Jim Wallis' Drug War Deceit

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The Drug War
is a disgrace. The Drug War is racist, and the Drug War is evil.
Few readers will disagree with these statements, or at least those
readers who already are inclined already to see the Drug War as
being yet another government tool of oppression.

However, it
is also possible for people to denounce the results of the
Drug War without attacking the underlying premises of that war,
which is that government has the duty and must have the authority
to carry out such wars for "our own good." People who
operate in that sphere thus condemn the Drug War while quietly supporting
it at the same time, and those are the people for whom I have the
most contempt, because they quietly support this abomination in
a most insidious fashion.

I recently
received an email from Sojourners
which on the surface seems to attack the Drug War. It reads:

Blacks and
whites use drugs at about the same rate, yet African Americans
are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned
for drug offenses.
This is the unbalanced and inhumane effect of America's "war
on drugs" — a dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about.
The discriminatory treatment of minority drug users has been virtually
ignored by the media, politicians, and the rest of us.

But this
month Sojourners is taking on the truth
about America's
justice system, where the color of your skin determines your sentence.
Subscribe now to read "Cruel and Unequal" in
the February issue of Sojourners. (Emphasis theirs)

There is nothing
in that paragraph that is untrue, except for the claim that the
racial discrimination in this situation "has been virtually
ignored." In fact, this injustice has
been front-and-center for a long time
in the media. The problem
is not that the racial disparities of the Drug War are ignored,
but rather that they provide moral theater for the Left instead
of being a reason to abolish the Drug War altogether.

In other words,
I am making a serious accusation against Wallis and others of his
ilk, for I am saying that far from being a voice against oppression
by the state, he and his allies are using the issue simply for fundraising
purposes and have no intention of seeing that anyone deals with
the larger and underlying issues. Black Americans imprisoned for
"drug crimes" are nothing more than props in Wallis' show
of religious statism.

While I don't
read the Sojourners page every day or even every week, nonetheless
I read it enough (and go back over the "God's Politics"
blog on the Sojourners website) to know that I never have seen one
real condemnation of the Drug War itself. Furthermore, I never have
read anyone on that site condemning the tactics that government
agents use to further this war.

Before going
back to Wallis and the Drug War, I will say that there are things
about Sojourners that I like. For example, Wallis'
recent post
on how to bring down the federal deficit has much
in it with which I agree. First, he calls for a huge reduction in
military spending, including ending the occupations of Afghanistan
and Iraq. He also calls for an end to agricultural subsidies.

And even though
he calls for an increase in the top income tax rate back to 39.6
percent, he makes some admissions that really are shocking to someone
who has been reading Wallis' writings since the mid-1970s:

Second, return
tax
rates for the wealthy
back to Clinton-era levels of 39.6 percent
from the Bush top level of 35 percent. Under Dwight D. Eisenhower,
the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent – that was clearly
too high. From JFK until Reagan it was 70 percent and that was
still too high. But, when Warren
Buffet declares
it wrong that his secretary pays a larger
portion of her income in taxes than he does as a multi- billionaire,
our tax system is now clearly imbalanced. There are now more
millionaires living in New York City
than there were in 2007
before the crash. Maybe they could pitch in.

Keep in mind
that few people howled more than Wallis in 1981 when Congress voted
to lower the top rate from 70 percent to 50 percent. Perhaps his
thinking is different today, or perhaps he has a selective memory.

Unfortunately,
Wallis does seem to have a selective memory on other things. Last
year, he became involved in a very public spat with Marvin Olasky,
editor of the conservative evangelical news/commentary publication
World over whether or not
Sojourners had received grants from George Soros' Open
Society Institute
.

Because the
OSI promotes abortion on demand and atheism, it would raise some
eyebrows if a Christian organization calling itself "pro-life"
(although the main "pro-life" emphasis comes through promotion
of a huge, tax-funded welfare state) were to receive money, and
according to Olasky's article, Sojourners received $275,000 from
OSI during the last decade. Wallis' response was even more eye-opening
when during an interview about the alleged donation, he declared:
"It's not hyperbole or overstatement to say that Glenn Beck
lies for a living. I'm sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same thing.
No, we don't receive money from Soros."

Wallis went
on: "We don't receive money from George Soros. Our books are
totally open, always have been. Our money comes from Christians
who support us and who read Sojourners. That's where it comes
from."

Olasky kept
digging and he found the tax records, as well as other documents
that proved beyond a doubt that Wallis was not telling the truth.
(After being confronted with the evidence, Wallis changed
his public statements
and claimed that his outburst came as
a result of fatigue and a faulty memory.)

Now, Soros
has made public statements against the Drug War, but I really have
seen very little from either the Secular Left or the Religious Left
that deals with the heart of the matter: people like Wallis want
government to continue to have the powers that it uses to continue
the Drug War, but they want the racial makeup of people who are
arrested and imprisoned to be changed. In other words, they want
a Politically Correct Drug War.

I agree that
it is a national disgrace that so many black Americans are caught
up in the maw of this sorry policy, and that huge numbers of them
are thrown into prison. Furthermore, I wrote more than 10 years
ago about the problem of Drug
War-related racial profiling
and noted that the larger issue
is not racial in and of itself, but rather the abuses of government
power.

Unfortunately,
Wallis attacks the hot-button portion of the Drug War — its deleterious
effect upon black Americans — but stops there. Why? My sense is
that the kind of welfare state that Wallis demands is one in which
the government must enjoy total power over the lives of individuals.
A government that controls the entire medical care apparatus and
regulates literally everything in a person's life (and that is exactly
the kind of state that Wallis and his allies have been demanding
for decades) must have the power and authority to do those things.

Lest anyone
think that I am exaggerating, keep in mind that Wallis over the
years has held up some of the most brutal regimes in history as
guiding lights to the kind of government that would make life better.
Wallis championed Mao during the worst years of the Cultural Revolution
and he and others actually believed that the Great Leap Forward
was actually an economic advance as opposed to a murderous
time when the Chinese state
literally crushed the life out of
millions of people.

So, given that
Wallis has supported government brutality in the past without apology,
I do not see him recoiling from the powers being used by the state
today to subjugate people under the auspices of the Drug War. He
does not have a problem with the use of state violence; his only
problem is that too many black Americans are caught up in the war
itself, and for "justice" to occur, more whites have to
be arrested.

This is not
justice; it is shared misery. Instead of questioning why people
have to be crushed by the state in the name of keeping us safe from
illegal drugs, Wallis wants to know why there are racial disparities
in the vast numbers of people being arrested and imprisoned. That
is even worse than PETA's
claim that milk is a "racist" drink
.

To
make matters worse, Wallis has fought anything that would present
the inner-city neighborhoods the opportunity to become livable places
where drugs are not the main source of commerce. From his "living
wage" crusades that force up wages to levels where it becomes
impossible to employ young African-Americans to his support for
policies that undermine private property rights, Wallis is utterly
anti-enterprise and anti-entrepreneur, and anti-capitalism.

There is a
reason that I never have read any arguments by Wallis or his friends
that condemn the Drug War per se: they are loathe to abandon their
belief that an all-powerful state can and should be worshipped,
as it is the Very Essence of God. If too many African-Americans
are arrested, then change the racial makeup of the arrest policies,
but don't stop the Drug War, by any means.

You see, if
we actually ended the Drug War, state power also would suffer defeat.
And if there is anything Wallis worships, it is state power.

January
7, 2011

William
L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
mail
], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit
his blog.

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