The government is necessary and most of the time they should be trusted — at least (and especially) your local government. You need police, firefighters, and even bureaucrats and tax collectors. However, sometimes the government makes it hard for people to trust them. Whether through malice, or just plain incompetence, sometimes the United States government‘s best laid plans and programs went horribly wrong, and caused massive damage… or even deaths. In today’s article, we will go over 10 programs or agencies that have caused serious and lasting harm.
10. Smokey The Bear Helped Create More Massive Wildfires
Smokey the Bear is one of the most well known mascots of all time, except instead of being the mascot for a major sports team, Smokey is the mascot for United States natural parks, and all of US wildlife and forests in general. Smokey was conceived by the United States government decades ago in order to spread awareness about the importance of putting out your fires, especially old campfires and the sparks from your cigarettes. His famous line “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” is catchy and known by many outside of States.
However, despite the best intentions of the government, Smokey the Bear has actually done a lot more harm than good at this point, and with how much death and destruction recent wildfires have caused, the entire thing is no laughing matter. Because the campaign worked a bit too well, people became so obsessed with putting out tiny brush fires — even natural ones — that not enough natural clearing was occurring. This meant that when a wildfire does start now, it usually has way too much fuel to help it keep moving, whereas otherwise it might have choked itself off because dry brush was regularly burned out naturally.
9. The Fast And Furious Scandal Ended Up Giving More Guns To The Cartels
Fast and the Furious was a scandal that caused a lot of damage to the Obama administration’s reputation, and especially to his attorney general Eric Holder. The federal government knows the cartels often come across the border, buy lots of guns, and then sneak them across the border again to use in wars with other drug dealers and even their own government. Now, the United States government has long tried to prevent this, but the Obama administration got another idea.
They figured that if they knew this reliably happened so much, instead of putting all efforts to stop it and get gun stores to be a bit more vigilant, they actually decided to pull a trick on the cartels. They allowed a whole bunch of gun sales, with the plan to track the guns so they could figure out where in Mexico (or elsewhere) they were ending up, and who ultimately was using them. Now, this could have led to valuable intelligence, and if they had managed to track the people down and get the guns back, it would have been a successful operation. Unfortunately, it became a scandal after it became public that the government had completely lost track of the guns, making the entire operation a complete waste that just made the cartels more powerful.
8. The War On Drugs Is A Colossal Failure And An Enormous Boondoggle
The war on drugs was started back in the Nixon era, and ramped-up to even more of a fevered pitch during the Reagan years. In fact, Nancy Reagan, the First Lady at the time, even made it her mission in life to go on a campaign against drugs, with her famous slogan, “Just say no.” (Something that basically never worked for any teenager under peer pressure… ever). The idea was that if we put enough government dollars into restrictive laws and prison sentences, cracked down hard on the gangs and on individual dealers, and went all out against the drugs as if we are actually at war, we would make a huge dent and get lots of people off drugs. However, the truth is that all the facts suggest that the “War on Drugs” was a colossal waste of time and money.
Despite all the arguably unfair prison sentences for small drug offenses, the bigger issue is simply that the program has not been effective. Even though an incredible amount of time and money has been spent, evidence shows that over the years, access to drugs has become cheaper, the cartels and drug dealers are making more money, more people are doing drugs, and the problem is actually getting worse. It doesn’t help that legal drugs like opioids helped create an entirely new black market for getting high and ruining your life.
7. The Housing Projects Cemented Segregation
All the way back in the FDR years, the United States of America saw a need for more low income housing for poor urban citizens — which is often code for black people. Now, there were a lot of ways this could be done, but the government did it really the wrong way entirely. Obviously, we don’t know for sure what their intentions were, but the effect was devastating for the black community, and helped codify segregation permanently into the very infrastructure of the United States.
The housing projects were all put in the same city blocks, and were closely packed together. They were not spread out within different zip codes throughout the big cities, as would make more sense, and none of them were built in slightly wealthier zones, to help uplift the poor people coming to live in the projects. Instead, they chose more run-down parts of the city, and closely packed the housing projects together.
Because cities’ tax revenues are based on the riches of its citizens, small cities that have a lot of housing projects tend to have very little money to fix anything, have nice schools, or even keep the city up. And because moving is so expensive, most people born in the projects will simply never get out.
6. Poisoning People During Prohibition
The prohibition era is a well known time from America’s history, and perhaps one of the biggest mistakes in modern history. It is well known that a huge new class of drug cartels spawned due to prohibition, and it didn’t even work. The federal government was annoyed that people kept finding ways to flout their decree, and wanted to force people to behave — or else. They devised a plan to teach people that alcohol WAS bad for them, even if they didn’t think so, and even if they had to put bad stuff in alcohol that wasn’t usually in it.
So, they figured if they poisoned a bunch of bootleg alcohol, people would get sick stop drinking due to the dangers. They poisoned a bunch of alcohol from industrial sources and denatured it, making it unsafe to drink; then, they just waited, knowing the bootleggers usually used those sources. Tens of thousands got sick and thousands died, at least according to most estimates. The government did not admit until later what they did, and it is hard to know for sure just how many hospital stays and deaths were caused by this irresponsible and deadly action by the United States government.
5. FEMA Keeps Failing At Basic Disaster Management Over And Over Again