Thursday  1/5 -  Lenny Bernstein - Washington Post - A DEA crackdown of opiates derailed by politics

Thursday 1/5
Lenny Bernstein
Washington Post
A DEA crackdown of opiates derailed by politics

A scandal so reprehensible you’ll be amazed you never knew about it. The Washington Post’s investigative reporter Lenny Bernstein reveals how, at the very peak of America’s epidemic of opiate addiction, the Obama Administration and Republicans in Congress combined to gut the DEA’s strategy to contain it. The choice was simple: to exempt the 3 oligarchs of the American drug distribution industry from effective prosecution even if it meant millions of doses of addictive Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet tossed onto an illicit market.

If curing a disease depends upon first recognizing, then treating its symptoms, then maybe the elections of 2016 will turn out to be a great step forward.

If the selection of Donald Trump to be our President is itself an emphatic declaration of national mental and moral illness, it may at least force the country to face the many symptoms of national failure that spurred the choice of Trump on many desperate and disappointed Americans.

4 decades of purposeful sacrifice of national interests to boost the already bloated private interests of America’s richest people have produced a Federally-subsidized flight of private investment and a Congressionally-enforced grounding of public financing.

Meanwhile, all the shared institutions that made America great, world-class public education, economically and socially attractive affordable transportation, ambitious schemes of outreach for public health have collapsed into mediocrity or worse.

What we call law enforcement has branded itself through a series of race-based police killings of innocent civilians, while laws aimed at protecting citizens from corporate crime go largely unenforced.

And it took, not a village, but a conspiracy of willful ignorance among the leaders of American politics and American journalism to allow the awful human consequences of 4 decades of mis-governance to go not only uncorrected but unrecognized.

Donald Trump’s election took most American by surprise, because the frightening effects of America’s political failures that drove the Trump vote outside of the elite and media centers of NYC, DC and LA also caught lots of people along the country’s still prosperous coastlines by surprise.

This is why the reality of massive opioid painkiller and heroin addiction that was destroying so much of American between the Appalachians and the Rockies for a decade escaped effective political notice for so long. Before (the one-time HERE AND THERE guest) Sam Quinones’ blockbuster book Dreamland, our national news media and our local, state and federal politicians had gotten away with turning their backs on the problem and the people it was hurting.

A major contribution to remedying the dire conditions in working and lower-middle-class mid-America has been made in recent months by a series of investigative reports by the Washington Post, which started from the shocking statistics showing that lower-income, lower-educated Americans, especially American women, living in the middle of America have been dying at an alarming rate. The series has gone well beyond the statistics, though, in showing in detail, the causes and effects that are played out in the numbers.

Our guest today, investigative reporter Lenny Bernstein, has made a major contribution (with Scott Higham) examined the toll of opiate addiction and found among its major causes, a deliberate Congressional and White House abandonment (that of course means a Republican and a Democratic Party betrayal) of Americans hooked on painkiller or smack.



Lenny Bernstein covers health and medicine. He started as an editor on the Post’s National Desk in 2000 and has worked in Metro and Sports. Follow @LennyMBernstein




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