Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jun 2003
Source: Charlotte Creative Loafing (NC)
Copyright: 2003 Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inc.
Author:  Lucy Perkins


A Surefire Solution To The State Budget Crisis

It hasn't taken me long to grow bored of the state budget crunch. Once you 
get used to hearing the word "crunch" on the news, a budget crunch simply 
doesn't make for interesting drama. Government officials having affairs or 
making loopy decisions -- now that's drama. This year I'm voting only for 
people who seem capable of stirring up a decent controversy or scandal 
every now and then.What makes the budget shortfall even more boring and 
annoying is that it could be so easily remedied. Spend Less Money. There, 
problem solved. If we were dealing with a household budget, we'd simply 
decide what was essential and what was nonessential, then cut the 
nonessential spending. Example: groceries are essential, but a new wardrobe 
is not. So we keep the groceries in the budget and kick the clothes out. Of 
course, when you're talking about government it can never be that simple. 
Everything is essential to somebody. I suppose I should just be grateful 
that Dillard's doesn't send lobbyists! over to my house to take me out for 
expensive lunches trying to persuade me to blow my budget on clothes.

The point is that somebody needs to have the balls to draw the line and cut 
the spending. But this isn't the only solution; in fact, there's an 
enormous untapped source of revenue just waiting to be used by our 
government. It's one "luxury" item (luxury in the sense that it's 
unnecessary for survival) that remains completely tax-free, and people 
spend thousands and thousands of dollars purchasing it each year. Pass the 
doob, man. Drugs.

Legalize drugs and pop a nice sales tax on those bad boys, and our budget 
would be up and running, ready to return to the bloated state it hasn't 
seen since the 80s.

But drugs are like a national fart. We've let loose with a big stinky one, 
and we're not about to acknowledge the fact. The thing we haven't been 
willing to talk about is that the War on Drugs rivals only Vietnam as the 
country's least successful war. We've been telling our kids to "just say 
no" for over 20 years, and yet American youths are saying "hell yes!" and 
have been for those 20 years.

The news reports drug busts every now and then, and I guess that some 
people think, "Oh, good, now they've got those drug dealers on the run," 
but nothing could be further from the truth. Drugs continue to be 
ubiquitous to the extent that I expect it may be easier for high school 
students to obtain drugs than soda during lunch (schools aren't allowed to 
offer soda at school during lunch, although machines are available at other 
times of the day).

As it is, the propagation of drugs is impossible to stem. Law enforcement 
officers do everything they can, short of ignoring all other crimes, to 
stop the drug trade. But they're tiny surfers in the giant tidal wave of 
illegal drugs. If drugs were legalized, law enforcement would become that 
much easier. After all, there are two kinds of people doing drugs: rebels 
who are looking to be "bad," and people who simply want to do drugs. The 
rebels will have to find some other road to hell, and the people who want 
to do drugs can become law-abiding citizens. Most people will take the 
law-abiding route if it's available to them. Then the government can reap 
the benefits of all those sales tax dollars that are otherwise hurled into 
the abyss of the illegal drug trade.

As a side note, making drugs legal would likely have the positive side 
effect of making drugs more difficult for kids to obtain. Of course, kids 
who put their minds to it will be able to get ahold of whatever they want 
- -- just as they do now. But many kids will be daunted by the ID 
requirements and additional strictures that would be placed on legal drug 

Heck, the state would be rolling in money if it could tax all of the vices 
it's trying to eliminate. A state education lottery could appeal to the 
gamblers and bring in plenty of money for education, money that with luck 
we could put to better use than they do in South Carolina (not that that 
would be difficult). Prostitution could be legalized and strictly 
monitored, not only encouraging safer sexual practices but providing money 
to fix roads maintained by the state.

Prohibition once completely outlawed alcohol, yet now we have state-run ABC 
stores everywhere. So the legalization of vice isn't just a pipe dream, 
unlikely as it may seem around here. But just think: instead of the 
fruitless battle to make people be good, which will never happen anyway, we 
could just build a better society with the money earned from vice. Better 
roads, better schools, you name it -- we could improve those people who 
desire improvement using the cash of those who could care less. Poetic 
justice and an ideal system. Sadly, since the state feels the need to 
foster good by bullying people into it, we'll have to stay poor.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom