Perpetual Crises: Good for Presidential Legacy, Costly for Americans

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By Justin Mapp, Contributor


In the last several decades, the United States has launched two campaigns that set the stage for our perpetual state of emergency, with each supporting a booming war economy.

The War on Drugs began under the Nixon administration in which the President declared drugs to be “public enemy number one” in the United States. The Global War on Terror was launched following the September 11th attacks in which we also initiated a post-9/11 security state, spying domestically and suspecting fellow Americans.

Both campaigns have reached a point in the early 21st century where they are intertwined and exist to support one another, due to the creation and expansion of Homeland Security and federal agencies like the DEA and FBI.

The rapid international initiative to join the War on Terror will soon cost the American taxpayers over $6 trillion, according to last December’s Cost of War project from Watson and Brown Universities, the Military Times reports.

The price tag of the War on Drugs hardly budges the operating costs of the nearly 18-year war on terrorism, but still costs American taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion. American Progress estimates “the federal government spent an estimated $9.2 million every day to incarcerate people charged with drug-related offenses.”

The War on Drugs incarcerates millions of Americans each year. The First Step Act under the Trump administration is a step in the right direction of scaling down these numbers but it must be pursued more proactively for the millions of Americans’ lives this campaign has destroyed over the last fifty years.

Each campaign has allowed us to sustain a war economy so that each administration can prevent troubling recessions and meltdowns which would stain their legacy, without looking for a silver lining away from the problem. There’s an entire generation growing up believing war is a constant state of being for our nation, rather than a bloody means to end threats to our safety.

Despite the Obama administration scaling down combat operations in Iraq in 2010 and Afghanistan in 2014, the war on terrorism is still expanding and more nations are joining the fight. President Obama said we would minimize our role in the war on terror by shifting the focus from tactics to terrorist networks, but his administration could neither prevent terrorist networks from expanding nor protect Americans from our own national security measures. The use of the term ‘state of emergency’ is more familiar with Americans today than it ever was before 2001 or even 1971. The executive branch, in coordination with the Treasury, almost routinely declares emergencies pertaining to these two major campaigns. This constant state of emergency has given the executive branch unprecedented powers for the last 40 years and this applies to each of those presidencies. Americans should be concerned about the many threats against our livelihood but putting our own citizens at risk of poverty or incarceration brings us to question whether this endless state of emergencies protects American lives or executive legacies.


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