May 23, 2024

Needle Exchange Illogic

Under the heading of liberal issues that do not matter, Ben Smith says that Barak Obama has come out in favor of lifting the ban on funding needle exchange programs with federal money while Hillary has been reluctant to declare herself opposed to the ban.

Why? Because Bill Clinton implemented it in 1998 after Donna Shalala, his Health and Human Services Secretary, announced that a review had found needle exchanges safe and effective.

It’s hard running for president with the baggage of the past, I suspect. Obama’s best characteristic, besides his public speaking skills, is that he hasn’t been around long enough to have a record to run from.

Smith writes:

Clinton responded to [veteran AIDS activist Charles] King’s question (1:10:40 in the video above), after some prodding, by saying, “I want to look at the evidence on it” to see whether needle exchange would prevent the spread of HIV without increasing drug abuse.

Shalala, King responded, had “certified” the safety and effectiveness of the programs.

“And then she refused to order it, as you remember,” Clinton said.

King replied that that had been her husband’s decision.

“Well, because we knew we couldn’t maintain it politically,” Clinton said, and went on to discuss the trade-offs in that dispute with Congress. “I wish life and politics were easier,” she said.

King then referred back to Clinton’s opening remarks.

“You made a great comment earlier about how our next president needs to have some spine,” he said.

“We’ll have as much spine as we possibly can, under the circumstances,” Clinton responded.

Circumstantial spine, eh? Seems like a bit of an oxymoron to me. We can rest, therefore, safe in the knowledge that no spine whatsoever will be grown, cloned, or otherwise exhibited by another Clinton regime, at least in regard to this issue.

After all, spineless is just the word to describe the compromise that banned federal money from being spent on exchange programs. Just like Hillary’s answer to King’s question, Bill Clinton’s solution was and remains a banal reaction to the stormy circumstances that whipped the Clinton presidency about like a nor’easter bashing a leaky dory lost at sea.

Indeed, a president who possessed a spine would have recognized that drug users should not be aided and abetted by a government at any level.  Allowing this practice while simultaneously spending vast sums on a misguided and futile “war on drugs” is a fundamental contradiction.  A real president would have sought to ban the practice of needle exchange altogether.

The Texas Rainmaker agrees:

Surprise, surprise. You give free needles to drug users and expect that once they’ve used them and entered their drug-induced state that they’ll be lucid enough to think, “Hey, I should really return this needle to the proper authorities now.” (To say nothing of the fact most couldn’t care less about civic responsibilities when not in a drug-induced stupor)

In my opinion, drug users do not deserve subsidies of any kind for their habits. Neither do their health issues that result from their abuse of substances known to be both illegal and lethal warrant any governmental support whatsoever. It’s simply ridiculous for a government to encourage demand of a proscribed substance and the practice of appeasing drug abusers should, in all of its forms, be stopped.

But that’s rather idealistic to be implemented as a federal policy, isn’t it? Such a proposal would be doomed to instantaneous political failure. So what is the answer?

Actually, an even better idea would be for the feds to realize that Washington should not dictate to state and local governments how they are to run their health (and other) programs.

Therefore, I agree with Obama: The ban on using federal money for needle exchanges should be lifted because it violates the principle that local governments should be able to solve their problems as they see fit, without unnecessary federal restrictions.

Unfortunately, virtually all liberals – and too many conservatives – believe that the feds must bully states and cities into line because Washington knows better than anyone else how to solve society’s problems.

In fact, the needle exchange debacle shows that following an important precept set forth by the Founding Fathers – that of a limited federal government – would have allowed liberal policies to be funded in localities where they are wanted while allowing others to pursue their own ways of dealing with the drug problem.

San Francison went ahead with their needle exchange program and, as Jason pointed out in his post, it is causing all sorts of problems for the city. Seems that passing out millions of needles – each of which is a potential health risk for local citizens if touched or stepped on – isn’t everything it was supposed to be. What a surprise.

But despite the inevitable failure of their attempt, it would have been far better for Frisco to have been allowed to implement the program as they saw fit from the outset. It’s their city; the right to run it according to local norms should not have been made harder by Clinton’s artless compromise.

Too bad Hillary doesn’t have the spine to realize and/or admit that. The baggage she has to carry is heavier than it looks, isn’t it?


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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