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Opioid Hustle Inc: the Axis of Big Pharma, Bigger Prisons and Blind Corporatism

In the middle of writing a new article, I was distracted by an event that is being broadcast on C-Span at this moment. Sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and Johns Hopkins University, America’s Opioid Epidemic: from Evidence to Impact is a panel discussion hosted by former president Bill Clinton that aims to bring public awareness to this sweeping blight that is destroying the lives of millions across America and nearly a billion throughout the world. On the surface, this seems like a honorable attempt to destigmatize the issue of opioid addiction and rally public opinion to tackle this runaway train that is wrecking the lives of too many Americans.

As always, former president Bill Clinton was at his best. A gifted speaker who is able to weave emotion and statistics into moving narratives, Clinton presented a convincing case for individual accountability and societal responsibility. In describing the problem, Clinton noted that America needs to treat opioid addiction not as a criminal justice issue but as a public health crisis. The panelists on the stage echoed this message as a coterie of politicians, business executives, lobbyists and government bureaucrats presented a face of concern and care to the public.

This is the farce that is our politics. The same interests who back policies that create the problem then take to podiums to feign outrage and present solutions. Money in; money out. There is no hustle in this world more lucrative than politics and disaster capitalism. Behind the pageantry that the Clinton Foundation is putting on, there exists an unholy alliance between pharmaceutical corporations, the military-financial complex, and the privatized prison industry that is at the root of this festering opioid malady that is eating away at the lives of millions. What we are witnessing is a societal plague that is taking more lives than gun violence and terrorism combined. Every 19 minutes, someone takes their last breath and dies as a result of overdose and the ravages of addiction.

The list of pundits, politicians and media personalities joining the parade of angst continues to grow daily; sadly, few pull back the cover and actually talk about the root causes of opioid addiction. As always, if you want to find the source of any problem, follow the money. The reason why tens of millions of Americans are getting addicted to opioids is because there are too many swines eating at the trough of this incorporated hustle. The left hand of corporatism and the right hand of federalism gives every incentive to a cottage industry of professional enablers who peddle opioids upon society. Drug dealers are caricatured as young men in the “projects” with drooping pants and hoodies. In reality, the biggest kingpins in the world are the executives and authorities who wear expensive suits and live in posh neighborhoods and gated mansions. What we have before us is a legalized cartel made up of politicians, lobbyists and high priced executives.

It all starts with Big Pharma; companies like Johnson and Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Merck and incorporate drug companies collectively rake in trillions of dollars in profits by pushing the most addictive drugs to the marketplace. They do so by deputizing doctors and health professionals as their corner dope slingers. Men and women who attended universities for close to a decade and toiled additional years as residents are faced with an economic predicament when they finally earn their stripes. Doctors find it harder and harder to have their own practices, so they end up signing on with corporate providers in order to remain economically viable. From there, the slippery slope starts as doctors have to balance patient care with profit motives. Corporate health facilities have one thing in common with Big Pharma and all corporations who are listed on global market exchanges. Their first and foremost fidelity is to revenue enhancement as patient care takes a back seat to profit growth. In this paradigm, doctors face a continual pressure to sell medication that too often trumps their responsibilities of healing the sick and infirmed. Pharmaceutical corporations send out roving marketers and salespeople who incentivize doctors by paying them bonuses for reaching monthly sales quotas to hawk their drug brand and product lines to unwitting patients. In this context, doctors end up wearing two hats; one as a healer and the other as a snake oil salesman. Greed is a human condition that can turn angels into devils when enough money is offered. People who go to doctors and emergency rooms with aches, injuries and infirmities end up leaving with an orange bottle that—for too many Americans—becomes a gateway to addiction and death.

