. James Comey was an at-will employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a bureau that is under the authority of the POTUS. Therefore, Trump, as president, has every right to fire any employee of the FBI whenever he desires.

Second, those attacking Trump’s decision under the position that he is “covering his tail” are incorrect for a few reasons. On the one hand, the great thing about the judicial system of this country is that all are “innocent until proven guilty”. No trial has occurred for Trump or any of the members of his campaign team regarding the current investigation that the FBI is conducting. That means that those claiming Trump is just “hiding the guilt” of his campaign staff are actually the one’s being unconstitutional by claiming guilt before a trial decision has occurred. Additionally, the investigation will still occur. President Trump can do nothing about that. A new director will be appointed, one that has to be approved by Republicans and Democrats, alike, and who swears an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. Following that, the investigation will resume and the facts will speak for themselves.

Third, there were other reasons for Comey’s termination. There are claims that he handled the investigation into Clinton’s use of private emails in an unconstitutional manner. Both the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, and the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, requested that Trump fire Comey. Debate all you want about their reasons, but no constitutional laws were broken in the firing of Comey.

Finally, we should be thankful that the transition of power, in this case that of the FBI Director, can be done in such a peaceful, regulated manner. Do you think such a decision would have gone so smoothly in North Korea? We must remember how lucky we are to live in a country where transitions of power such as this can be part of the norm.

I have very mixed feelings about this entire incident. Part of me worries that Comey was fired as a way to protect Trump’s past decisions. Another part of me feels that Trump was in the right to fire Comey and that this story is only making headlines as another example of the polarization of politics by the divided media. Though I agree that this decision can be seen as ill-timed due to the fact that Comey was investigating Trump, there may be much more to the story and I cannot fully comment on these issues as I do not have the same information that the FBI has. It seems that Comey had some issues of his own such as lacking support from his colleagues in Washington and his mishandling of the Clinton investigation. While it is possible that the White House may be trying to hide something, in this case that being something Comey may have found during his investigation into the Trump Campaign’s possible ties to Russia. I can only hope that the investigation is conducted in the proper manner from this point forward and that it remains independent from political influence. Moreover, this entire scenario, from the investigation into Trump to the possible misconduct with the FBI, reeks of big government and I hope soon enough Americans demand that the power be returned to the people. It is likely that this story is nothing more than a distraction of larger issues, it being reported on only as a way to divide Americans on their support of the POTUS.

In closing, I firmly believe an independent, thorough investigation should still be completed by the FBI in which the facts are what matter. Speculating why Trump did what he did is useless at this point. He used his constitutional authority to make a decision and there is no changing that. Instead of wishing that he made a different decision, we must look to the future and work to ensure the best possible candidate is selected to replace Comey and that upholding the constitution remains at the the forefront of this country. Crying and complaining will solve nothing. We must count our blessings, remember what a great country we live in, and work to preserve those values. Respecting constitutional authority only when it fits your narrative will do nothing to preserve the integrity of this great nation.

Sources:

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/10/comey-firing-trump-russia-238192

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1HZMv6MpR9ZHaFxk5U6CRIWb9PI0MNdWcAbU5LdATRow/pubhtml?gid=856623971&single=true

http://variety.com/2017/biz/news/fbi-director-james-comey-fired-celebrity-reactions-1202421616/

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/is-the-comey-firing-causing-a-constitutional-crisis

UC Berkeley and the Reality of Free Speech on College Campuses

 

Author: Alex Pearce

Last week the publicly funded University of California, Berkeley displayed yet another staunch display of their opposition against free speech. After cancelling another speaking engagement, this time by Ann Coulter, an experienced political commentator, concern continued to grow over the status of free speech on the campus. The event, hosted by Berkeley’s College Republicans Club and their Young America’s Foundation Chapter, was put on hold due to security concerns.

According to a statement by the University, the security concerns came from a group of masked, aggressive demonstrators called the “Antifa” which is short for Anti-Fascist. As a perpetually violent and oppressive group, the Antifa has caused multiple cancellations of demonstrations around the country, including a family parade in Portland, after promising to incite violence at the events.

What explains the actions of the Antifa? For one, they have shown growing disapproval of anything labeled ‘conservative’ after the election of President Trump. While it is okay to not approve of the President, promising violence in return for free speech is completely unacceptable. The two clubs at Berkeley who were putting on the Coulter event have sued the University for their lack of protection against free speech. From a legal standpoint, failure of UC Berkeley to maintain free speech could result in major issues for them.

As a taxpayer funded institution, it is imperative that UC Berkeley uphold the constitution. Failure to do so is simply unconstitutional and goes against the ideals of this great country. Free speech has continually come under attack at campuses across the United States. From the Berkeley incidents to students being arrested for handing out copies of the Constitution, things have definitely gone downhill. Why is it that free speech has become limited when it is not deemed to be “correct” by the left? If the Antifa is anti-fascist, then why are they attacking a right to individual freedom and expression? As Americans, we are all entitled to our own values and beliefs. Just because you do not agree with someone does not mean you incite violence. That is exactly what a fascist would do!

