Clete Wetli is a liberal political activist living in Huntsville and a regular contributor to AL.com. Email Clete at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit cletewetli.com.
In a rare and stunning display of bipartisanship, Congress voted 396-14 to pass a package of bills (SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act) that would expand substance abuse treatment and law enforcement efforts to help stop the opioid epidemic that’s killing 150 Americans a day. As usual, Rep. Mo Brooks put his extremist brand of Tea Party politics over the interests of his constituents and voted against sensible legislation that would save lives in North Alabama.
It seems Brooks was more interested in spending tax payer dollars on an unnecessary ‘Space Force’ rather than doing something about the drug crisis that’s ravaging his district. Or, he’s been trying to figure out a way to explain why he voted for Trump’s tax scam that’s making our debt and deficit explode. I guess he feels like spending taxpayer money on space cadets is more important than helping people get the treatment they need but can’t afford.
Not known for his innovative solutions, Brooks probably thinks War on Drugs tactics will solve the problem. Things like expensive mass incarceration, mandatory minimums, and “just say no”. Well, we all know those approaches didn’t do much to curb the availability of drugs on our streets and simply made the problem worse.
All of this is hardly surprising given Brooks’ bizarre notions about healthcare. To Brooks, healthcare is a privilege that should only be affordable to “people who lead good lives” and folks with pre-existing conditions should just suffer by paying much higher rates. Maybe, he feels that people who were over-prescribed painkillers by doctors getting kickbacks ought to just suffer, as well. Maybe, he thinks that folks with genuine chronic pain issues or terminal illness ought to just suck it up and try to cope without medication if there’s a chance they may become addicted. According to Brooks, they should just work harder at leading “good lives.”
In Brooks’ home county of Madison, someone overdoses every six days. Yet, Brooks doesn’t think it merits a legislative response and he probably bemoans the idea of tax dollars being spent on substance abuse treatment. His base loves the more expensive and less effective option of mass incarceration, because it allows them to stigmatize people dealing with addiction. Although ineffectual, it makes conservative politicians appear tough.
In North Alabama, everyone knows someone who’s been adversely affected by the opioid crisis. Doing something immediately about it should be a top priority for every member of Congress. Instead, Brooks has been trying to figure out how falling rocks raise sea levels and how to justify the need for space soldiers. Yeah, we’ve all been worried about those Tang-drinking scientists going to war with each other on the International Space Station.
The problem is that Brooks takes every opportunity to paint government as an inefficient and incapable entity that simply devours money. He, like President Trump, fails to realize the magnitude of this crisis and the need to ensure that people who need treatment can get it. In this situation, government has an obligation to help and the right legislation will pave the way for necessary funding that will save and transform lives. Brooks’ ‘no’ vote on this legislation shows the people of North Alabama exactly what his priorities are. They certainly aren’t with North Alabama communities battling the opioid crisis.
The problem with extremists like Brooks is that they always put their narrow ideology over the practical needs of the people they were elected to represent. It’s bad enough that he ignores climate change and increased the deficit, now Brooks voted against helping people get the care they need. Once again, Brooks failed North Alabama.