November 11th, 2011

The Budget Triad Part Two - Drugs

With all the talk in Washington about the budget deficit and people talking about cutting programs and finding ways to bring in new revenue without raising taxes it occurs to me that a great way to lower the budget and not raise taxes is to simply start taxing things that already exist, but don't get taxed because we've pointlessly forced them into the black market.

Today's example: Drugs.

Once again we have a major industry that won't go away and that we could easily tax, but this is an even worse budget shortfall than prostitution.

The one good thing I can say about the governments efforts against prostitutes is that they don't spend that much money on it. But, god, do we spend a fortune trying to stop drugs. The DEA budget alone is well over $2 billion a year and that's a drop in the bucket.

Pretty much every town has their own drug task force that spends additional money on top of that. As does every state government.

Don't try to argue that legalizing it would cost those people their jobs. Anyone with enough investigatory skill to go after drug people could also be used to investigate financial crimes or other crimes that are considerably more pressing and more likely to produce results.

In California (the most up to date figure I could find) it costs more than $44,000 a year a year to keep someone in jail or prison. Now getting hard figures for how many people are in jail solely for drug related crimes is hard, because plea bargains and such skew the statistics. By looking at various sites I've seen numbers ranging from 600,000 to over a million.

Either way, that's a lot of fucking money every year just to incarcerate people for either getting high or helping people to get high.

Add to that the loss of tax revenue from those people. Many, many of those people would be working at normal jobs if they were not in jail and paying state and federal income tax plus sales tax on the non drug related items they purchased. So not only are we paying a ton of money to catch people using or selling drugs and paying a fortune to incarcerate them we are also losing their tax money.

Making drugs illegal also kills people. You ever notice how rarely you read about people getting killed when they buy or sell booze or cigarettes? That's because you can legally buy both. Drug related murders and assaults happen because the drugs are illegal.

This is the same for drug overdoses and many drug related deaths. People die because they get sold weird shit. Because drugs are illegal there is no quality control process at all. Now think again about how much money state, local and federal police spend investigating drug related violence. Think how much the court system spends prosecuting drug related violence. Think about how many people who would otherwise be paying taxes today are instead dead because of drug related violence.

Adding this all up you start talking about real money missing from government coffers.

Now, consider just how much money could be made by taxing pot, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, whatever...Best of all most drug users would happily pay the tax.

That's because drug prices are artificially inflated due to them being illegal. It actually costs pennies to turn coca leaves into a gram of coke. The reason cocaine is so expensive is that there is risk in its cultivation and distribution, so users pay a premium.

Imagine for the sake of argument that it would cost Merk five cents to make a gram of commercially produced cocaine. Imagine the average user pays $100 for that gram of cocaine. (Yes, I know cocaine prices vary widely, I just like using round numbers.)

If legal, Merk could make that gram of cocaine for five cents and sell it for five bucks and make a great profit from it. The government could then slap a $90 per gram tax on cocaine and end users would still end up paying roughly the same or less than they are now. It would be a completely "invisible" tax to drug consumers and it could bring in a fucking fortune. Heck, many would probably gladly pay the tax if it meant they didn't have to buy shit in alleys, wonder if they were getting good stuff or getting ripped off and were not risking spending years of their lives in prison. They'd be much, much happier just to walk into a store and safely buy it.

Which brings us to our next point. Small businesses drive the American economy. They are the real "job creators" out there. Legalizing drugs would create thousands and thousands of small businesses. They'd pay rent for storefronts. They'd hire people to work the counter, stock the shelves and market their products. Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created overnight - allowing people to get off of unemployment and pay taxes on their income.

Plus, lower income housing areas would become much safer, because they would be free of drug violence. People would have more stable lives and be more likely to see ways out of the ghetto. Kids wouldn't have to walk by street corner pushers on their way to school. Property values would go up.

Finally, the argument that drugs are bad and we need to stop them is just ridiculous. The human brain is designed so that it wants to get high. This is why five year olds - who have no idea what drugs are - will spin themselves into a circle until they get dizzy. Telling people not to get high is like telling people not to eat or fuck. It's a basic human desire and you can't win a war against basic human desires.

Plus, we allow people many other ways to get high legally. I'm not just talking about booze. Adderall is essentially prescription cocaine. Go to the right doctor and complain about the right symptoms and you can get any number of opiates prescribed to you. Hell, if you are not crazy, Xanax - the most commonly prescribed drug in the world - is not all that different from pot. (Though if you are crazy then it's very different. Xanax does not make me high at all. It makes me normal. But when "normal" friends of mine have tried my xanax they've said they get way high from it.)

The only difference between illegal drugs and legal drugs is that the legal drugs are reserved for people who have healthcare plans and understanding doctors - in other words, legal highs are for rich people.

So, there's step two in my Budget Triad - or Bart's plan to raise government revenue without raising taxes. Let people get high and tax the fucking shit out of them.

Part Three will come tomorrow.

Grey's Anatomy

Ok, Read Across America is an organization that believes that one of the reasons kids from poorer backgrounds often do less well in school as they get older is because many of them don't have moms and dads who read to them. They think that if these kids are read to before they can read they'll think reading is fun and be more likely to want to learn to read and read more.

So, what they do is send celebrities into inner city schools and have them read to kids.

The other day, however, they sent Sasha Grey out to read to 1st graders in a school in one of the poorer sections of Los Angeles.

Parents then went fucking nuts - to the point where the school is now denying Sasha was there - even though her people took tons of photos of her reading to the kids.

Sasha's people argue that there was nothing wrong with her going to an elementary school. They point out that she hasn't been in porn for more than two years, has done mainstream films with academy award nominated directors, been in popular television shows and done many respected poetry readings.

The parents say "So what, she's still a porn star and we don't want porn stars reading to our kids."

What do you think?

Poll #1794144 Should Sasha Grey Be Allowed To Read To School Children?

Should Sasha Be Allowed To Read To School Kids?