Saturday, December 24, 2011

Some Americans do not pay taxes amid talk of tax cuts, drugs affect economy

This article was originally published by the Viễn Đông on 24 December 2011. It was reported by Vanessa White.

WASHINGTON D.C.—The U.S. Congress has come to an agreement on whether to extend a tax cut benefitting 160 million U.S. workers.
The measure will extend the payroll tax cut for at least another two months.
Lawmakers had until 31 December 2011 to extend the cut, otherwise payroll taxes would have increased by 2 percent on 1 January 2012, forcing the average U.S. family to lose out on $1,000 next year.
Although mainstream news coverage heavily focused on Congress’s difficulty to compromise on the tax cuts, there has been little coverage on where some of the tax dollars are actually going, or how they are being used to fund programs.
For instance, last week the Viễn Đông reported on how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) aids drug cartels in laundering millions of dollars.
U.S. agents reportedly smuggle money across the United States-Mexico border, hoping to learn about how the drug cartels use the money, where it is kept, and who the ringleaders are.
To achieve this goal, the DEA might allow drug operations to go on for months or years before even one criminal is arrested.
As the DEA is funded with tax dollars, Americans are indirectly supporting the drug trade, all while DEA agents hope to catch the suspects they are funding.
The DEA funded drug operations allow the drugs to make their way up to the United States and people who sell them on the street are not taxed because selling and being in possession of narcotics is considered illegal by the U.S. federal government.
At the same time, the U.S. government funds the “War on Drugs,” which includes criminalizing drugs and incarcerating people who possess and sell them.
Prison funding, “War on Drugs”
According to the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ), of the over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about 500,000 of them are imprisoned due to drug related offenses.
Funding for state prisons, including prisons within the California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (CDRC) system comes from taxpayers.
Since former President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in 1971, there has been an increased burden on taxpayers nationwide due to an increasing prison population while addiction has not decreased, according to retired police officer and former drug identification expert for the Torrance Police Department Mr. Kyle Kazan.
In a 2011 documentary film, The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs, Mr. Kazan said that marijuana is California’s number one cash crop and the State is making very little money on it.
California law allows for people with illnesses like cancer, chronic pain, and anxiety to possess medical marijuana to ease their symptoms.  
In some cities, including Garden Grove, there are medical marijuana dispensaries where people with such illnesses can buy marijuana from vendors.
However, as federal law makes selling or possessing marijuana of any kind illegal, these dispensaries are constantly threatened with shut down.
“It’s [marijuana] costing us money because we’re still fighting it,” Mr. Kazan said, adding that the number two cash crop in California is grapes and “California makes a fortune on grapes.”
Before the failure of Proposition 19, which was on the November 2010 ballot and would have legalized marijuana in California, the California Board of Equalizations estimated that $14 billion in marijuana transactions occurred in California every year.
If taxed, the State could have made $1.4 billion in revenue, contributing to the rising costs of healthcare, education, and transportation.
Mr. Kazan said that the State needs money and the drug policies have failed. “It [legalizing marijuana] seems like a pretty obvious solution to me.”

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