President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency if Congress refuses to pony up $5.7 billion to build the “great, great wall” he promised his base during the 2016 election campaign. In an apocalyptic televised address early in January, he even warned — falsely, as fact checkers revealed during the speech — that a tsunami of hard-core criminals and drugs was sweeping across the US-Mexican border.
Fabricating national emergencies is unconscionable, especially when there are real ones requiring urgent attention.
Here’s an example: since 1999, 400,000 Americans have died from overdoses of opioids, including pain medications obtained legally through prescriptions or illegally, as well as from heroin, an illicit opioid. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that prescription medications were involved in 218,000 of those fatalities.
Even the president labeled opioid addiction a “public health emergency” after a commission he appointed in March 2017 issued a report detailing its horrific consequences. Trump’s efforts led Congress to allocate $6 billion to combat the crisis in 2018 and 2019, and the president sought another $7 billion for 2019. Since then, however, his attention has turned to the “emergency” along the border with Mexico, the equivalent, by comparison, of a gnat bite on an elephant.
His initial urgency regarding the opioid epidemic seems to have dissipated, though not his propensity for making false claims. At a May 2018 rally, for instance, he declared that, thanks to the $6 billion, “the numbers are way down.” If the president meant overdose deaths, however, his claim was blatantly false. Data from the CDC show that, between 2016 and 2017, prescription opioid overdose deaths decreased by a mere 58 from 17,087 to 17,029. As for overdose deaths from opioids of all sorts (whether legal and…