The Tweet Fairy

Alan Zendell, May 10, 2019

Stop a hundred people at random and ask each of them which adjective pops into their heads when they hear the name Donald Trump. For those not wearing MAGA hats, words like insulting, immoral, unscrupulous, insensitive, and dishonest will come up pretty often. It’s not just that the majority of Americans feel that way about him. He cultivates that personality cult.

At first, we were shocked by the way he refers to people and institutions he doesn’t like. Before the Trump era, we’d been told that to get along, much less to be successful, we had to behave with decorum, exhibit self-restraint, respect other people, and empathize with their problems. When Trump attacked political correctness during his campaign, we didn’t realize that he was really assailing truth, fairness, courtesy, and decency – all the things we’d been taught to venerate and aspire to.

Our next mistake was to assume Trump was a social illiterate, a boor, an awkward, sometimes raging bull who leaves chaos and destruction in his wake because he doesn’t know any better. It took us a long time to realize his persona is carefully crafted and thought out. Don’t ever confuse his lies and misstatements of fact with incompetence or stupidity. He knows exactly what he’s doing at all times. It’s diabolical.

Trump uses insults as a tactic to put people on the defensive, and despicable as that is, it’s remarkably effective. He’s a master at baiting people who oppose him because he has a predator’s instinct for their weaknesses. He succeeds with such antics because he’s absolutely shameless. Nothing embarrasses him. No action is too base or vulgar for Donald Trump.

Remember all the nicknames he coined? Lyin’ Ted (Cruz), Crooked Hillary (Clinton), Liddle Marco (Rubio), Pocahontas (Elizabeth Warren), Liddle Bob Corker, Liddle Adam Schitt (Schiff), Little Michael Bloomberg, Low Energy Jeb (Bush), Crazy Maxine Waters, Leaking-Lying-Slimeball James Comey, Fat Jerry (Nadler), MS-13 Lover (Nancy Pelosi), Dumb as a Rock (Rex Tillerson), Mad Dog (James Mattis), Fake-Failing-Crooked-Pathetic-Dishonest (any media personality or entity that criticized him) – and they’re just a few.

The nicknames worked because we and the media took his bait and reacted exactly the way he wanted us to. His Republican primary opponents were defenseless because they weren’t adept at playing Trump’s nasty games. Decades of education and experience in public life conditioned them to hold back, at least publicly.

We were taught to play by the rules, even fight by them. How many times did our parents, teachers, and counselors admonish us to “fight fair”?  That’s the crux of it. If you fight fair with someone who has no respect for rules, guess who wins?

Three years after Trump’s bullying and baiting dismantled the Republican Party, the Democrats seem to have learned from watching. Trump regularly insulted Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of things that were over the top, but she never quailed under his attacks and never acted in kind. The Democratic Committee Chairs also seem to have learned a thing or two. What we hear from all of them are calm, quietly reasoned rebuttals.

They may lose in the end, but they realize that grounding themselves in the defense of the same Constitution Trump swore to protect is their best course of action. It’s, “Do your worst, Donald. See you in Court. The law’s on our side.” We won’t know if it really is until Trump’s Supreme Court says so, but it’s the strongest hand they have to play.

Enter Joe Biden, who was immediately dubbed “1% Joe” by you know who. Biden said he wouldn’t get involved in the name-calling game, but last week he called Trump a clown and a no-good S. O. B. The media called that a classic Biden gaffe. Seriously?

In an era in which the President gets away with anything that spouts from his mouth, do we really want to muzzle a man like Joe Biden? When, during the last campaign, Trump boasted of his sexual exploits, Biden said, “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” Forgive me, but I cheered. Who doesn’t love to see a bully taken down? How about letting them settle things one-on-one instead of putting the country through another excruciating election season? Donny versus Joe, winner takes all.

My advice to Joe is to find the perfect nickname for Trump, one that addresses all of his insecurities that will get under his skin and infuriate him whenever he hears it. I have one that I’ve scientifically test marketed with at least seven people.

Henceforth, let Donald Trump be known as “The Tweet Fairy.”

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He Solemnly Swore to Defend the Constitution

Alan Zendell, May 8, 2019

Every president’s first official act is to take his oath of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Pretty simple, isn’t it?

The oath doesn’t talk about wars, tax cuts, immigration, or the economy. It states clearly that the President’s primary responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. From the moment he or she is sworn in, the Constitution must guide and shape every presidential action. That’s what defines our country and sets it apart from monarchies and autocracies.

