Forbes: War on Drugs Hurts the Economy's Consumption


It’s difficult to put a novel spin on “The Drug War,”  but Eric E. Sterling, a contributor for Forbes online, has done just that. The new take on the “War on Drugs” begins with numbers and a discussion detailing the financial goliath that the drug business is (upwards of $300 billion).

But the far more interesting to excerpt comes later on, when an interesting point is brought up: since such an absurdly high percentage of Americans have bee in jail, they are never able to a measure of financial success and stability that allows them to consume products at high rate.

Domestically, there are additional consequences. In the 1980s, America’s crime rates were near historic highs. Congress took for granted that we needed to fight drugs with long sentences. Now crime rates are profoundly lower, but most analysts conclude long prison sentences have not been a major factor. The political dynamic of being tough on crime and drugs led to a dramatic expansion of the population with a criminal record. Those records are accessible by nearly every employer. Yet, few analysts have calculated the full impact of expanded criminal punishment that has reduced opportunities for education, job training, employment, credit, marriage, and ultimately, American productivity and consumer buying power.

Today, tens of millions of Americans — would-be consumers – because they have been convicted of a drug offense, aren’t earning what they could earn without a record. Our prison population, estimated as high as 2.3 million persons, is out of the car market. Ford and GM should calculate how many cars they could sell in the U.S. if our imprisonment rates were close to those of their European or Japanese competitors (instead of 7-to-10 times higher). How many cars could they sell if tens of millions of Americans did not have a conviction-suppressed income? A reduced average household income and credit capacity suppresses sales of goods and services for almost every American business. While most of those offenses were instances of youthful bad judgment, the consequences for the economy last for decades. [Forbes]

Fair or not, having a prison sentence attached to your resume is a Scarlet Letter. No publicly traded company wants former inmates on their books. Even small business owners are typically hesitant to take on an employee with any track record, no matter how small the crime was. And this blatant fact has a direct correlation with our flailing economy.

For those of you that have been to prison for petty crime, let us know in the comments if a potential employer turned you away because of your record.

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