Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Declaring War on Poverty

In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. Technically, only congress can declare war, but the events of the past few decades strongly suggest that this is particular notion is defunct. The US Congress has not officially declared war since 1941; nonetheless, in addition to the military engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq again, various presidents have also declared war on drugs and terrorism. Let us consider for a moment the escalation of these latter domestic wars. Johnson's war on poverty was characterized by the introduction of various social welfare programs, such as the Job Corps and Head Start. By 1969, when Nixon declared war on drugs, tactics had already begun to shift towards those conventionally associated with military conflict. Although the war on drugs undeniably features a social outreach and rehabilitation component, its most prominent manifestation is the arrest of 1 million Americans every year. The war on terrorism saw further escalation. Now, rather than simply imprisoning the enemy, war targets are extraordinarily rendered to foreign countries for torture, or held by US military forces on foreign soil in an attempt to escape the notoriously lenient judicial system which has been busily incarcerating millions in the still-ongoing war on drugs.

Somehow, in all the confusion of the war on drugs and the war on terror, the war on poverty was left by the wayside. But the war on poverty has clearly not been won. Almost 36 million people, or 12% of the US population, were still living in poverty in 2004. I think that it is high time that we rejoined the battle against poverty, but with the general lack of efficacy of 1964's soft-hearted approach in mind. Really, soft-hearted is probably too generous a term. Weak would be more appropriate. The Enemy cannot be defeated with educational programs. We need to apply the lessons of the wars on drugs and terrorism to the war on poverty.

The first obvious step is to outlaw poverty. Drugs and terrorism are both already illegal. How can you properly prosecute a war against an enemy which is aided and abetted by your own judicial system? This begs the question of what sort of penalties should be meted out to those who oppose us in the war on poverty. Fines seem to be counterproductive, since the inability to pay such fines is the very hallmark of the enemy against whom we are fighting. The war on drugs has shown us that prison is an insufficient deterrent. There's as much crack and smack on the streets now as ever, despite locking up anyone who looks like they might be using chemicals to enjoy themselves. Except alcohol and nicotine and caffeine. But those don't count. Because they're not drugs. The tactics introduced in the war on terror seem to have been much more effective. Since September 11th, 2001, there hasn't been a single major instance of terrorism in the US. Unfortunately, there isn't enough space in Cuba to house the entire 12% of the US population who oppose us in the war on poverty. I suggest that we repurpose North Dakota as the Gulag-style prison camp. The Siberia of America! A system of military tribunals can fairly and impartially determine whether a suspect is in fact guilty of being poor, and if found in violation of the anti-poverty laws, render them (extraordinarily!) unto one of the anti-poverty forced-labor camps. Indefinitely.

Today's rant was brought to you by Brouilly St. Fortnat:
Aus dem südlichen Gebiet der Beaujolais-Region stammt der Brouilly, der mit seinem beerigen Bouquet Freude verbreitet. Der Brouilly AC St-Fortunat ist ein idealer Begleiter zu einem fröhlichen Beisammensein, das vielleicht auch etwas länger dauert ... Man geniesst ihn beispielsweise zu dunklem Fleisch, Terrinen, Charcuterie und allen leichten Speisen. Preis: Fr. 8.90/75 cl.

No comments: