Type to search

The Creator Of The Wire Explains How The ‘War On Drugs’ Is Really A ‘War On The Poor’

Memo Share Politics

The Creator Of The Wire Explains How The ‘War On Drugs’ Is Really A ‘War On The Poor’


The creator of The Wire, David Simon, is one America’s foremost critics of America’s War on Drugs. Speaking to The Guardian last month, Simon dissected our country’s continuing policy of jailing people who get involved in “the one industry that’s left” in the inner cities of America.

“I’m not entirely convinced that it is not intended as a war on the poor,” Simon said. “It may have begun a long time ago as a war on dangerous drugs, but at some point morphed to the point where it’s really about social control. At this point it’s about doing something with the 15 percent of my country that we don’t need anymore for our lost manufacturing base. So there’s a lot of undereducated people the economy has thrown away.”

Like The National Memo‘s David Cay Johnston, Simon believes that the last three decades have been marked by a perversion of the market economy, fueled by government policies.

“I would not have been one of those people gently eulogizing Margaret Thatcher in your country, or Ronald Reagan in mine,”  he said. “I think the last 30-40 years has been a misapprehension of capitalism.”

How will the Drug War end?

Simon doesn’t think the movements to legalize marijuana for recreational use state-by-state are the answer.

“I’m against it,” Simon said at an event in London hosted by The Observer. “The last thing I want to do is rationalize the easiest, the most benign end of this. The whole concept needs to be changed, the debate reframed.

“I want the thing to fall as one complete edifice,” he continued. “If they manage to let a few white middle-class people off the hook, that’s very dangerous. If they can find a way for white kids in middle-class suburbia to get high without them going to jail and getting them to think that what they do is a million miles away from black kids taking crack, that is what politicians would do.”

He thinks the War on Drugs will end the same way alcohol prohibition did: with juries unwilling to convict their fellow citizens for non-violent crimes related to banned substances.

If you enjoyed the interview above, you’ll love this speech Simon gave at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill in 2011.

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 4.10.03 PM


  1. donbronkema1 June 3, 2013

    Capitalism in this country ended at noon, 20 Jan 1981 CE, replaced by supply-side/trickle-down & Neocon hegemonism.

    Result: $87 trillion in unfunded liabilities, deaths beyond count & policy paralysis.

    Meanwhile, thermageddon & ecollapse are ignored…

    1. Rick2101 June 4, 2013

      The dynasties of politics and wealth cannot be easily divided between political parties. I believe American dynasties such as, the Kennedys, Bushes, Clintons, Rockefellers, Hiltons, etc. depend more on personal wealth and intermarriages, political parties are merely a distraction. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-09-13/opinions/36806009_1_dynasty-dynastic-politics-political-nobility

      While we in America technically do not have Dukes, Earls, Counts, etc. but we do have Corporate C.E.O.’s, C.F.O.’s, V.P.’s, etc., and of course very wealthy individuals who just as their medieval counterparts, do have extremely powerful effects on many of us.

      Politics and wealth go hand in hand, it always has. Corporate interests and political interests are very much intertwined. Political parties are just a means of keeping the wealth just where it is. Many of us bicker between Republican and Democrat with no real effect. I believe this to be a factor as to why the wealthy stay wealthy and poor stay poor. Politicians, who are beholden to wealthy corporate interests and the interests of the wealthy individual, govern the tax structure.

      “Half Of The $900 Billion In Tax Breaks Will Go To The
      Richest 20 Percent This Year” http://www.nationalmemo.com/half-of-the-900-billion-in-tax-breaks-will-go-to-the-richest-20-percent-this-year/

      Losing $5,000 dollars a year due to a 10% tax, on a family that
      makes $50,000 a year has a much more profound attack on life style such as, eating out, vacations, movies, than say a family making $5,000,000 a year and losing $500,000 a year to a 10% tax. While there is a big difference between paying $5,000 in taxes and paying $500,000 in taxes, I believe the relative difference is more important. The family living on $45,000 suffers a much bigger life style change than the family that has to suffer by with only $4,500,000 a year, I really do not think the difference between 4.5 million dollars, and 5 million dollars will have any effect on their life style. But the difference between $50,000 and $45,000, I believe, will affect the ordinary American. The rich stay richbecause they can write off the money they spend to buy politicians who give them more tax breaks. And the cycle
      continues through wealth and politics, American feudalism.

