Two Cruel, Stupid GOP Ideas About Drug Addiction

Republican politicians are not generally known for letting pesky facts get in the way of their ideologically-driven policy pronouncements, whether it's this week's Syria refugee panic or their refusal to acknowledge the existence of global climate change, among some quick examples.


Long experience has taught that we should expect no less when it comes to Republican pronouncement on drug policy, and this month, we have two rather stark and stunning examples of trying to twist the meaning of a social problem in order to make a political point.

The question of the roots of drug addiction is complex and convoluted, and there aren't really any easy answers—unless you're a Republican politician. Then, complex problems do have solutions that are simple, if not downright simple-minded.

Ben Carson's Political Correctness Theory of Drug Addiction.

In a recent interview, CBS News Face the Nation host John Dickerson cited a WMUR poll in which 25% of New Hampshire residents said they thought drug addiction was one of the state's most serious problems to ask the neurosurgeon and GOP presidential contender about addiction/

"As a doctor, what's your sense of the human side of addiction? Where does it come from? How should it best be treated?" Dickerson asked.

One might have reasonably expected from the good doctor an explanation of the disease model of addiction or a quick seminar on psychopharmacology. One would have been mistaken. Instead, he seems to blame political correctness.

"Well, you know," Carson replied, "there are all kinds of addictions and addictions occur in people who are vulnerable who are lacking something in their lives, so we really have to start asking ourselves what have we taken outside of our lives in America. What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached, and why are we throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?"

Carson went on say that he found heroin addiction "very alarming," especially after he took a trip to the border and discovered what every serious observer of the phenomenon has known for decades: that lots of drug flow over the border despite all our best efforts.

"That is not a good thing for us," Carson observed. "We need to not give up on this war on drugs and certainly not to facilitate it. We can do this, but we need to have the national will to do it."

Maybe the M.D. should take a refresher course on the Hippocratic Oath. Questioned about the roots of addiction, he takes us on a trip through la-la land before advocating for more of the same failed drug war policies that do nothing to address addiction, but do plenty to punish the addicted, while trying to score cheap political points.

Sen. Tom Cotton's Social Security Disability Benefits Theory of Drug Addiction

And then there's Tom Cotton. The freshman Republican senator from Arkansas recently took time off from his incessant calls for more war in the Middle East to call for more war against poor and disabled people—in the name of fighting drugs and addiction.

Speaking to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Cotton claimed that communities where a high percentage of residents are receiving Social Security disability payments are tipping over into population decline, while those with lower levels are enjoying population growth.

 "It’s hard to say what came first or caused the other, population decline or increased disability usage," Cotton said. "Or maybe economic stagnation caused both. Regardless, there seems to be at least at the county and regional level something like a disability tipping point. When a county hits a certain level of disability usage, disability becomes a norm," he continued. "It becomes an acceptable way of life and alternative source of income to a good paying full-time job as opposed to a last resort safety net program to deal with catastrophic injury and illness."

And what does providing Social Security disability benefits lead to? Heroin. That's what. And meth.

"At a certain point when disability keeps climbing and become endemic, employers will struggle to find employees or begin or continue to move out of the area," he said. "The population continues to fall and a downward spiral kicks in, driving once thriving communities into further decline. Not only that, but once this spiral begins, communities could begin to suffer other social plagues as well, such as heroin or meth addiction and associated crime."

Cotton has a solution: Put those people on non-permanent disability to work. He said he was working on legislation that would set timelines for those people to find jobs. If they aren't ready to return to work, they would have to reapply for their disability benefits.

And that will cure heroin and meth addiction, Cotton claims.

"These reforms won’t solve all the problems of Social Security disability but they will address one of the most urgent crises in the program," he concluded. "And the one, perhaps, most corrosive to effected communities."

For some politicians, demagoguing on drugs never gets old. Watch Carson's Face the Nation clip and Cotton's Heritage Foundation clips below:

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