UC Berkeley, please uphold the rights of those that attend and fund your university. And while you are at it, please remember that you were once the home of free speech protection. It is a sad day when our educational institutions, which are supposed to be home to thought and expression, become a place where violence is allowed to intimidate constitutional rights. It is vital that we remember the values that our country was founded upon and uphold the dignity of all who call America home. To the Berkeley College Republicans and the members of the Young America’s Foundation, we salute your commitment to liberty!

 

Sources:

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/civil-rights/330530-see-you-in-court-uc-berkeley-birthplace-of-the-anti-free

https://heatst.com/culture-wars/free-speech-under-attack-in-colleges-as-publications-call-for-censorship/

It’s Time to Audit the Fed

Author: Alex Pearce

Though he originally touted his opposition for Fed Chairwoman, Janet Yellen, in the past weeks, President Trump has voiced his support of extending her role within the Federal Reserve. This comes as quite the surprise because during his campaign, Trump stated more than once that he saw the Chairwoman as being too involved in politics, contributing to the bubble economy, and ruining the financial security for those who have paid into Social Security and other similar retirement programs. The worry here is that the bubble economy, which President Trump called “big, fat, and ugly” during his campaign, is only going to become further inflated if his long promised “Drain the Swamp” policies do not soon come to fruition.

So, what exactly are the problems with the Federal Reserve? To start, they are largely responsible for the bubble economy that is facing the United States. The stock market has become increasingly dependent on Fed data, therefore giving the Fed the power to manipulate the market through the data that they provide. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Fed provided consistent, accurate data, but they seem incapable of doing so. For example, in February the Fed released its first quarter GDP growth estimates of 3.4%, encouraging consumers and investors that the economy is strong. Since then, they have revised those estimates to a mere 0.6%, while adding that the growth might be negative. Despite these revisions, they have not abandoned their “strong-economy” position calling for the possibility of a continued increase in interests rates. This is something that is only done when the economy is perceived as being on the right path. Even though rates have risen once this year, they still remain at artificially low levels, suggesting the economy isn’t so strong. During a recent appearance on CNBC’s Futures Now show, Peter Schiff, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and long-time opponent of the Fed, reminded viewers that, “Even Alan Greenspan is forecasting stagflation. And he ought to know because he wrote the playbook that Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen are following”. Greenspan, a former Fed Chairman, is now abolishing the policies he once called for. This should be a huge red-flag for the Fed, yet their policies remain unchanged. This type of negligence will not help everyday Americans.

In addition to their flawed data and useless policies, the Fed has also been known to play a role in politics, despite the notion that they are supposed to be insulated from such things. Ron Paul, writing on the Fed in a recent article titled, The Federal Reserve Is, and Always Has Been Politicized, wrote the following: “The most notorious example of Fed chairmen tailoring monetary policy to fit the demands of a president is Nixon-era Federal Reserve Chair Arthur Burns.” Burns and Nixon may be an extreme example — after all, no other president was caught on tape joking with the Fed chair about Fed independence, but every president has tried to influence the Fed with varying degrees of success. For instance, Lyndon Johnson summoned the Fed chair to the White House to berate him for not tailoring monetary policy to support Johnson’s guns and butter policies. This should make it no surprise that Trump is not looking to change the leadership of the Fed. He has inherited the bubble economy and is now going to use it for his own advantage, as calling for change would only leave him immune to the repercussions of Auditing the Fed, repercussions that are already bound to happen if things remain unchanged.

In my opinion, one of the most frustrating aspects of this issue is the ignorance presented by the American public. Many Americans are extremely undereducated in the fields of economics and finance. Moreover, only 24% of the American public can correctly identify who Janet Yellen is and more than 25% are unaware that the Fed is in control of monetary policy in the United States. While this means 3/4 of the public knows the Fed’s basic role, this knowledge is extremely limited and allows for the Fed to operate in a manner that is beyond the scope of knowledge for many. If Americans were educated on the issue, maybe they would wake up to the problems that are occurring. Most people spend at least 40 hours per week in the pursuit of money, and a large portion of the average person’s life is centered around things such as bills, savings, retirement, etc. We work so hard for our money and yet this group of individuals (the Federal Reserve) have complete control over where our money goes, what it is worth, and the amount of it in circulation. These are powerful possessions. No sensible individual would agree to their money being devalued, over-printed, or used in the wrong way. So why is the Fed allowed to operate the way it does? The Federal Government works hard to keep a veil of secrecy around the Fed and those who are in charge of it love to give vague, unsure answers when questioned about what they do.