  2. chaessone June 3, 2013

    Remember the opium war casualties in China. We must prevent the second opium war in this cyber age.

    1. Riobound June 3, 2013

      Remember that the end result of the Opium Wars was that the British OWNED a Chinese city-state for over 150 years. THAT is what the Opium Wars did! Ah! Capitalism.

  3. Allan Richardson June 3, 2013

    We could balance the federal budget by legalizing and taxing pot. But of course, Republicans don’t REALLY want to balance it, they want that as an EXCUSE to tear down the laws that protect the poor from the evil rich (not all rich, just the evil ones).

  4. tdm3624 June 3, 2013

    I would much rather have addicts go through rehab programs than jail/prison. Probably would cost the taxpayers less money too.

  5. Rick2101 June 3, 2013

    Prohibition on alcohol failed miserably right from the beginning 90 years ago, it just to 10 more years for politicians admit it. The only ones to “win” during Prohibition were Al Capone and other criminals. The same is true in Mexico today, only the drug cartels “win”.

    “Not only did the number of serious crimes increase, but crime became organized. Criminal groups organize around the steady source of income provided by laws against victimless crimes such as consuming alcohol or drugs, gambling and prostitution. In the process of providing goods and services, those criminal organizations resort to real crimes in defense of sales territories, brand names, and labor contracts. That is true of extensive crime syndicates (the Mafia) as well as street gangs, a criminal element that first surfaced during prohibition.” http://www.albany.edu/~wm731882/organized_crime1_final.html

    Simple Prohibition (Just Say No) will never work. Most Americans use drugs to relieve pain, whether physical or mental. There is nothing wrong with drug use. However drug abuse is a very serious issue, but it is still a medical issue not a criminal issue. To paraphrase the NRA “Drugs don’t kill people, people kill people”. Not that I support the NRA in any way, I just found their motto “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” ironic, in the sense both guns and drugs are inanimate objects and do no harm without human intervention.

    1. RobertCHastings June 3, 2013

      As with guns, the mere presence of illicit drugs leads to mayhem. I fully agree with the decriminalization of drug use and possession, and I support the government’s doing with drugs what they did with alcohol after Prohibition. Making people criminals simply because they use a certain amount of a certain drug, while other who use the same amount of a DIFFERENT drug merely receive a simple fine or citation to court is crazy and, as the author so plainly states, a simple attempt by our courts to deal with a portion of the population that has already been screwed around enough. Making drug use a crime is partly what perpetuates its use, as criminals are followed by their records, when applying for a job. Treating addiction, effectively, would enable many to get on with their lives in a constructive way, rather than reverting to the only thing that has given them any kind of solace.

      1. Rick2101 June 3, 2013

        I don’t understand how the presence of drugs, as with guns lead to mayhem. Both are inanimate objects and cannot act by themselves.

        1. RobertCHastings June 4, 2013

          The mere presence of drugs or guns does NOT cause violence; however, they do make the likelihood of violence much greater, simply because of their presence. An individual in a public park permitted to carry a concealed gun is much more likely to get involved in gun violence than an individual in the same park WITHOUT such a weapon. George Zimmerman would have just had the shit beaten out of him instead of being charged with murder had he NOT been carrying a gun. And, obviously, the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, CT simply would not have occurred had the shooters NOT had guns. Gabby Giffords would not have had her career cut short in Congress if Jared Loughner had NOT had a gun. Sure, it can be said, as you believe, that guns do not kill people, PEOPLE with those guns kill people. However, it can with equal ease be effectively argued that people WITHOUT guns do not shoot other people.