From the day he took office, Donald Trump has demonstrated that his oath means nothing to him. Some of his critics say he doesn’t understand the difference between a president and a king. They claim he has no idea how government works and is ignorant of the laws he is sworn to enforce. But that’s nonsense.

The president has a huge staff of talented advisors whose sole responsibility is making sure he understands his legal responsibilities. Trump fully comprehends what the Constitution requires of him. He simply doesn’t care. His disdain for law and precedent, his attempts to politicize the courts, the Justice Department, and the Federal Reserve Board, and his willingness to lie about anything and everything when it suits him tell us all we need to know about whether we can trust him to honor his oath.

Whether or not he’s guilty of obstructing justice or there is some sinister reason behind his refusal to criticize adversaries like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, there is a more serious issue looming that we will all have to face. Nothing in the Constitution is more sacred than our election process. Yet, through his actions, inactions, and statements it’s clear that Trump doesn’t get that, because to him, nothing is more important than his own power and personal gratification.

Throughout the 2016 election campaign, he claimed the process was rigged. He threatened to challenge the outcome if he lost and even today, based on no evidence of any kind he still claims that millions of votes cast for his opponent were fraudulent. Truth and evidence don’t matter when Trump’s feelings are hurt. He continually stokes crowds at his rallies to frightening frenzies with his lies and distortions.

You won’t ever hear Trump explicitly call on his more rabid supporters to take up arms in revolt, but he will do everything short of it. He loves the lynch mob-like screams of 20,000 voices chanting “Lock her up.” If you doubt his intentions, think back to his refusal to disavow KKK leader David Dukes, or even to admit knowing who he is, while winking and smirking his secret message to all of Duke’s followers. Think back to Charlottesville, where Trump saw fine people where the rest of us saw a dangerous, murderous mob. Consider that he still will not publicly acknowledge that Russia meddled in his election.

Many people were shocked when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly suggested that Trump might not relinquish power peacefully if he lost his bid for re-election. The country has spent more than two years believing that no matter how radical and incendiary his words, surely when push came to shove he would be constrained by law and decency. But time and again he proved us wrong, and his tweets in response to Pelosi’s fears only made them more credible.

Trump claimed the two-year-long Mueller investigation was a conspiracy by Democrats that stole two years from his presidency, then retweeted Jerry Falwell’s absurd assertion  that two years should be added to his term. So what if that would subvert the most important provisions of the Constitution?

Would Trump go as far as rallying his supporters to violent insurrection if he loses? Probably not directly, but that’s not how he operates. Instead, with varying degrees of subtlety, he enables and encourages the behaviors he wants. People who know him well testify that while he never explicitly orders heinous acts, his people always know what he wants them to do.

As election season heats up, if the polls show Trump in trouble or in a close race, expect more accusations of election fraud, more appeals for his supporters to defend his office. If the Democrats in the House continue to investigate his actions as President as the Constitution requires them to, expect more whining about how his presidency is being stolen. And expect more and more violence springing from his out-of-control rallies.

Nancy Pelosi would not have expressed her fears publicly if she didn’t take them seriously. We should too.

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To Impeach or Not To Impeach

Alan Zendell, April 28, 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren said during a CNN Town Hall last week that the House of Representatives should immediately begin impeachment proceedings to remove Donald Trump from office. She wasn’t just making a political statement. She fervently believes it’s the right thing to do for the country.

Senator Kamala Harris seemed to support impeachment too, though she hedged a bit, saying only that Democrats should take steps toward impeachment. They both want Trump out of office, but there’s a huge difference in their approaches. Warren spoke like an impassioned law professor defending the Constitution, while Harris was pragmatic. She believes America’s soul is at stake in 2020, and while she supports impeachment, she won’t make it a central point of her primary campaign.

Whether or not you agree with her ideology, Senator Warren is a brilliant, highly principled woman. If she has a failing, politically, it’s that she never compromises her beliefs – pragmatism is not part of her repertoire. But to her great credit, she was the only prominent figure who was not afraid to take Donald Trump on directly in 2016. She minced no words warning us about who he was. And unlike Bernie Sanders, once Hillary Clinton won the nomination Warren supported her loudly and continuously right up to the election,.

Senator Warren got it right in 2016, putting her own personal agenda aside and focusing on trying to defeat Trump, and she’s right now that Trump deserves to be removed from office. But she’s wrong about what the Democrats’ current priority should be. Senator Harris hedged the impeachment question because she understands that if it’s a partisan fight, the Democrats will lose.

