Biden, media apathetic as Americans are needlessly dying from this killer

Biden, media apathetic as Americans are needlessly dying from this killer

By Joe Concha

It is the most underreported story in the United States right now. Opioid overdoses, largely driven by fentanyl, are killing more Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 than anything else in this country, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than COVID-19. More than suicide. More than cancer. More than car accidents. 

But while COVID has been front-page news for the past two years, the exploding opioid crisis driven by fentanyl has received scant attention. How can that be? Here you have a drug that killed more than 100,000 people in 2021 alone, and it’s as if it isn’t happening. 

The trends are disastrous: Per the Drug Enforcement Administration: ”[O]verdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) rose 55.6 percent [last Fiscal Year] and appear to be the primary driver of the increase in total drug overdose deaths.”

To that end, we’re looking at more than 150,000 American overdose deaths in 2022 — enough to fill Madison Square Garden more than seven times over. 

The Biden administration and lawmakers don’t seem to be addressing the issue in any meaningful way. In 2022, there’s been too much talk about building back better and federalizing voting rights. Because why outline a fentanyl and drug overdose strategy when “voting rights” and democracy are in peril and will die unless the filibuster is blown up? 

President Biden has almost never spoken publicly about this crisis, nor has Vice President Harris. Back in November, the president issued a generic statement that barely generated any press coverage.

“We are strengthening prevention, promoting harm reduction, expanding treatment, and supporting people in recovery, as well as reducing the supply of harmful substances in our communities. And we won’t let up,” the statement reads. 

But never judge any president or Congress on words. Look at deeds and actions instead. And in this case, Congress earmarked nearly $4 billion to address mental health and substance use disorder programs. Looks good on paper, right? Until you consider that trillions upon trillions have been spent in addressing all things COVID. 

In a world where the U.S. spent nearly $7 trillion in 2021, $4 billion ain’t much. 

And for the president to say the administration is “reducing the supply of harmful substances in our communities,” his speechwriters fail to mention how record amounts of fentanyl entered the country in 2021 through the seemingly wide-open U.S. Southern border that also saw more than 2.2 million migrants enter the country illegally. How many is 2.2 million? It’s three times the population of Boston.

So how bad is this crisis? 

Per U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), there was a 1,066 percent increase in fentanyl seized compared to last year. Not 10 percent or 100 percent but more than 1,000 percent. 

And that’s what was seized. Given that “fewer than five percent of vehicles are typically screened by CBP with the powerful high-energy scanners that can peer deep inside cargo loads to detect anomalies — odd patterns or suspicious densities that could be illegal drugs,” according to the Washington Post, there is probably more than enough fentanyl in the U.S. today to kill every citizen of this country. 

So, will the president visit the Southern border? He told CNN in a town hall last fall that he’s “been there before” and guesses “he should go down” before blaming a busy schedule for not doing so. 

“I’ve been there before and I haven’t — I mean, I know it well. I guess I should go down. But the whole point of it is I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down,” he told Anderson Cooper. 

Well, for starters, Biden has never been to the border before despite being a lawmaker for 50 years. He drove by it briefly once in 2008 on his way from a Texas airport to a campaign rally located one hour from said border in New Mexico. As for visiting as president, that’s unlikely to happen because there’s no political upside for doing so. 

Speaking of polling, Biden-Harris are at 33 percent approval on immigration, according to the RealClearPolitics average of major polls. When isolating their handling of the border, that approval drops well into the 20s. 

If Biden wants his dismal poll numbers to improve, it is imperative that he devote a solid chunk of time to the drug crisis during his State of the Union address on March 1. Unfortunately, given this administration’s failure on this issue and the border, don’t count on hearing much about it, let alone anything resembling solutions. 

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Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.

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