In common with law enforcement officers around the country, the East Liverpool, Ohio Police Department evidently felt that something had to be done to bring home to the American people the enormity of the heroin epidemic sweeping the nation. So when they came across a particularly dramatic scene on Sept. 7 of two adults passed out in the front seat of their vehicle with a 4-year-old boy strapped into his car seat in the back, they threw the crime scene pictures on their Facebook page with this comment: “We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.” The East Liverpool PD made their point. The Facebook pictures made all the national TV newscasts and the pages of many newspapers.
As dramatic as the pictures were, we might assume that this was a rare occurrence.
Wrong assumption. Less than a week later Goldsboro, N.C., police came across a young couple passed out in their car with a 3-year-old in the back seat. They found multiple heroin packages in the car. And then, on Sept. 20, police in Hollywood, Fla. discovered a young couple shooting up outside a convenience store, again with a toddler in the backseat. In this case the woman was four months pregnant with twins. Assuming she carries the twins to term, their chances of being permanently affected by the drug are very high.
As of this writing, all six of the adults survived — this time. Not everyone is so lucky. The official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate for heroin deaths in 2014 was 10,574. The CDC is always a year behind and the 2015 number is expected to come out in December. We don’t know what the number for 2015 will be but it will be a good bit larger than 2014, and 2016 will be larger still. In a very important paper from last July, (“Fentanyl, the New Drug Epidemic”) David Murray of the Hudson Institute argues that 5,544 fentanyl deaths should be added to the heroin number, yielding an estimate of 16,118 deaths from illicit narcotics in 2014. The 16,118 number is very significant because the highest number of American servicemen killed in the Vietnam War was 16,899 in 1968.
Here are three reality checks: First and foremost, we are killing our young people with heroin and other drugs at the same rate as our servicemen were being killed at the height of the Vietnam War.
Second, all of this dope is pouring over the border. It’s not produced here. The East Liverpool police called it “poison.” So it is, and it ought to be labeled “Poison: Made in China” or “Poison: Made in Mexico.”
Third, securing the border is the single most important thing we can do to save American lives from the heroin epidemic.
Unfortunately, in the same way that political correctness handicapped the fight against radical Islam, political correctness is blocking our ability to come to grips with the heroin epidemic. If you cannot identify the problem, you can’t solve it. In a variation on the famous quote by James Carville, “It’s the border, stupid!”
For example, one American TV network did a series of segments on the heroin epidemic without ever mentioning the border or Mexico. Another network did an hour-long special and mentioned the word “Mexico” in half of one sentence in Minute 57. It was very amusing to watch the reaction of a network reporter as soon as a Chicago police official began to explain that the rash of homicides was driven by gang warfare over drug territory. She shut him off immediately and went on to discuss how all the murders track back to “gun violence.”
For President Obama and Hillary Clinton, neither the border nor Mexico exist. Their only solution to the heroin problem is a $10 billion down payment on an entitlement program for taxpayer-funded rehabilitation. That would be like treating polio patients after they get sick instead of inoculating them with Dr. Salk’s vaccine beforehand. Securing the border is true preventative medicine for the heroin epidemic.
Unlike Mrs. Clinton, Donald Trump gets out into the American countryside that liberals call “flyover country.” Clearly, he is listening to what the American people tell him because he is pledging to block the heroin as well as the illegals coming over the border. He has specifically said that the heroin epidemic is a serious problem in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, which it is, as well as in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.
A President Donald Trump may save your child’s life from heroin; a President Hillary Clinton will not.
• William C. Triplett II is a former chief Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.