Treatment, Not Incarceration
[RE: Newscity, “Tweaker Town”, Jan 22-28]: I would like to thank the Alibi for its honest coverage of Albuquerque's meth problem. While other newspapers focus entirely on increasing penalties, the Alibi pointed out the need for adequate treatment. Drug treatment will have a far greater effect on the problem than more incarceration.
There are a few points, though, that are worth considering. Right before elections, it is common to see a new drug epidemic plastering the headlines across the nation. As politicians try to win votes by appearing tough on drugs, they end up manufacturing a new menace. The press obediently quotes these fear mongers talking about some new drug allegedly sweeping the streets. In turn, police begin to focus their attention on that particular drug. The 91 meth lab busts in Albuquerque show a growing rate of police activity, not a growing rate of use.
In reality, the stimulant-using population is merely switching drugs. Meth has benefits over cocaine, our former foe. Meth is cheaper and lasts far longer. And it can be produced right here in the United States, eliminating the dangerous and expensive task of importing from other countries. This is an effect of the war on drugs. Just as suppression of powder cocaine use in the '80s led to widespread use of a cheaper, more potent form of cocaine, crack, the suppression of crack has only led to the use of meth. There's no epidemic. It's the same old drug problem that we've failed to solve.
Drug warriors, with their limited minds, have a difficult time grasping this concept. No matter how hard we fight drugs with criminal enforcement, we can not suspend the law of supply and demand. If we suppress meth, another drug will simply take its place. Or possibly, as attention moves away from cocaine to meth, cocaine will become cheaper and easier to slip past the border. So, addicts and dealers will simply switch back to their old favorite.
Rep. Joe Thompson, who courageously pointed out the need for more treatment, unwittingly questioned the rationale for any incarceration at all. “[Meth users] are people we see every day,” the Alibi quoted Rep. Joe Thompson saying. “[They're] people we have dinner with; people we golf with, people in our family.”
So, in other words, we're not talking about some alien presence invading the nation. The war on drugs is a war on the people we know and love. Why throw everyday people into prison because they happen to have a drug problem? We don't treat alcoholics this way. Why should it be different for any other deadly, addictive substance?
Give'em Hell Howie
Gov. Howard Dean's enthusiastic speech to his supporters following the Iowa caucuses has been blown out of proportion by all the media. It was an event that should have as little bearing on future primaries as the up beat nature of a candidate's rhetoric or his superficially presidential appearance.
“Enthusiasm” means inspired or passionate, qualities that I find lacking in the other candidates. I place highest value on Dean's progressive position on the central issues of our time. He also has the ability to attract young voters, though I suspect that the presence of young, out-of-state volunteers may have harmed him in Iowa. My “Dream Team” for 2005 would be Dean with John Edwards as V. P., Wesley Clark as Secretary of Defense and John Kerry as Secretary of State (plus Al Sharpton as official gadfly on matters of race and poverty).
I hope that Gov. Dean will not moderate his views or his enthusiasm. In fact, in the tradition of President Harry S. Truman, I urge him to “Give ’em Hell, Howie!”
People in the Private Sector
[RE: Letters, “Bill and the Benefits”, Jan. 15-21]: I've been a taxpaying citizen of our wonderful state since 1969, and in those 30 years the New Mexico state government has done little for its citizens, other than grow itself into the largest per capita malignancy in the country. At nearly 300 public workers for every 10,000 citizens, the state employee payroll is the national per capita forerunner at a staggering 50,000 (or so) employees! The State Personnel Department figures 20,000 classified jobs with a total payroll budget of $700 million or an average of $35,000 per employee. This figure does not include 1) almost 5,000 other jobs, 2) part-time employees and 3) almost 30,000 people employed in the educational system. The cost of this is well into the billions and for this astounding amount of money we get; one of the poorest school systems in the country (consistently in the bottom 5 percent), one of the highest per capita crime rates, poverty level wages in the private sector, a tax system that is grossly unfair and has been a deterrent to bringing business into the state and finally one of the most entrenched, obtuse, stuck bureaucracy's in the world.
Now, far be it from me to say that Mr. Kuntz of Cedar Crest is not deserving of some type of recognition for the fine job he does, but after 22 years in business I found this one primary rule to be true: 20 percent of all employees are responsible for 80 percent of the work. If Mr. Kuntz is indeed one of the 20 percent then he deserves something but this simplistic hands-out point of view is one of the things responsible for the death of California right now and it will begin to swamp this state sooner than later.
I recently ran into an acquaintance who had just retired from the state. After 20-some odd years of employment behind a desk in Santa Fe they are retiring at 80 percent pay and benefits, and we're not talking pocket change here but a significant amount of money to be paid out. If this person lives the average age, the taxpayers will be paying her almost $40,000 a year for the next 30 years, or $1.2 million. If we have 40,000 of these folks on the payroll then our future looks very bleak. Total cost of retirement may be somewhere in the $48 billion neighborhood. Just for future retirement! Where is this money going to come from?
Mr. Kuntz, get a grip. Out here in the private sector the people that are paying your salary are flipping burgers and answering calls in phone centers for a whopping 10 bucks an hour. You want more money to buy more stuff, more benefits to enhance your security, then do something about the bloated payroll of this state. So far I give Bill thumbs up for working to bring in business and trying to keep a lid on spending. After all, we have to start saving for that big state employee payday to come.
Suckers in the United States
Sorry if I sound like another hate America first whinny liberal and risk the wrath of your readers, but after listening to the President's State of the Union Address, I hope I wasn't the only listener who cringed with the staged over-the-top applause, the nationalistic propaganda and the constant reference to people's fears. But, the worst and scariest part is how he passionately believes his everything is rosy, my shit don't stink, baloney, and plays upon us like we're all a bunch of ignorant suckers. If we allow this man to be our president again, we get what we deserve.
Santa vs. God
[RE: Letters, “Tasteless Letters Not OK,” Jan. 8-14]: Rich Latta may have been correct in finding an Alibi cover to be distasteful. Equally distasteful was his remark that “the Santa myth is perfect preparation for little children to grow up believing in the larger myths of Christianity (while, at some point, knowing deep down they can't be true).” All of this is false.
Christianity has an objective basis: God exists, He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible, the Son of God came to earth, died for our sins and was raised from the dead. No other religion has the living Savior offered by Christianity. Santa Claus (and atheism) are based on falsehoods and wishful thinking. Christianity is based on facts and evidence.
Correction: A letter last week identified Joint Memorial 40: Senate Joint Memorial affirming Civil Liberties, as a bill proposed in the current legislative session. That was its name in 2003. On the agenda for this session is Joint Memorial 5: Upholding the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States.
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