Monday, May 30, 2011

Our Imagination Deficit

E.J. Dionne, one of the more liberal Washington Post columnists, compares the efforts of other nations to address their problems with the empty political dialogue in the U.S., and the current political obsession with lowering taxes.

He laments our lack of imagination, and posits a U.S. imagination deficit compared to other nations.

When I came to the line in his column, “Oh yes, and nearly 14 million…” I thought, oh my gosh, is he going to mention the millions of Americans with criminal records that cripple their inability to get jobs, to get married, and to participate in rebuilding our economy? One out of nine American men has a felony conviction.

Perhaps he’ll get to the lives lost to our national failure to imaginatively regulate and control the use and distribution of drugs leading to enormous social and economic costs. Of course, I was wrong.

It seems that even Americans who purport to be imaginative can’t see the importance of a justice system that the American people accept as just and effective as a foundation for national progress. Slogans about being tough on crime suffice.

We can’t organize a system to distribute of drugs that does not ravish thousands of American neighborhoods or rely primarily on organized crime and the inefficiency of the criminal justice system. Slogans like “drug-free America” and “zero tolerance” suffice.

We can’t imagine a smarter use of the $22 billion or so that the federal government spends on its anti-drug efforts annually with few positives results to show for it.

Heck, smart, compassionate columnists such as E.J. Dionne don’t even see or mention the problem. Might the fact that there are a half million drug prisoners in the U.S. be worth mentioning?

All the other countries that he mentioned in his column -- China, South Korea, European nations, Russia -- imprison a much smaller fraction of their population than we do!

June 17, 2011 is the 40th anniversary of Pres. Nixon’s message to Congress launching the “war on drugs.” What might E.J. Dionne write on that occasion?

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