By now every American should understand the process, but I’ll review it anyway. The removal of a president by impeachment is initiated by a majority vote in the House, but the House vote is only step one, the political equivalent of an indictment. Step two is a trial by the Senate, where a conviction requires sixty-seven Senators to agree. Since  Republicans hold fifty-three Senate seats, that can only happen if Trump is shown to have committed acts so heinous, his own party has no choice but to convict him.

That’s what happened in 1974, when a delegation of Senators led by Barry Goldwater informed President Nixon that if he were impeached he would lose in the Senate. They urged him to resign the presidency to spare the country the ordeal of a trial. Donald Trump can only be removed from office by bipartisan agreement. If the Democrats focus on impeachment without Republican support they will fail. Worse, they will assure his re-election.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands this, and she is the only prominent politician who is not burdened by self-interest. She has already agreed to step down as speaker at the end of the current term, and as Speaker, she has achieved her life’s ambition. Like Senators Corker and Flake in the last Congress, she is now free to follow her conscience.

Pelosi does not support impeachment. Her only goal is to assure that Donald Trump is held accountable for his actions and that he is not re-elected in 2020. To those ends she will aggressively pursue House Committee hearings into Mueller report findings that imply the president may have attempted to obstruct his investigation. The hearings are essential because official Justice Department policy prevented Mueller from directly addressing possible crimes committed by a sitting president. Americans need the truth.

The president has declared that he will fight every subpoena issued to former White House staff, claiming his administration has been the most transparent in American history. Even his supporters know that’s laughable, and we need to hear the people involved in this administration testify under oath. Trump has threatened to invoke Executive Privilege, but lies told to the American people are not threats to national security. Will Trump’s Supreme Court see it that way?

We must be clear that seeking the truth from the people who were directly involved is completely different from beginning impeachment proceedings without having clear evidence of misconduct in hand. By conducting open hearings, Pelosi’s committee chairs will assure that the House executes its constitutionally required oversight obligation. Checks and balances on the Executive by a co-equal branch of government are fundamental to our political system. 

We don’t know what witnesses like former White House Attorney Don McGahn will say under oath. If Trump is shown to have committed high crimes and misdemeanors, ordinary Americans will decide his fate at the ballot box. Impeachment, and the turmoil it will cause is almost moot when there’s a much cleaner way to remove him from office.

Vote him out, and assure that nothing diverts us from that goal.

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What the Mueller Report Tells Us About Trump

Alan Zendell, April 19, 2019

The redacted Mueller Report told us four important things, none of which is a shocking revelation.

First, we learned that a thorough investigation by highly competent interviewers and researchers found that Russia, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, definitely attempted to hack our 2016 election. The intent of the hacking was to help Donald Trump win the election and to sow discord and confusion among Americans. As I said, not exactly a startling revelation.

Second, those same competent investigators found no evidence that Trump, his family, or his campaign staff acted directly to assist the Russians in their attempt to influence the election. They may have behaved stupidly and incompetently, but there was no direct collusion with Russia. Again, not a startling result. No matter what people may have hoped the report would say, even Trump’s most ardent detractors didn’t really believe he had secretly plotted with Putin.

To the extent that suspicion was raised it was largely as a result of Trump’s own public statements and tweets. Remember when he begged Russia to release more of Hillary Clinton’s emails and praised Wikileaks and Julian Assange? Corollary conclusion: if you run your mouth irresponsibly, don’t complain when people question your motivation.

Third, despite all the claims of Fake News and attempts by Democrats to undermine the president, Mueller confirmed that most of the things reported by The New York Times and the Washington Post were correct. The Trump White House was filled with people who were so upset by the actions of the President and his senior staff, that there was a steady stream of accurate leaks.

Fourth, while there were numerous events that suggested the president wanted to kill the Mueller investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for obstruction of justice under the definition in federal statute. Again, it was mostly the president’s own public ranting that created the appearance of obstruction, beginning with the NBC News interview in which Trump said he fired FBI Director James Comey to make the Russian thing go away.

To the average non-lawyer, that sounds pretty clear, even if it doesn’t rise to the bar of a federal crime. Attorney General William Barr nearly broke his back bending over to explain that while Trump may have wanted to obstruct justice he never actually did, therefore there was no crime. Barr also argued that since there was no collusion with Russia, there was no underlying crime; thus, Trump’s attempts to obstruct the investigation were not motivated by a desire to cover up criminal activity.

