Pubdate: Tue, 01 Apr 2003
Source: United Press International (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 United Press International
Author: Paul Armentano, NORML
Note: Paul Armentano is a senior policy analyst for The NORML Foundation in 
Washington, D.C. "Outside View" commentaries are written for UPI by outside 
writers who specialize in a variety of important global issues


A UPI Outside View Commentary

WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- Numbers never lie.

Or do they?

Sometimes it's just a matter of who's keeping the books. Take
America's drug war.

Last year, Congress earmarked nearly $19 billion -- nearly twice what
it spent on military operations in Afghanistan -- to enforce U.S. drug
laws. Of that total, two-thirds was to be used for law enforcement
activities; the remaining one-third was to go toward drug treatment
and education.

Fast forward to this year, and the Bush administration now says it
will only spend $11.2 billion fighting drugs -- of which almost half
will be used to fund drug treatment and education programs. Is the era
of a gentler, more fiscally streamlined drug policy upon us?

Not a chance.

Upon closer inspection, it's clear that this year's supposed
belt-tightening and reprioritizing is only illusory. Thanks to new
Enron-styled accounting tactics initiated by the White House,
America's drug war looks a whole lot different than it used to -- at
least on paper.

As always, the Devil is in the details.

In a little publicized announcement last year, officials from the
Office of National Drug Control Policy revealed that they had
developed a "new methodology" for reporting the federal drug budget --
which had grown from less than $2 billion annually in 1982 to $18.8
billion last year.

Under their new scheme, only funding for agencies involved in
so-called "primary" drug war activities is now tabulated in the
national anti-drug budget. As a result, more than two-thirds of the
agencies included in past years' budgets are conspicuously missing
from this year's financial totals!

By far the largest and most startling financial manipulations are
within the Department of Justice, which reports a reduction of more
than $5.5 billion dollars in drug war related expenses between 2002
and 2003. Remarkably, the majority of costs removed are those
associated with the incarceration and care of federal drug prisoners
- -- costs that, according to the Feds, are associated with the
"secondary consequences" of the drug war and must no longer be
tabulated in the federal drug budget.

Other DOJ departments and activities related to drug law enforcement
are also deceptively missing from this year's tally. For example,
annual funding for INTERPOL, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S.
Attorney's office are noticeably absent.

In addition, millions of dollars in annual funding for additional
agencies previously tabulated the drug war's budget, such as the
Department of Education, have been reduced without explanation, while
others -- including the Department of Transportation --$594 million in
2002); Department of Interior -- $39 million; and the Department of
Agriculture -- $29 million -- have been expunged from the books all

There is evidence that the Drug Czar's office is simultaneously
inflating their expenditures on drug treatment by including hundreds
of millions of dollars in alcohol treatment spending, which by law is
specifically excluded from the ONDCP's scope of activities. As a
result, the ONDCP can now claim that their budget allots nearly equal
amounts on drug treatment as it does drug enforcement despite making
no substantive spending changes.

If you're searching for the motivation behind the Drug Czar's
deceptive accounting, look no further than the polls. Surveys have
consistently shown that the majority of Americans believe the drug
war's current "do drugs, do time" approach to be ineffective, fiscally
costly, and doomed to fail.

When given the alternative, nearly seven out of 10 Americans say they
support treatment for convicted drug users rather than incarceration.
Rather than listen, the Feds are stealing a page from the playbook of
Enron, Worldcom and others, and cooking their books.

The only question now is: Who's going to report them to the
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake