Category: Eliot Bakker

at-painter-og-image.png

America Declares a New Drug War


With their taskforce dedicated to tackling the American opioid epidemic, President Trump and Chris Christie are finally tackling a problem that lawmakers have been ignoring for years. Even with the president’s knack for hyperbole, he in no way exaggerated when he said at a White House roundtable that “this is a total epidemic and I think it’s probably, almost un-talked about compared to the severity that we’re witnessing.” Far from the halls of power in Washington, everyday Americans have been decimated by the two-headed opioid menace: prescription painkillers on the one hand and heroin on the other.

In Rust Belt towns like Huntington, West Virginia, one of four people in a community of 49,000 are dealing with an opioid habit and one out of ten babies born at the local hospital comes into the world addicted, whether to heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or some variation of drug cocktail. In West Virginia’s hardest-hit countries, there were well over 100 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people in 2015. Since then, the numbers have gone off the charts nationwide: over 50,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2016 alone, nearly 13,000 of them from heroin and over 17,500 from legal painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin. For the first time in over two decades, life expectancy in America dropped.

Coastal elites talk about places like Huntington with a mix of pity and scorn. The ravages of the heroin crisis arouse their sympathy, but the victims of the epidemic earned their righteous indignation the moment those long-ignored voters decided they would back the one candidate, Donald Trump, who spoke to the burden their communities were being forced to bear. For people in Washington, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, heroin and meth are in large part rural problems that happen safely away from their trendy neighborhoods and rich suburbs. Out of sight, out of mind, at least until those people start voting in a way they don’t like.

The irony is that, at the same time liberals look down their noses at the damage drugs have done to Trump Country, their kids are developing habits of their own. Of course, the drug of choice is a much trendier one: cocaine. According to data from the federal government, 1 in 20 people aged 18-25 in the U.S. (an alarming 1.7 million young people) has done cocaine in the past year, and the overdose numbers have been climbing fast. Cocaine was directly responsible for killing 6,800 people in 2015, the second-highest rate recorded this century. If opioids are a regional crisis, cocaine is as well: usage rates are spiking in the Northeast and the Western states, affecting as many as 1 in 10 young adults in places like New Hampshire and Vermont.

Where are all these drugs coming from? As much as the Left is loath to admit it, the president once again has a point. Cross-border trafficking networks are stronger than ever, and the heroin corridor that runs between Mexico and the American Midwest has become a major cash cow for cartels who use drug mules to funnel their Mexican-made heroin across the border. It isn’t even just the cartels: a few days ago, a state attorney general from Mexico was indicted on charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines into the U.S. for the past four years.

If heroin trafficking is enjoying banner years, the cocaine trade is also very much on the uptick. Between October 2015 and September 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard stopped 208 tons of cocaine from entering the U.S. — a new record. Record busts aren’t good news, though. For every pound of cocaine stopped by the Coast Guard, how many more make their way in?

It doesn’t help that production hubs have softened their drug strategies. Colombia especially has been in the middle of a coca-growing boom since President Juan Manuel Santos decided to stop a fumigation program using the pesticide glyphosate in 2015. Against the advice of their American partners, the Colombians decided to abandon glyphosate spraying after one cancer research agency in France, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) claimed there was a link between glyphosate and cancer risk. Never mind that every other international body, including the EPA, the World Health Organization (WHO), and multiple European regulatory groups have all rejected the alleged glyphosate-cancer link.

The cancer link may be disputed, but the results of Santos’ decision to stop spraying were easy to predict. Coca production in Colombia has exploded since 2015, and the hectares of land planted with coca have grown from 78,000 to 188,000 in just five years. The government in Bogotá is trying to pay farmers to switch to other crops, but the farmers have been burned by too many failed incentives to get rid of their cash-cow crops that easily. Meanwhile, all that extra cocaine coming out of Colombia keeps making its way to Miami and points north.

President Trump’s tough messages on drugs and crime earned him a lot of grief during the campaign, but there is no denying that America is in the midst of a serious drug crisis and candidate Trump was the only person in 2016’s political conversation who really spoke to it. The administration’s focus on the addiction epidemic is the right one, but it needs to be combined with a hard-nosed program to cut the Mexican drug cartels down to size and reverse the boom in heroin and cocaine production in Latin America. Otherwise, the new War on Drugs won’t go any better than the ones before.

With their taskforce dedicated to tackling the American opioid epidemic, President Trump and Chris Christie are finally tackling a problem that lawmakers have been ignoring for years. Even with the president’s knack for hyperbole, he in no way exaggerated when he said at a White House roundtable that “this is a total epidemic and I think it’s probably, almost un-talked about compared to the severity that we’re witnessing.” Far from the halls of power in Washington, everyday Americans have been decimated by the two-headed opioid menace: prescription painkillers on the one hand and heroin on the other.

In Rust Belt towns like Huntington, West Virginia, one of four people in a community of 49,000 are dealing with an opioid habit and one out of ten babies born at the local hospital comes into the world addicted, whether to heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or some variation of drug cocktail. In West Virginia’s hardest-hit countries, there were well over 100 drug overdose deaths for every 100,000 people in 2015. Since then, the numbers have gone off the charts nationwide: over 50,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2016 alone, nearly 13,000 of them from heroin and over 17,500 from legal painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin. For the first time in over two decades, life expectancy in America dropped.

Coastal elites talk about places like Huntington with a mix of pity and scorn. The ravages of the heroin crisis arouse their sympathy, but the victims of the epidemic earned their righteous indignation the moment those long-ignored voters decided they would back the one candidate, Donald Trump, who spoke to the burden their communities were being forced to bear. For people in Washington, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, heroin and meth are in large part rural problems that happen safely away from their trendy neighborhoods and rich suburbs. Out of sight, out of mind, at least until those people start voting in a way they don’t like.

The irony is that, at the same time liberals look down their noses at the damage drugs have done to Trump Country, their kids are developing habits of their own. Of course, the drug of choice is a much trendier one: cocaine. According to data from the federal government, 1 in 20 people aged 18-25 in the U.S. (an alarming 1.7 million young people) has done cocaine in the past year, and the overdose numbers have been climbing fast. Cocaine was directly responsible for killing 6,800 people in 2015, the second-highest rate recorded this century. If opioids are a regional crisis, cocaine is as well: usage rates are spiking in the Northeast and the Western states, affecting as many as 1 in 10 young adults in places like New Hampshire and Vermont.

Where are all these drugs coming from? As much as the Left is loath to admit it, the president once again has a point. Cross-border trafficking networks are stronger than ever, and the heroin corridor that runs between Mexico and the American Midwest has become a major cash cow for cartels who use drug mules to funnel their Mexican-made heroin across the border. It isn’t even just the cartels: a few days ago, a state attorney general from Mexico was indicted on charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines into the U.S. for the past four years.

If heroin trafficking is enjoying banner years, the cocaine trade is also very much on the uptick. Between October 2015 and September 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard stopped 208 tons of cocaine from entering the U.S. — a new record. Record busts aren’t good news, though. For every pound of cocaine stopped by the Coast Guard, how many more make their way in?

It doesn’t help that production hubs have softened their drug strategies. Colombia especially has been in the middle of a coca-growing boom since President Juan Manuel Santos decided to stop a fumigation program using the pesticide glyphosate in 2015. Against the advice of their American partners, the Colombians decided to abandon glyphosate spraying after one cancer research agency in France, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) claimed there was a link between glyphosate and cancer risk. Never mind that every other international body, including the EPA, the World Health Organization (WHO), and multiple European regulatory groups have all rejected the alleged glyphosate-cancer link.

The cancer link may be disputed, but the results of Santos’ decision to stop spraying were easy to predict. Coca production in Colombia has exploded since 2015, and the hectares of land planted with coca have grown from 78,000 to 188,000 in just five years. The government in Bogotá is trying to pay farmers to switch to other crops, but the farmers have been burned by too many failed incentives to get rid of their cash-cow crops that easily. Meanwhile, all that extra cocaine coming out of Colombia keeps making its way to Miami and points north.

President Trump’s tough messages on drugs and crime earned him a lot of grief during the campaign, but there is no denying that America is in the midst of a serious drug crisis and candidate Trump was the only person in 2016’s political conversation who really spoke to it. The administration’s focus on the addiction epidemic is the right one, but it needs to be combined with a hard-nosed program to cut the Mexican drug cartels down to size and reverse the boom in heroin and cocaine production in Latin America. Otherwise, the new War on Drugs won’t go any better than the ones before.



Source link