McLean column: We can help needy — and be economically sound
In our extremely divided society, some policies should be bipartisan if one can look beyond the rhetoric. For example, support for returning combat damaged veterans, support for the less fortunate in our society and support for reasonable policies for treatment of abuse of alcohol and other drugs should be policies upon which most can agree.
Some of my liberal friends seem to think that because I am conservative that I do not believe in any government solutions. I am not an anarchist or libertarian or even a Republican. I am an economic conservative. I believe that reasonable policies can both help those most in need while being economically prudent.
It is counterintuitive for those who have neither studied economics nor run a business to understand that reduced corporate taxes benefit those in the lower segment of our society. In a competitive marketplace, lower corporate taxes must be passed along to the consumers as lower prices if the business is to remain competitive.
Large corporations such as GE and Apple use highly paid accountants and attorneys all over the world to manage their corporate taxes, often paying little or no taxes anywhere. Smaller businesses do not have that option. A company manufacturing and selling exclusively in the United States faces a tremendous cost differential when trying to compete with foreign corporations that pay no taxes on exports to the U.S.
Socialist countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom have much lower rates than the U.S. They understand that lower taxes encourage investment and lead to lower prices for their consumers. Of course, being socialists, they add a value-added tax to all purchases.
Regarding bipartisan efforts for support of mentally ill combat veterans, until recently the Department of Veterans Affairs could not, by law, treat veterans with a less than honorable discharge. More than 60 percent of veterans receiving less than honorable discharges had suffered from traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder prior to discharge according to a Government Accounting Office report to Congress.
Fortunately, Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett introduced bills to permit the VA to treat otherwise ineligible veterans due to their less than honorable discharges. As a result, the VA has started a 90-day trial program of treating those veterans.
Many veterans suffering from a variety of medical problems including combat wounds, PTSD, and TBI became dependent on opioids to control their pain while under military care. Others upon discharge become alcoholics.
As a result of these addictions, the veterans often have problems with the police. A Denver veterans court judge told me that the veterans, when picked up for DUI or drug offenses, tended be arrested and charged with higher crimes at a much greater rate than typical addicts and alcoholics. The judge attributed this to their military training leading them to violently resist arrest.
This judge also conducts a drug court for lesser crimes related to alcohol and other drugs. Both the veterans court and drug court have relatively high success rates in dealing with lesser crimes of possession, DUI and minor dealing. There was some concern that the Trump budget would reduce funding for these courts.
I think most of us have close relatives or friends who have suffered from substance abuse and would agree that rehabilitation is a far better solution than incarceration. Court-mandated programs do have success. A National Institute of Justice report on a Portland, Oregon, drug court “found that within a two-year follow-up period, the felony rearrest rate decreased from 40 percent before the drug court to 12 percent after the drug court started in one county, and the felony rearrest rate decreased from 50 percent to 35 percent in another county.”
A local noted drug rehab specialist told me that mandated rehab worked just as well as the notion that the addict had to reach rock bottom first. That explains the success of drug courts.
Veteran’s courts have a similar success rate. However, there can be a problem of not properly vetting those who claim to be suffering from PTSD or TBI. Those of us who have been in the service know how relatively common it is for soldiers and sailors to exaggerate their combat experiences. The judge had concerns regarding that vetting but placed little faith in the military to provide accurate information with the DD214 discharge document. While there were many errors in the older forms, today those forms should at a minimum show if the veteran actually served in combat.
Regarding the Trump budget reducing money for the veteran or drug courts, I found that the Department of Justice has actually increased grants to drug courts. The Trump administration has considerably reduced funding for the drug czar office, but that unit was tasked with enforcement, not treatment. Apparently Health and Human Services is also increasing drug rehabilitation funding. Rehab is cheaper and more effective than incarceration.
Roland McLean, an Aspen Glen resident, is a University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. His column appears on the fourth Thursday of each month. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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