The doctor-patient relationship is the front line of this drug war that has been declared by corporate interests against unarmed civilians and injured patients. There are multiple dimensions to this scourge that reaches far into professional circles. The prison-industrial complex is the second layer that benefits by derivative as once patients turn to crime. Unable to afford or have access to pain medications like OxyContin, Vicodin, and Lomotil, people ravaged by opioids eventually turn to heroin in order to feed their runaway addictions. One minute a healthy member of society, next minute a mother, a father or a teenager in search of a cheap high end up spiraling into a life of dependence, boniness and theft. Into this breach steps a privatized prison industry that is raking in billions by locking up millions of Americans in cell blocks. Bill Clinton conveniently left out this fact for a reason; it was his administration that implemented policies which loosened the prison-industrial complex on our nation.

As big pharma turns millions of Americans into addicts and the prison-industrial complex rolls out the chained carpet to fill up their gulags, on the back end lies the military-financial complex to ensure a steady stream of opium from nations like Afghanistan and illicit drugs from countries like Mexico and Columbia. When nations get bombed into the stone ages and corporatism destroys local industries, civil society disappears and what takes root are criminal enterprises that thrive in an atmosphere of lawlessness and near anarchy. Before the Bush administration declared war on Afghanistan in 2001, the opium industry was largely eradicated and nearly nonexistent throughout the country. A few years after the first bomb was dropped on Kandahar, opium production in Afghanistan hit record highs as each successive year witnessed bumper crops. A thriving opium industry in Afghanistan is one of the main drivers of the opioid crisis in America.

Institutionalized greed and government corruption were the same ingredients that led federal agencies to unleash the crack epidemic on America in the 1980’s. This is no conspiracy theory, the Reagan administration concocted a scheme where the funneled cheap cocaine into urban areas in order to covertly fund the military-financial bloodshed that was taking place in Central America and the Middle East [read Link Between Agencies and Crack]. The crack epidemic was localized story in the 1980’s; systemic greed is now inundating every corner of our nation from rural areas to cities and towns near you. America is a blessed land that is being destroyed from within by a cabal of moneyed interests and never ending government overreach. The same way that Wall Street gambled like a bunch of degenerate gamblers with our life savings in 2008 only to get bailed out is how powerful corporations and their enablers in various federal agencies give cover to the continued fleecing of our nation.

Perhaps the problem is us, the bottom 99%, who are getting gamed by this rigged system of corporatism. As long as we keep nourishing the monster of corporatism that feeds on humanity, we should expect more and more of these societal ruptures. We keep expecting the people who reside atop this beast to be the ones who will rescue us and put a stop to this depravity. But there is no incentive for the “elites” to change—they are doing very well as is. The change has to come from us not through a big bang but by incrementally reinvesting in our communities. Planting a garden and ensuring sustainability of our localities by empowering small businesses and individual entrepreneurs will do a lot more to alleviate social ills than a million marches on DC. We need to tackle the issue at the root and stop hacking at the branches. As long as our social system gives incentive to profiteering above all and normalizes greed as a virtue, no amount of programs and interventions will alleviate this global system of capital theft and pervasive injustice.Corporatism is the common virus that weaves all of these seemingly separate symptoms which are gashing at the foundation of our nation and kneecapping the lives of tens of millions of Americans. As long as there is a financial incentive to hook patients on prescription medications, imprison the addicted population once they turn to crime and initiate immoral wars on nations, these grand events sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and my Alma Mater Johns Hopkins University will be nothing more than dog and pony shows. Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and the rest of the political class who refuse to address the virus of corporatism and instead divert our attention with pompous speeches and disingenuous rhetoric are just cutting for stones and making fortunes in the process. #OpioidHustleInc

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Check out the Ghion Cast below that discusses the dog and pony show of our politics and how the chattering class is using outrage to feed their own opulence while giving allowance to injustice. 

Find out more about the Ghion Cast by clicking HERE or on the picture below to subscribe to our channel and check out a previous podcast that talks about the issues of race and identity in America in ways that initially might seem shocking but leads to a much needed discussion. 

Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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Lij Teodrose Fikremariam

Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the co-founder and former editor of the Ghion Journal. He is currently the chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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