          1. Rick2101 June 4, 2013

            I believe we basically agree that those who abuse drugs are the problem. It is those folks who abuse drugs while driving and kill someone for example is guilty and it is not the presence of a car or the drug. The same applies to a gun, it is not the presence gun, it is the abuse of the gun by the human.

            “Sure, it can be said, as you believe, that guns do not kill people, PEOPLE with those guns kill people. However, it can with equal ease be effectively argued that people WITHOUT guns do not shoot other people.”

            This is a small detail but I have to bring it up. You cannot use kill in part of your statement and use shoot in another part. You must either term throughout. So either you say: Sure, it can be said, as you believe, that guns do not kill people, people with those guns kill people. However, it can with equal ease be effectively argued that people WITHOUT guns do not kill other people. Which is clearly not true, you can kill someone without gun. On the other hand, you could say; Sure, it can be said, as you believe, that guns do not shoot people, people with those guns shoot people. However, it can with equal ease be effectively argued that people WITHOUT guns do not shoot other people. Which is also not true, you can shoot someone with a bow and arrow or even a slingshot.
            You can argue that guns make it easier to kill, but a gun is not necessary to kill.

            That being said guns in the wrong hands is the problem, not
            the gun. Background checks and a national registry to trace guns needs to be put into place. Make those who want to own a gun be responsible for that gun. Some humans are prone to violence for whatever reason; it is those humans that are the
            problem, not some inanimate object.

          2. RobertCHastings June 4, 2013

            Please, don’t even try to lecture me on syntax. Your small detail is just what you people try to insert in the argument to change directions. The simple FACT of the matter is people who die from gun violence are SHOT, then they die (or, are killed). Guns ARE a major part of the problem of gun violence. As Bob Costas quoted, the ready availability of guns makes mayhem too easy. Without the ready availability of guns, gun violence would not be more prevalent in the US than in any other country on the planet. The NRA will not even let Congress determine who should not have guns, so basically it is the NRA that is the problem. The ATF is prohibited from sharing certain gun data with various law enforcement agencies around the country, through the legislative efforts of ALEC, at the behest of the NRA. The CDC had been collecting similar data for years, until they were prohibited from doing so through pretty much the same mechanism. Many states, and many communities within those states, are instituting concealed carry laws permitting people to carry weapons in public places. How many times over the past year have you heard of a parent getting a little crazy at his kid’s soccer or ball game? If those parents go to the games armed, legally, is there any doubt in your mind that there is the potential for gun violence that was NOT there before they were allowed to carry weapons, concealed, in public?
            The entire gun control issue has absolutely nothing to do with the Second Amendment, or any OTHER civil liberties. And having a gun in one’s possession DOES make it more likely that someone you happen to run across MAY be killed by your gun. The naïve claim that a gun is not necessary to kill is a mere muddying of the water. I think that Adam Lanza, with a knife, would have killed far fewer people than he actually did.

          3. Rick2101 June 4, 2013

            “you people” thank you for the broad generalization.

            I agree the NRA is the biggest obstacle to any gun reform. Responsible gun owners have nothing to fear from background checks and the NRA knows that. The NRA is not motivated by anything as principled as constitutions rights; its only motivation is profit. The NRA is nothing more than a lobbying machine for American munitions industry. “That the gun makers have managed to turn each massacre into a spike in sales of both expensive rapid-fire weapons and ammunition adds to the evidence that the NRA should be viewed as the mass-murder lobby.”

            This article, “The Creator Of The Wire…” is about drugs not gun control.

            We agree prohibition does not work. Let’s leave the gun debate for another “gun” article. Okay?

          4. RobertCHastings June 5, 2013

            Great post! This is how this forum should work.

  6. jointerjohn June 3, 2013

    The war on drugs is over. Drugs won. Now lets move on.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.