Still snowed under for the next few days (see post below), but I want to put down two markers on topics I’ll return to next week:
1. Having just co-signed a hefty (for us, anyway) check to the IRS, I’m struck by what the late William F. Buckley might have called “the tragic incommensurateness” of our tax payments vs. what we receive for our taxes.
The payment check is etched in numbers, mercilessly clear; the ROT (return on taxation) is vague and open to endless debate. In that, it’s unlike almost all other exchanges of money for product or service. If you spend $49 on a wheelbarrow or $70,000 on a Porsche Boxster, there it is, there is what you have.
If you spend (insert painful number here) on taxes, how do you identify and evaluate what you got in return? I seem to recall some effort by some administration in the past to quantify this, showing how the average citizen got $__ from interstate highway usage, $__ from national defense, $__ from government food inspection, but I don’t have time to Google it up now. If I was an Obama PR person, I’d be cranking up just such an effort right now as we await the higher taxes to come in the next few years.
And of course, it’s simply impossible for human beings of any political stripe to handle trillions of dollars without wasting a good chunk of it, so the anti-tax crowd, Tea Party-ing or not, can always make that argument with some validity: X was wasted on war, X was wasted on welfare, X was wasted on poisoned FEMA trailers.
2. Obama’s trip to Mexico will produce at least one T-shirt logo: “My president went to Mexico and all we got was pretty rhetoric about smashing the drug cartels.”
It’s a step toward reality for Hillary Clinton and others to say aloud what we all know, that American druglust and American guns help to fuel the border wars, but under our current realities, tinkering at the edges is all we’ll get.
To have any real impact on this problem, we must legalize most if not all drugs. Forget trying to attack the gun side of the problem. I doubt the Democrats would push much on gun control if they had a 2/3 majority in both houses. It’s simply too hot, and besides, if you banned the production and sale of all guns tomorrow (which I do not advocate), we’d still have millions of firearms in circulation.
I’m fully aware that millions of lives would be damaged by legal drugs. But millions of lives are damaged now by illegal drugs, and we’re wasting millions (or billions, depending on how you do the accounting) each year in a futile effort to stop people from doing what they want to do. The first Prohibition failed, and this one has failed, too. Even if trying prohibition was the right idea, even if it was undertaken with a genuine desire to protect people, and especially young people, from drugs, it has not worked and will not work. We have to stop talking about what should be and start talking about what is.
Without radical new thinking on this problem, all the photo-op trips in the world won’t change much.