Earlier in the year, the subject of poverty came up on one of those televised news program discussions. I forget which consonant cluster it was; CNN, MSNBC or one of those others. The discussion, however, was short-lived as talk petered out after only a day or two.
Now, everyone is concerned with income inequality. It seems we’ve refrained from calling such conditions poverty. It just doesn’t appear to make for much prolonged discussion anymore when depicted as such.
Maybe it’s because poverty is too “heavy” a word, implying the necessity of extreme and costly steps in order to eradicate it. And we know that in this entitlement and government reduction climate that seemingly grips our American Congress, taking steps to improve the lives of the many at the risk of the few is something that’s probably not in the current cards.
Whatever the reasons, eliminating poverty appears to be shelved in favor of the less harsh idea of eradicating disparities that exist in wealth and income. And even doing or discussing that is an issue.
The truth is to do one is to do the other. And I have an idea on exactly where to start. It’s my Christmas wish for America.
America can begin to eliminate poverty and income disparities by calling a cessation to the drug war and reforming the country’s current policy on illegal substances, primarily marijuana.
The harsh reality is that America’s War on Drugs has not worked. It’s basically a cash cow for law enforcement that stigmatizes an entire social group, causing their undue incarceration, which in turn, swells the numbers in our already over-crowded penal system.
It prevents these same individuals from getting meaningful employment with above average pay, rather relegating them to the lower minimum wage jobs existing primarily in the service sector.
And the prohibitions that exist for this class are somewhat discriminatory as they do not exist for other individuals such as cigarette smokers or drinkers. These folks can still find above average employment in spite of their habits.
The problem centers on the use of and the need for urinalysis; the erroneous way the testing is required and the reasons behind such requisite.
Is it truly necessary for someone who will stock shelves in a Home Depot or Lowes to submit to a urinalysis test? Obviously, where matters of public safety are a concern, the tests should stand. But to pre-determine that someone will steal from you to feed a drug habit simply because they fail a urinalysis test, without considering any other factors-background check, references or work history-is wrong and alienates many more than it should.
Recently, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize marijuana. The states of Colorado and Washington have done the same. It’s time for the entire country to recognize the amount of money that’s been wasted over the years and start to consider the amount of funds that could be saved and better put to good use.
Simply put, ending the drug war means greater access to better paying jobs for a larger segment of Americans. It won’t totally end poverty or income disparities in the country but it will be a better than average place to start.