Drug problem no sitcom fantasy

In the world of 1950s sitcoms, Rand Paul's ideas on handling the drug issue at the local level would have made a great story line for Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife, who, by the end of the episode, would have foiled the evil drug gang and have its members locked up in a cell next to Otis — all without Barney having to take that bullet out of his shirt pocket.

But real life in the 1950s wasn't as simple as the residents of Mayberry made it seem, and it sure as heck isn't that simple these days.

Reality in Eastern Kentucky in 2010 is a drug epidemic of a size that no one town or one county can combat adequately, not even if it has its own Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney.

It takes state and federal involvement to deal with pill pipelines that connect the mountains of Appalachia to the shores of South Florida. Local governments simply do not have the money or the manpower to run sting operations on the traffickers or provide treatment for the abusers.

But Paul appears oblivious to these facts, or at least he did when he addressed a gathering of local officials from across the commonwealth last week. "I think issues like drug use and abuse are best dealt with at the local level," he told them, adding that the efforts should be paid for at the local level as well.

It was another instance where his narrowly focused vision of a miniaturized federal government failed the reality check.

There are certain programs and services local and state governments cannot handle by themselves, not unless we want roads that don't connect with each other at the county line or a patchwork quilt of rules and regulations on such issues as air and water quality.

When damage is done to the headwaters of the Kentucky River in Eastern Kentucky, it has the potential to affect every down-river community that draws its water from the Kentucky before it flows into the Ohio River.

When smokestacks belch pollution into the air of one county, residents in downwind counties feel the effects as well.

Like roads and air and water quality, Kentucky's problems with pain-pill addiction and the spread of meth labs are too big for the manpower and budgets of local and state governments to handle.

Federal involvement in enforcement, treatment and education programs is a necessity. For even though all politics may be local, all solutions are not.

And Rand Paul's wishful, simplistic world view of how our various levels of government should operate and interact won't change that reality — or bring back the days of Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney.