Responding to public concerns, Congress has just passed a sweeping anti-drug package. Unfortunately, the new laws look like so much election-year posturing.
While approving all kinds of get-tough laws dealing with the illegal drug problem, the lawmakers neglected to provide any money to fund them. They can claim to be tough on drugs, and at the same time be prudent in dealing with the deficit.However, it doesn't work that way. If the war on drugs is to be stepped up a notch - and there is clear evidence that needs to be done - it is going to cost money, money that will have to be taken from some other program. The day is past when expanded or new federal programs can be financed simply by running the national debt a little higher.
If, as Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., observed, election-year demands from voters to do something about drugs have driven the bill, then voters will not be satisfied if funding should prove to have been only so much campaign rhetoric.
The Senate last week passed its $2.6 billion version of the drug bill. The House passed its drug bill on Sept. 22. Senators hope House members will accept some version of the Senate legislation rather than appoint a House-Senate conference committee. With this in mind, the Senate, said Rudman, wrote its bill with an eye toward language the House might accept.
The Senate measure, which calls for the death penalty for drug traffickers who kill, would funnel more money to treatment programs, and create a new, cabinet-level drug "czar" to coordinate the federal government's anti-drug effort.
Rudman wisely observed that "People want us to respond, they want leadership from the Congress" on the drug package. That leadership must come up with a funding program to fulfill the campaign promises. And it must be done the hard way - by carving the money out of existing revenue.