Jim Wallis' Drug War Deceit


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)

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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:

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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."

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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.

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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