Budget Politics

My analysis of presidential attention to domestic drug control utilizes a historical framework; as such, I thought it would be useful in my consideration of Obama’s drug control budget to provide a comparison to previous administrations’ budgets, starting with the Nixon era. This easy gathering of data, I thought, would be one of the simpler aspects of my comparison between different presidents and their attention to the drug issue. However, it turned out to be one of the most difficult parts of my project, and made me think more largely about the politics of creating federal spending budgets, in terms of what is counted (and not counted) in certain areas.

What comprises the drug budget itself is highly politicized. Because the federal drug control budget is actually a compilation of drug control spending across federal agencies, how the budget is constructed can vary over time and can be adjusted with certain political objectives in mind. In 2004 for example, under the Bush administration, the ONDCP stopped counting several major federal drug control agencies in its budget. The 2006 reauthorization of the ONDCP ordered the organization to again include these agencies in its accounting (“Building the Capacity to Address the Nation’s Drug Problems” 2008, v). Although the Obama Administration has made some strides in readjusting these numbers in its proposed 2012 budget, increasing the total funds counted under federal drug control spending by 10 billion dollars, the 2012 budget projections still do not include all of the drug control agencies that existed in the budget until 2004. When considering these other agencies, only 26 percent of drug control funding went towards demand reduction efforts (compared to the current 40.7%), a vast difference that changes the budget’s emphasis significantly.  Comparing different Presidential drug budgets consequently becomes a herculean task, as the very nature of how the budget is constructed has changed over time to suit various political needs.

This snag in my research made me think more largely about how we can often assume numbers to be infallible; however, with any piece of data there is an agenda that must be taken into account in one’s analysis.


About carsonwhitelemons

School: Smith College Year: 2012 Major: Government Hometown: Portland, OR Fellowship Topic: The Presidency and the War on Drugs
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