Here's another issue I was thinking about recently after hearing a story on NPR about the proposed border wall: the War on Drugs. Trump has claimed repeatedly that the reason for the drug epidemic is that illegal drugs are pouring into the country across the southern border, and he has sold people on the delusion that his (over-compensatory) wall will somehow stop that. Here's why he's full of shit.
For starters, this isn't where the drugs are coming from. It's extremely rare to see someone load a bunch of drugs into their pack and make a run for the border, because drug smugglers are nowhere near that stupid. Drugs are typically hidden amongst people's other belongings or on their person, and the wall isn't going to stop them anyway because most people cross the border by plane. Even if one were to somehow cut off the supply of illegal drugs from Mexico, there is still an ample supply of them here in the US, and nothing stopping the drug makers from once again operating on this side of the border.
This type of solution also treats the problem as one of supply and not of demand. It's entirely focused on drug addiction as a legal issue, not a medical issue. The War on Drugs and its policies do nothing to address the social and psychological causes of drug addiction. I hate to say it, but people get addicted to drugs because they fucking work; the drug abuse is their way of self-medicating to treat personal problems that aren't being treated any other way. It's the same reason people become alcoholics or heavy smokers, or develop eating disorders like obesity. Our healthcare system sucks, so people turn to any source of short term relief they can find, even if it ends up killing them in the long term. So even if the supply is cut off, the demand will still be there, and desperate people will find other ways to get their fix.
We already know from history that prohibition doesn't work. It never has and it never will. When marijuana was legalized in certain states in recent years, it managed to accomplish something that the War on Drugs never could. It actually struck a significant blow to the profits of the drug cartels. One thing that stupid politicians don't realize is that the US government could be generating revenue by taxing legalized drugs, instead of wasting money fighting the war. You'd think deficit hawks would be all over this, but nope.
There are budget considerations. The War on Drugs costs US taxpayers on average $88 billion a year (yes that's a libertarian source) if you add up both the federal and state expenditures. Not only that, but the fact that the US is fighting the War on Drugs also serves to bolster the cartels themselves. However, each consecutive presidential administration has had no problem pouring money into the war, and it likely has a profit motive. Who benefits? Well, there's the private prison system, the DEA itself, and as you probably expected, Big Pharma.
As many sources have already pointed out, the main culprit behind deaths from drug overdose is prescription painkillers, which are obviously made right here in the US. People don't always gain access to them through legitimate means, but doctors do overprescribe them, and they're easy enough to get from a friend or family member who does have a prescription. Who is profiting from this? That's right, Big Pharma. The very same pharmaceutical companies that neither the Republicans nor the corporate Democrats are willing to take on because they've been bought off. Whether Big Pharma is directly providing the drugs, or their materials are being used to make illegal drugs, they are the leading supplier on this side of the border.
On a personal note, I've been prescribed opioid painkillers on a couple of occasions, for post-op. The most recent time was 3 years ago, and they caused such an allergic reaction than I had to immediately stop taking them. So I was able to resist getting addicted, even though I consider myself at very high risk for being addicted to painkillers because my disability involves chronic pain. I got lucky. Other people did not.
Therefore the solution to the drug addiction epidemic needs to involve the following measures, which the current dumbass administration would never do:
* End the War on Drugs. Decriminalize and tax the drugs instead. It would save a ton of revenue and weaken the cartels, and it would keep people out of prison, which by the way, also costs taxpayer dollars.
* Tear Down This Wall. The US needs the cooperation of the Mexican government if it's serious about stopping the smuggling of illegal drugs, and that's not going to happen by making enemies out of them.
* Treat drug addiction as a public health crisis as other countries do, not a legal issue. Throwing people in jail does not get rid of their addictions, and can sometimes make it worse. This of course would mean more funding for drug treatment and mental health programs, which you very rarely hear politicians talk about.
* Take on the Big Pharma companies. Stop cutting them breaks, impose stricter regulations on them, and allow cheaper prescription drugs to be imported to force them into competition. The crooks who run these companies, gouge prices, and profit off addiction should be the people in jail, but that's never going to happen.