The first step to solving this issue is to educate the general public. In my experience, during my public school days, economics classes were few and far between and I struggle to recall any lesson plans centered around the Fed. If the government is in charge of public school curriculum, why are they more concerned with us reading Shakespeare than learning about the monetary institutions that are at the heart of this country? In addition to improving our education, transparency needs to be part of the operating procedures of the Federal Reserve. Their books need to be opened, their meeting minutes publicized, and their leaders subject to more scrutinized evaluations. Politics need to stay out of the Fed. Sensible principles need to be followed. This country thrived for many years without the Fed and, if it must continue, we must be aware of what is happening behind closed doors. Just as your financial advisor must report to you where your money is going and how it is being spent, the Fed must do the same with OUR money. Let us not forget that without the taxpayers, without our consumption, without the products we produce, the Fed has no reason to exist. They work for US, the American people, not the other way around.

The light at the end of the tunnel lies in the fact that The House Committee on Oversight and Government reform is entertaining a bill to Audit the Fed. This brings reform one step closer to becoming law. Though in the short-run, an audit could reflect poorly on the American economy — as foreign investors would see the move as America not having confidence in its own central bank. The move will shed transparency on the largely secretive institution, hopefully curbing the years of negligence the economy has fallen victim to at the hands of the Fed. If Trump truly wants to “Drain the Swamp,” an audit will hopefully occur during his term as President.

Sources:

https://mises.org/library/federal-reserve-and-always-has-been-politicized

https://schiffgold.com/videos/peter-schiff-drops-golden-truth-bombs-cnbcs-scott-nations/

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/329082-unsurprisingly-trump-has-done-180-on-fed-chair-yellen

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/06/whos-in-charge-of-the-fed-dont-bank-on-public-knowing-the-answer/

Supply, Demand, and Andrew Cuomo

Author: Alex Pearce

As another semester draws to a close and “adulthood” becomes that much closer, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds. Since the earliest days of elementary school, the value of higher education has been engrained in my head as being the “right-move” after high school. During my last weeks of high school, the halls were filled with joyous members of the Class of 2015, touting their newest collegiate apparel to let everyone know where they were headed in the fall. Even those who weren’t the biggest fans of school could not hide their excitement for this new chapter of their lives.

There is no denying that education is not only a personal benefit, but a benefit for society as well. Economically speaking, it can be seen as a positive externality that presents a collective good for those associated with the college graduate. However, we are currently facing a situation in which more and more individuals are encouraged to continue their education. Government aid continues to pour in, loans become easier to get, and subsequently, tuition costs continue to rise. Since the early 1980s, the average family income has risen more than 140%. Compare that to the 500% increase in tuition rates since the same time period and we are now looking at a huge problem.

Why this dramatic rise? First, one could assume that simple rises in inflation and costs of living have attributed to this. However, using CPI Inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average 1980 tuitions cost of $2,500 [in today’s money] should be approximately $6,200. That’s a lot less than the $33,415 I pay annually for my private school education. While private schools tend to be pricier, even the SUNY school down the road from my college still averages anywhere from $9,000-$24,000, depending on where the student is coming from. Therefore, this clearly isn’t a result of inflation.

Since the 1980s, the Federal Government has removed subsidies given to private lending institutions for college loans, shifting the source of money to the always trustworthy United States Government. Moreover, their loan cap has increased from $2,500 annually to a staggering $20,500 per study per year. There is more than $1-trillion dollars in student loan debt. The government promises an education to all, declaring the benefits endless, while more than 7% of the graduating Class of 2015 are out of work. Loans aren’t being paid, graduates aren’t finding work, and tuitions are becoming more costly every semester. New York State’s solution? Free SUNY Tuition! While certain criteria must be met, this program is nothing more than an extension of federal aid, further inflating the student loan bubble. What’s better is that this “free” money comes with stipulations such as staying in New York after graduation or facing the risk of paying all of the money back.

According to supply and demand, the larger the supply of something, the less it is demanded. How can we continue to promise our children that “college is worth it” when a SUNY degree is going to become no different then having a high school degree. Additionally, entrance into schools is going to be based more on your family’s income than the work the student put in during high school. Class seats will be filled by those who the state is paying for rather than those who earned the seat. Tuitions will rise as colleges and universities will begin to rely on state-funded tuitions, causing these costs to grow the same way they did when federal aid became the way to finance college. Don’t forget about the taxpayer – somebody must pay for it! Given New York’s already record high tax rates, this is a recipe for disaster. Degrees will lose value, costs will rise, and those already facing student loan debt will have a larger burden as they will now be funding the education of their fellow New Yorker’s. The word “free” does not exist in basic economics. Maybe Governor Cuomo should take advantage of this free tuition and refresh his Econ 101 skills.
Sources: