President Trump has brought Republicans and Democrats together — in opposition to what is surely among the most misguided budget decisions of his presidency. CBS News reports:
“The Trump administration is looking to slash the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) budget by nearly 95 percent, according to a memo obtained by CBS News.
“The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has proposed major ONDCP budget cuts for fiscal year 2018 that would cut 33 employees, nearly half the office staff, along with intelligence, research and budget functions at the agency, as well as the Model State Drug Laws and Drug Court grant programs.
“The cuts were outlined in OMB’s ’passback’ document, a part of the budget process where the Office instructs federal agencies to draw up preliminary budgets that are subject to Congressional approval. It was uploaded to MAX Collect, the OMB’s budget database.”
Trump’s crocodile tears about opioid abuse and professed concern for rural Americans who are in the throes of the drug epidemic mean nothing if he is unwilling to put resources into the ONDCP.
Democrats were furious. The Democratic National Committee put out a statement:
“This is a cruel betrayal by Trump. Throughout the campaign, Trump promised communities ravaged by opioid addiction that he would come to their aid. That was a lie. Not only does Trump’s health bill jeopardize services for people in need of opioid treatment and once again allow companies to deny care by labeling addiction as a pre-existing condition, today he announced that he wants to cut nearly 95% of the funds for the main office in charge of fighting the opioid epidemic.”
Coming the day after passage of the GOP health-care plan that provides huge tax relief for the very rich, the decision to virtually obliterate the ONDCP highlights the administration’s misplaced priorities.
Republicans were unhappy as well. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who co-authored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, released a statement:
“I’ve known and worked with our drug czars for more than 20 years and this agency is critical to our efforts to combat drug abuse in general, and this opioid epidemic, in particular. This office supports the Drug Free Communities Act, legislation I authored in 1997 which has provided more than $1 billion to community drug coalitions around the country over the last 20 years as well as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, which has helped states like Ohio that are ground zero for this problem. We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic.”
It seems just weeks ago that Trump was meeting with addicts, pledging to take on the scourge of heroin and opioid abuse. On March 29, he held a “listening session” with former addicts and anti-drug activists and officials. He insisted that “we want to help those who have become so badly addicted. Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States. . . . This is a total epidemic, and I think it’s probably almost untalked about compared to the severity that we’re witnessing.” He continued, “Today, we’re bringing together leaders from inside our government and outside of our government, and courageous people who have been affected — and really affected — by this terrible affliction. In a joint campaign, we want to battle drug addiction and combat opioid, and we have to do it — a crisis.” So much for that.
This issue reflects a more fundamental problem. While the president is insistent on a huge tax cut for the rich, increases in defense spending and no reform of our entitlement programs, worthwhile functions such as this are going to be slashed or eliminated. If permitted, it will amount to a huge transfer of wealth and abandonment of much of the safety net. The populist hero is turning out to be the enemy of the most vulnerable members of our society.
The administration insists the budget process is by no means complete. Nevertheless, the administration’s thoughtlessness and lack of concern for the health and well-being of the American people remain some of its rotten, defining features.