Most Americans can be forgiven for finding that confusing if not unbelievable. Maybe we’ve been watching too many legal dramas, but most of us believe that conspiracy to commit a crime is a crime in itself even if the conspiracy doesn’t result in a criminal act. If someone plots to murder you but you aren’t killed, the perpetrator is still guilty of either an attempt or a conspiracy to commit the crime. The fact that the underlying intended act (murder) never occurred doesn’t absolve the perpetrator.

Perhaps the most surprising statement made by AG Barr was that since Trump’s attempts to kill the investigation were motivated by his anger and frustration over fears that his presidency would be undermined, that excused all of his actions. Barr’s defense effectively said it’s all right for the president to throw public tantrums whenever he’s upset. 

The unstated conclusion of the Mueller Report is that Donald Trump did everything possible to kill the investigation. His clear intent was to obstruct justice. The report cited ten different instances in which Trump acted to either create a groundswell of public opposition to Mueller’s investigation or in which he threatened to stop it himself by ordering that Mueller be fired, but was deterred by his own legal staff. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a level-headed attorney with no obvious political agenda, said, “If that’s not obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is.”

It’s clear that Trump’s presidency was probably saved by then White House Counsel Don McGahn who refused to follow Trump’s direct order to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mueller and then to lie about it. That was part of a pattern of lies and obfuscation that continued for two full years.

Despite exonerating the president of collusion with Russia, the Mueller Report couldn’t be more damning. It paints a picture of a president who continually lies, shoots irresponsibly from the hip, and displays both a lack of knowledge of, and total contempt for law. The most important thing the report does is confirm that Donald Trump is absolutely unfit to be president.

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Our National Embarrassment

The fact that it happens every day doesn’t lessen the pain. The fact that we know everything there is to know about our president’s narcissism, arrogance, and inability to feel compassion, makes it no less shocking every time he reminds us of those things. I’m focusing today on a single incident, a single tweet, because it speaks for itself so eloquently.

Like a lot of other people, I spent Monday afternoon surrounded by coworkers who were literally in tears watching the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burn. They all had their reasons – some were distraught over the likely destruction of irreplaceable religious icons, and the tears came from Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. Some felt wounded by the historical significance of losing what to many is the heart of Paris. And some simply felt the pain of the thousands of Parisians who gathered along the banks of the Seine to watch in horror and sorrow.

They spoke of the irony that the cathedral had survived wars from the French Revolution to World War II. The French were so concerned about the survival of their iconic city that they surrendered to the Nazis almost without a fight to protect it. Yet, something as minor as a vagrant spark or a deliberate act of terror or vandalism in a cluttered attic (no one knows which) brought the edifice to the brink of annihilation.

And what did our ongoing national embarrassment, aka Donald Trump do? He tweeted. By now you’ve undoubtedly read or heard his tweet, but it’s too perfect not to repeat here:

So horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out. Must act quickly!

In three sentences, the president expressed who he is perfectly for everyone to see. Yes, it was horrible to watch the fire burn. It’s also horrible to watch people die in tsunamis, to see planes carrying hundreds of passengers crash in flames into office buildings, and to read about tens of thousands of people dying from opiods. Anyone can say it’s horrible to watch, but how empty and devoid of feeling is that statement? How badly does it miss the point of the real tragedy?

And then, one sentence later here was our president, suddenly an expert on firefighting, who believes that merely saying something anoints his words with truth, no matter how inappropriate and inane they are. Flying water tankers? Seriously. Thank God he remembered to tell the French to act quickly. No doubt the entire Paris fire brigade was confused and running around in circles until Trump energized them.

If you’re wondering why everyone reacted as they did, consider first that like the child he is, Trump was mesmerized by the fire. Not a word about the cathedral being a national treasure or the fact that millions of people, French and otherwise, were experiencing a personal tragedy. And then there was the sheer ignorance of his advice.

In case you don’t know, here are some facts. A gallon of water weighs eight and a third pounds. Flying water tankers can drop between 800 gallons (helicopters) and 19,000 gallons (supertankers). Let’s say the French used an average sized tanker like the Martin Mars, which can carry 7,200 gallons of water. That’s almost 60,000 pounds, or thirty tons of water that would have landed on the human chain trying to save priceless relics from inside the cathedral. And as the response of the French firefighters pointed out, bombing the cathedral with tons of water would have destroyed the building.

Okay, you say. Trump acted like a jerk, but after all it was only a fire in a famous church. At least national security or the fate of health care for all Americans wasn’t at stake. At least he wasn’t playing nuclear chicken with a crazed dictator.

