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Jim Wallis’ Drug War Deceit

y William L. Anderson
Recently by William L. Anderson: 'Progressive' Journalists and State Power

The Drug War is a disgrace. The Drug War is racist, and the Drug War is evil.
Few readers will disagree with these statements, or at least those readers
who already are inclined already to see the Drug War as being yet another
government tool of oppression.

However, it is also possible for people to denounce the results of the Drug
War without attacking the underlying premises of that war, which is that
government has the duty and must have the authority to carry out such wars
for "our own good." People who operate in that sphere thus condemn the
Drug War while quietly supporting it at the same time, and those are the
people for whom I have the most contempt, because they quietly support this
abomination in a most insidious fashion.

I recently received an email from Sojourners which on the surface seems to


attack the Drug War. It reads:

Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate, yet African Americans
are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses. This is the
unbalanced and inhumane effect of America’s "war on drugs" – a dirty secret
that nobody wants to talk about. The discriminatory treatment of minority drug
users has been virtually ignored by the media, politicians, and the rest of us.

But this month Sojourners is taking on the truth about America’s justice
system, where the color of your skin determines your sentence. Subscribe
now to read "Cruel and Unequal" in the February issue of Sojourners.
(Emphasis theirs)

There is nothing in that paragraph that is untrue, except for the claim that the
racial discrimination in this situation "has been virtually ignored." In fact, this
injustice has been front-and-center for a long time in the media.
The problem is not that the racial disparities of the Drug War are
ignored, but rather that they provide moral theater for the Left instead of being
a reason to abolish the Drug War altogether.

In other words, I am making a serious accusation against Wallis and others of


his ilk, for I am saying that far from being a voice against oppression by the
state, he and his allies are using the issue simply for fundraising purposes
and have no intention of seeing that anyone deals with the larger and
underlying issues. Black Americans imprisoned for "drug crimes" are nothing
more than props in Wallis’ show of religious statism.
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While I don’t read the Sojourners page every day or even every week,
nonetheless I read it enough (and go back over the "God’s Politics" blog on
the Sojourners website) to know that I never have seen one real
condemnation of the Drug War itself. Furthermore, I never have read anyone
on that site condemning the tactics that government agents use to further this
war.

Before going back to Wallis and the Drug War, I will say that there are things
about Sojourners that I like. For example, Wallis’ recent post on how to bring
down the federal deficit has much in it with which I agree. First, he calls for a
huge reduction in military spending, including ending the occupations of
Afghanistan and Iraq. He also calls for an end to agricultural subsidies.

And even though he calls for an increase in the top income tax rate back to
39.6 percent, he makes some admissions that really are shocking to
someone who has been reading Wallis’ writings since the mid-1970s:

Second, return tax rates for the wealthy back to Clinton-era levels of 39.6
percent from the Bush top level of 35 percent. Under Dwight D. Eisenhower,
the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent – that was clearly too high. From
JFK until Reagan it was 70 percent and that was still too high.
But, when Warren Buffet declares it wrong that his secretary
pays a larger portion of her income in taxes than he does as a multi-
billionaire, our tax system is now clearly imbalanced. There are now more
millionaires living in New York City than there were in 2007 before the crash.
Maybe they could pitch in.

Keep in mind that few people howled more than Wallis in 1981 when
Congress voted to lower the top rate from 70 percent to 50 percent. Perhaps
his thinking is different today, or perhaps he has a selective memory.

Unfortunately, Wallis does seem to have a selective memory on other things.


Last year, he became involved in a very public spat with Marvin Olasky, editor
of the conservative evangelical news/commentary publication World over
whether or not Sojourners had received grants from George Soros’ Open
Society Institute.

Because the OSI promotes abortion on demand and atheism, it would raise
some eyebrows if a Christian organization calling itself "pro-life" (although the
main "pro-life" emphasis comes through promotion of a huge, tax-funded
welfare state) were to receive money, and according to Olasky’s article,
Sojourners received $275,000 from OSI during the last decade. Wallis’
response was even more eye-opening when during an interview about the
alleged donation, he declared: "It’s not hyperbole or overstatement to say that
Glenn Beck lies for a living. I’m sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same
thing. No, we don’t receive money from Soros."
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Wallis went on: "We don’t receive money from George Soros. Our books are
totally open, always have been. Our money comes from
Christians who support us and who read Sojourners. That’s where it comes
from."

Olasky kept digging and he found the tax records, as well as other documents
that proved beyond a doubt that Wallis was not telling the truth. (After being
confronted with the evidence, Wallis changed his public statements and
claimed that his outburst came as a result of fatigue and a faulty memory.)

Now, Soros has made public statements against the Drug War, but I really
have seen very little from either the Secular Left or the Religious Left that
deals with the heart of the matter: people like Wallis want government to
continue to have the powers that it uses to continue the Drug War, but they
want the racial makeup of people who are arrested and imprisoned to be
changed. In other words, they want a Politically Correct Drug War.

I agree that it is a national disgrace that so many black Americans are caught
up in the maw of this sorry policy, and that huge numbers of them are thrown
into prison. Furthermore, I wrote more than 10 years ago about the problem
of Drug War-related racial profiling and noted that the larger issue is not racial
in and of itself, but rather the abuses of government power.

Unfortunately, Wallis attacks the hot-button portion of the Drug War – its
deleterious effect upon black Americans – but stops there. Why? My sense is
that the kind of welfare state that Wallis demands is one in which the
government must enjoy total power over the lives of individuals. A
government that controls the entire medical care apparatus and regulates
literally everything in a person’s life (and that is exactly the kind of state that
Wallis and his allies have been demanding for decades) must have the power
and authority to do those things.

Lest anyone think that I am exaggerating, keep in mind that Wallis over the
years has held up some of the most brutal regimes in history as
guiding lights to the kind of government that would make life
better. Wallis championed Mao during the worst years of the Cultural
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Revolution and he and others actually believed that the Great Leap Forward
was actually an economic advance as opposed to a murderous time when the
Chinese state literally crushed the life out of millions of people.

So, given that Wallis has supported government brutality in the past without
apology, I do not see him recoiling from the powers being used by the state
today to subjugate people under the auspices of the Drug War. He does not
have a problem with the use of state violence; his only problem is that too
many black Americans are caught up in the war itself, and for "justice" to
occur, more whites have to be arrested.

This is not justice; it is shared misery. Instead of questioning why people have
to be crushed by the state in the name of keeping us safe from illegal drugs,
Wallis wants to know why there are racial disparities in the vast numbers of
people being arrested and imprisoned. That is even worse than PETA’s claim
that milk is a "racist" drink.

To make matters worse, Wallis has fought anything that would present the
inner-city neighborhoods the opportunity to become livable places where
drugs are not the main source of commerce. From his "living wage" crusades
that force up wages to levels where it becomes impossible to employ young
African-Americans to his support for policies that undermine private property
rights, Wallis is utterly anti-enterprise and anti-entrepreneur, and anti-
capitalism.

There is a reason that I never have read any arguments by Wallis or his
friends that condemn the Drug War per se: they are loathe to abandon their
belief that an all-powerful state can and should be worshipped, as it is the
Very Essence of God. If too many African-Americans are arrested, then
change the racial makeup of the arrest policies, but don’t stop the Drug War,
by any means.

You see, if we actually ended the Drug War, state power also would suffer
defeat. And if there is anything Wallis worships, it is state power.

January 7, 2011

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg


State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von
Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services.
Visit his blog.

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