Rhetoric, Budget Priorities are an Uneven Match

Rhetoric, Budget Priorities are an Uneven Match
Posted by FoM on February 21, 2000 at 07:36:26 PT
By John Donnelly, Globe Staff
Source: Boston Globe
Two days before Christmas, several senior Clinton administration officials gathered in the office of National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger to discuss an unusual idea for the Colombian drug-fighting package.The Office of Budget and Management suggested taking $100 million from the $1.3 billion in Colombian aid and earmarking it toward treatment of US addicts.
Around the room, almost everyone said no. But OMB officials persisted, believing that the $100 million might boost chances of the bill's passage as well as give a rare opportunity to put extra money into treatment for US addicts. They wanted the input of Barry R. McCaffrey, the US drug czar.Later that day, McCaffrey turned them down, too.In an interview last week, he said the $100 million wouldn't help pass the Colombian aid package."The whole thing is silly. It's minor politics," McCaffrey said. "This is the Andean ridge program. We are going to have intellectual clarity and integrity in what we are doing. This isn't a puck we are slapping around. I want them [Congress] to look at this and examine it on its own merits ... and not throw sweeteners in there."But for advocates of more treatment, McCaffrey's decision once again underscored the gap between his rhetoric and his budget priorities. While McCaffrey has eloquently and forcefully called for more money for drug treatment, advocates say it is telling that a plan for substantial new dollars for treatment came from outside the Office of National Drug Control Policy.Instead, McCaffrey's major focus domestically in the drug war has been on prevention, including an unprecedented $1 billion five-year media campaign that places in-your-face antidrug ads on prime time television. Recent disclosures that his office reviewed TV scripts as a way of vetting messages on drugs drew widespread criticism, but McCaffrey has since taken the offensive, saying his office didn't censor any script and that fighting for antidrug themes is what his job is supposed to do.It is a far cry from the days of "Just Say No," the Nancy Reagan-embraced abstinance theory that had such little impact on hard-core addicts. But under McCaffrey, there have been many changes in the drug policy office, including a huge funding increase.In four years, his budget has gone from $13 billion to a proposed $19.2 billion next year. While treatment dollars have increased by 26 percent over that time, the share of the overall budget devoted to treatment has decreased slightly, to 18 percent from 19 percent.By contrast, when President Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971 he put two-thirds of his funding into treatment. The results were dramatic. Between 1971 and 1973, national crime rates dropped, the number of drug-related arrests fell, the number of federal inmates decreased, and record numbers of addicts sought and received treatment.Since 1980, the war on drugs has shifted to punishing offenders, border surveillance, and fighting production at the source countries.With 50 federal agencies controlling parts of the drug budget, the drug czar has few chances to alter the funding equation.In rare cases, his office receives discretionary funds. After taking office in 1996 and pledging to "focus as a priority ... reducing consumption" among hard-core users, McCaffrey received $250 million in reallocated Pentagon funds. His decision at that time was to put $202 million of it into interdiction efforts in Latin America.Even as he extols the virtues of comprehensive solutions, however, he stops short of calling for treatment for all addicts who want it -- an unsuccessful initiative attempted by his predecessor, Lee Brown."McCaffrey wants some odd number of [Blackhawk] helicopters in Colombia, but that has nothing to do with what we are doing here," said Michael J. Kineavy, director of Boston's employee assistance programs in the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. "There's a huge disconnect from what I see in the streets and what is happening in Washington. One of the key issues for us is treatment on demand."Asked why he didn't back treatment on demand, McCaffrey said, "We have. We are. We're doing it."Facts show otherwise. Federal figures indicate that only 2.1 million of the nation's 5.7 million addicts received treatment in 1997.Globe reporter John Donnelly can be reached at: j_donnelly globe.com February 20, 2000  Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company Related Article in Series:Not All Drugs are Leaving The Country Coca
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on February 21, 2000 at 12:28:10 PT
Intellectual clarity at ONDCP; an oxymoron if
there ever was one."The whole thing is silly. It's minor politics," McCaffrey said. "This is the Andean ridge program. We are going to have intellectual clarity and integrity in what we are doing. This isn't a puck we are slapping around. I want them [Congress] to look at this and examine it on its own merits ... and not throw sweeteners in there."Intellectual clarity? The man wants intellectual clarity? He wouldn't know it if it ran up and bit his bum.There has never been a lack of intellectual clarity on the matter of treatment. The historical perpectives of the efficacy of treatment as opposed to punitive incarceration are available for all to research. The problem has always been that the subject has been treated as a 'third rail' for so long because of the Emperor's Clothes Syndrome that few pols have the guts to make the necessary statements. Those who have shown themselves to be brave enough have been brutally, unfairly castigated, in true hive fashion. Any who dare dissent were immediately cut away from the herd, ostracised, and slapped with the odious 'liberal' sobriquet. In much the same way that early dissenters against US involvement in the Vietnamese Civil war were treated.While the whole sorry mess lurches onward, and the US stumbles blindly towards a chimerical external 'solution' (another Vietnam) for a purely internal problem.As to 'minor politics': ask the families of the 58,000 Vietnam War dead if they think it only 'minor politics'. Ask the people who've lost loved ones at the Beirut Bombing. Ask the widows and children of soldiers who went to Granada, Panama, the Gulf (we're still paying the 'butcher's bill' for that one)and didn't come back. Ask them if they think we should intervene militarily in Colombia. I doubt they'll be all that supportive.
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