President Trump went to New Hampshire on Monday to announce a new policy initiative to combat the opioid crisis. It will neither solve the problem nor advance America. This program goes beyond too little, too late; it actually represents a step backwards and will do little if anything to address the underlying crisis. Let’s explore.
I am far from a Chris Christie fan to say the least. However, back in the 2016 GOP Presidential debates the former New Jersey Governor brought a national spotlight to the opioid crisis. Trump actually had him chair a “show committee” on the topic. For all his many faults Christie actually cares about and is knowledgeable of the opioid crisis. Trump has been in office for 15 months and this was the closest to anything concrete he has done to address the problem. In reality he announced a bunch of policy ideas in what was a thinly veiled 2020 campaign event. New Hampshire is one of the hardest hit states in this crisis, but it is also holds the nation’s first presidential primary (Iowa – where Ivanka was – is a caucus) which is the real reason why it was the chosen venue for the announcement.
After Trump placed the Christie Commission’s report in the circular file he put Kellyanne Conway in charge of the administration’s “effort”. Her plan was basically a rerun of Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign. We all know how successful that was. (For the benefit of my younger readers – it wasn’t.)
Suddenly as the possibility of a 2020 Republican primary challenger(s) appears more viable and another opportunity to purloin some government money surfaced, Trump decided it was a good time to make a trip to New Hampshire. (This “major announcement” could have been made from the White House at a great savings.)
Trump is calling for tougher sentencing for drug dealers including capital punishment. America has about 5% of the world’s population and about 25% of its prison inmates. Either America is a lot more violent than my years on this earth have taught me or we have a mass incarceration problem. The opioid crisis is different than the drug problem at large. We have tried this approach before and it doesn’t work. Here is the reason Trump is advocating it; it plays well with his base which politically is all he cares about. It is concentrated almost entirely in the Republican electorate, is a major factor in Republican primaries and therefore helps him keep Republican elected officials in the enabler column.
Another major component of Trump’s plan is an advertising campaign that illustrates that opioids are bad. If millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on advertising I see a huge Trump shakedown/kickback opportunity. The “payments” can take the form of cash, campaign donations or complimentary favors. Never lose sight of the fact that at its core this administration is primarily an organized criminal enterprise for the benefit of Donald Trump.
The root of the opioid crisis is the unnecessary prescription of opioids by legitimate physicians. People use them too long and become dependent. There are a few unscrupulous and corrupt physicians who should be dealt with as criminals; fortunately they are a very small minority. The larger problems are the greed of big pharma and the large medical practices and hospitals that will give a patient the prescription they want rather than take the chance of a bad review or “customer complaint”. The publicity the crisis has received to date has amended some of that.
After circumstances conspire and the good people turned addict can no longer get prescription drugs they turn to street drugs. This problem is much different than the recreational drug problem. The genesis is big pharma and medical professionals. (The Trump administration has already stripped powers from federal agencies to police big pharma. Reversing their action would actually be effective policy.)
However, Big Pharma is a big political donor so going after them isn’t going to happen, (especially under Republicans), with our money in politics problem. Make a show in New Hampshire, placating Bubba’s ignorance, skimming a little cash or getting a break from advertisers all while getting some TV time sounds good to Trump. Who cares if it comes at the cost of 100 odd American lives every day? Christie may actually care; Trump certainly doesn’t.
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