That’s true, but compare Trump’s Notre Dame tweet with most of his others and you see a frightening pattern. They’re all the visceral response of a cranky, mentally ill old man. No forethought goes into them, and they’re posted with no regard for the pain and suffering they cause, much less the risk they often involve for millions of innocents.

Within one day of the fire, three French billionaires pledged $675 million to rebuild the cathedral. Disney pledged $5 million and Apple pledged financial support as well. Yet Donald Trump, who continually touts and exaggerates his own wealth and generosity simply gets angry when people laugh at his firefighting advice.

If you require any more reasons why Trump is unfit to lead this country you need look no further than his reaction to the Notre Dame fire.

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Primary Risks

Alan Zendell, April 14, 2019

The 2020 primary season started far too early. We’ve never experienced a presidential campaign that lasted two full years, and it’s impossible to predict how it will go, but we can make some intelligent guesses.

The biggest risk to Democrats may be ennui. Given the average American’s short attention span for anything requiring thought, voter indifference may be the hardest thing for Democrats to overcome. Two years is a long time – this political season is certain to be exhausting. That won’t matter to Trump’s rabid supporters and his avid detractors, but what about other voters? Twenty different voices competing for attention combined with the Trump team’s skill at sowing misinformation and confusion will turn off a lot of people. The Democrats can’t let that happen.

The 2016 debacle began when the DNC squelched serious competition against Hillary Clinton by rigging the Super Delegate count. This time, DNC Chair Tom Perez is doing an admirable job of appearing even-handed and keeping the playing field level. There’s been no overt attempt to silence Progressives or loose cannons. The primary season for Democrats will be a wide open free-for-all, but that has its own risks.

Democrats need to avoid three critical mistakes: becoming infatuated with a likable candidate who has no chance to beat Trump; competing in the primaries without destroying themselves or each other; and perhaps most important, preventing Trump from undermining candidates with lies and social media bots spreading misinformation.

John Kennedy used charisma to defeat Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton won two terms each with it, and Barack Obama used it to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. But charisma is fickle. Beto O’Rourke was riding the wave he generated by nearly defeating Ted Cruz, and everyone was asking if it could carry him through the primary season. Then, along came Pete Buttigieg, the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana who obviously had no chance at all … until he knocked Beto off the wave and took his place surfing through the early polls, behind only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Now voters are infatuated with Mayor Pete. Be careful what you wish for.

Calling themselves socialists or attacking America’s support for Israel are clear nonstarters for Democrats. President Obama’s well-intentioned public statements about the need for a more even-handed approach to the Middle East created a firestorm of opposition. Trump’s love affair with Benjamin Netanyahu capitalized on it.

Outspoken comments like those made by Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar represent a different danger. Ms. Omar has the right to speak her mind, whether or not she is anti-Semitic. But there’s an irrational fear of Muslims in America, and Omar’s unfiltered anger allows Trump to stoke it. Outrageous as Trump’s 9/11 tweet suggesting Omar is sympathetic to our enemies is, the uproar hurts Democrats and preys on ignorance. I’ve said it several times and I will continue to − Democrats must turn down the volume on anything that hurts their chances of defeating Trump. A second Trump term is the worst possible outcome for America.

Ever since Democratic candidates began throwing their hats in, the leader in the polls has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Former Vice President Joe Biden is the (non)candidate Trump fears most. We know this from the sudden flood of comments and accusations that attempted to paint him as the Harvey Weinstein of politics. To America’s credit, most people rejected it. We know who Joe Biden is. We know he knows more about running the government than all the other people running for president, and we know his heart is in the right place. 

Biden has made mistakes in the past, and I am not referring to what the media call gaffes. Trump proved that a politician can speak his mind and disparage political correctness with impunity. So let’s stop attacking Uncle Joe for being human.

The Kavanaugh hearings brought back bad memories of Biden’s treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. That was almost thirty years ago, and if we’ve learned anything about American voters it’s that they’re extremely forgiving when they see evidence of sincere redemption. I wish Biden would quit dancing around the issue and put it to rest. He’s more than capable of expressing contrition and publicly reconciling with Ms. Hill.

If Joe is willing to join the fray, there’s no one more able to take on Trump effectively. No other candidate has the street cred to talk to blue collar voters who voted for Trump and have been misled by him ever since.

Keep your eyes on the ball. Avoiding missteps is the only way to defeat Trump.

