Biden’s Opioid Plan: Punishment Disguised as Treatment

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Brooks Hudson, a PhD student in history at Southern Illinois University.

Last summer, Joe Biden attended a ritzy fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel for New York donors, where he promised the ultrarich “nothing would fundamentally change.” Since then, his decisions have reflected this sentiment, honoring past administrations’ allegiance to revolving-door-politics, handing out cabinet seats to a who’s who of corporate America, and plucking various candidates from private equity, the arms industry and K-Street. Even his continuation of Trump’s herd immunity, open-everything-up strategy for coronavirus indicates he will keep that promise of “nothing will fundamentally change,” apparently content to preside over the country’s long-term decline.

Throughout the election, media outlets largely avoided scrutinizing Biden’s record, especially as it related to drug policy, with reporters acting much closer to campaign surrogates than journalists, often playing defense for the Biden team. The Washington Post, Vox, Politico, and the New York Times all made the preposterous assertion that Biden apologized for his cruel, single-minded focus on prison and punishment during his time in the Senate. But apart from giving a couple half-hearted non-apology apologies that sounded reminiscent of “mistakes were made,” Biden has never fully taken responsibility for the lives he destroyed, or the incalculable harms he inflicted on millions of Americans.

Equally unwarranted was the positive attention that Biden’s opioid proposal received. Outlets falsely claimed Biden views “addiction” as a health issue and no longer wants to pursue punitive approaches to drugs. German Lopez, senior reporter for Vox, even went as far as labeling Biden’s opioid plan as “ambitious.” To be clear, Biden’s agenda doesn’t guarantee treatment, doesn’t end punishment, and doesn’t include the most effective evidence-based methods for reducing overdose deaths. His plan isn’t ambitious; it’s not even good.

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