Press Release  | 10/11/2005

Generate Billions of Dollars for Hurricane Katrina and Rita Relief by Cutting Failed War on Drugs Programs

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Republican Study Committee Suggests Cutting Three Wasteful Drug War Programs Worth $8.4 Billion; Drug Policy Alliance Advocates Cutting Five Ineffective Programs Worth $22 Billion

WASHINGTON, DC -- As policy makers scramble to find budget-trimming solutions to help defray the cost of funding relief and rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a wide spectrum of voices, from the Drug Policy Alliance to the Republican Study Committee, recommend steep cuts in wasteful War on Drugs programs.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found that, out of all the drug control programs it reviewed, not one was found effective. By cutting just a few of the many ineffective, inefficient and harmful War on Drugs programs, the federal government can save $22 billion over ten years, which could be transferred to hurricane relief funds.

The Drug Policy Alliance calls for the following cuts.

Eliminating the federal government's wasteful anti-drug advertising campaign.
Savings of $120 million per year/ $1.3 billion in 10 years

Eliminating State Grants for Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Federal evaluations have found the program "ineffective."
Savings of $437 million per year/ $4.8 billion in 10 years

Eliminating the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA). Many of HIDTA's programs are duplicative.
Savings of $227 million per year/ $2.3 billion in 10 years

Eliminating the Andean Counter-Drug Initiative, (also known as "Plan Colombia") which has failed to have any impact on the price, purity, and availability of illegal drugs in the United States and has already cost taxpayers $4 billion.
Savings of $725 million per year/ $7.3billion in 10 years

Eliminating the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants program, which has failed to reduce crime and wasted billions of dollars.
Savings of $792 million per year/ $8 billion in ten years.

Our elected officials have an obligation to find the money to fund relief for Americans affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and especially to assist those most in need. One clear way to do this is to eliminate ineffective anti-drug programs," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Just eliminating five programs that have had no impact on drug abuse could save taxpayers $2.2 billion this year and $22 billion dollars over ten years."

The growing chorus calling for cuts in the failed drug war budget comes from across the political spectrum. The recent Republican Study Committee's (RSC) "Operation Offset" report recommends eliminating and leveling funding of wasteful federal anti-drug programs to help defray the cost of relief efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The RSC, which is chaired by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), also calls for the eliminating the media campaign and State Grants for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, and cutting HIDTA. This bipartisan meeting of the minds underscores the universal failure of current Drug War policies.

"We've finally seen a push by the GOP to return to their fiscal roots and eliminate wasteful anti-drug programs that are neither working nor effective," said Ken Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (and former communications director for Rep. Pence). "While there are a number of suggested cuts where we don't see eye-to-eye, we are in total agreement when it comes to cutting the wasteful and ineffective anti-drug programs," added Collins.

The RSC's recommended cuts to the drug war budget equal a savings of $8.4 billion over 10 years. But the Alliance points out that an additional $13 billion could go to hurricane relief efforts by cutting other wasteful programs. Fiscal watchdog groups, for instance, have called on Congress to eliminate the federal Byrne grant program, as well the failed Andean Counter-Drug Initiative ("Plan Colombia").

Killing the failed Plan Colombia alone would free up $7 billion over ten years, which could be used more constructively by assisting hurricane victims in rebuilding their lives.

Beyond the recommendations made by the RSC, President Bush proposed eliminating the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants program, which has failed to reduce crime and wasted billions of dollars. Elimination of the Byrne Grant program would save taxpayers $792 million dollars this year and $8 billion dollars in 10 years. The total savings of all of these ineffective programs would allow the government to direct billions of dollars to individuals impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper at (202) 669-6430

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