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The Health Crisis: Five Decades Later

Patrick Bailey, April 9, 2019

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He stays on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and writes about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

***

 Donald Trump rode to the presidency in 2016 in part on the wave of a hard-line solution to the immigration problem on our southern border. A large part of that solution was a southern border wall that he said would greatly reduce the flow of drugs, undocumented workers, and criminals.

Trump also proposed other plans to reduce the demand for and over-prescription of legal but addictive drugs. In his 2018 , Trump expressed his commitment “to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

Two years into his presidency, the border wall has received vehement pushback from many across the country and internationally. Are other parts of his drug plan working as expected? Not really.

In December 2016, just before Trump took office, the number of national drug overdose deaths was almost 64,000. In 2017, the number surpassed 70,000 . This number is greater than the fatalities from road accidents, gun-related violence, terrorism, or HIV/AIDS yearly. Even worse, only about 10% of all Americans with a drug problem receive specialized substance abuse treatment.

Looking Back

The US has a relatively long history of poor response to health crises—only acting after millions have suffered and thousands of lives have been lost.

The cost of health care has been and continues to be a crisis in the medical care system in America. President Nixon, on July 10, 1969, declared a health care crisis that marked the first attempt to execute sweeping reforms across the medical care system, which would go beyond mere insurance coverage expansion. In 1974, he presented a more detailed plan.

However, the crisis continued unabated. In 2009, the national expenditure on health was 17.3% of GDP compared to 6.9% in 1970. In 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported an additional 17.9% growth in health expenditures. Fifty years after Nixon’s first initiative, the Trump administration acknowledges that the crisis continues.

Another example was America’s slow response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. It wasn’t until 1990 that the government responded by passing the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. In 1991, the federal government appropriated a $220.6 million to fight HIV/AIDS. It took twenty years to increase that amount to a robust $2.29 billion.

Slow Response

Response to the opioid crisis is following the same path as previous health crises. Rather than spending more time and resources on the actual drug problem—as declaring the Opioid Crisis a National Emergency, rather than the weaker Public Health Emergency, would have allowed—and saving many lives, the Trump administration chose to try to stop the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico by building a porous southern border wall that smugglers can go around, over, or under.

Much of America’s problems dealing with crises have been due to flagrant inaction. People with the power to effect change from above simply will not do it or are influenced by popular opinion. Perhaps because America is so large and diverse, its people express more concern for and only get personally involved in issues that affect them directly.

Participation in political and public policy debates often is limited to the portion of the populace who are affected directly by specific issues. Voter apathy, may explain why there are so few confrontations between the public and the government about the opioid crisis: it doesn’t directly affect enough people.

An economic crisis that directly affects many more people, always results in faster mobilization. (The cost of health care affects more people than the opioid crisis, too, but the costs are disguised because of employer-provided health insurance.) The opioid crisis simply generates less political action than economic issues.

Is the US Doing Enough?

Is Trump’s administration doing enough to solve the opioid crisis in this country? Despite a blue-ribbon President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, many, including New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker don’t think so.

In February 2019, Booker tweeted, “The failed war on drugs has really been a war on people—disproportionately criminalizing poor people, people of color, and people with mental illness.”

Many voices have expressed similar concerns over how effective the Trump administration’s plans are at confronting the opioid threat  . Some experts believe Trump’s drug plan is a lot of talk with little action.

Any permanent solution to the drug problem in America must encompass:

  • An amalgam of more treatment options, including replacement drugs and holistic practices.
  • Harm reduction policies such as needle replacement and safe injection sites.
  • Prescribing dangerously addictive drugs only when needed, in the right dosage, and for a limited time.
  • Increased access to treatment programs and substance abuse rehabilitation centers.
  • Policies that address the causes of the problem rather than just react to it.
  • Mental health diagnosis programs to detect co-existing mental illness (dual diagnosis).

Some of these strategies have been advocated by the president’s opioid commission, but they have received little executive branch attention.

Perhaps most revealing, is that spending on other health concerns such as HIV/AIDS now far outstrips the budget allocated for the opioid crisis.

In 2018, Congress added $3.3 billion to programs aimed at addressing the addiction crisis through the FY2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The total spending on those programs, was $7.4 billion. In comparison, in the same fiscal year, HIV/AIDS programs received $32 billion.

The opioid crisis is greatly underfunded although it is currently acknowledged as among the deadliest crises in the US.. Does this mean that more funding is the solution to this crisis? Certainly not, but it would help.

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