Finding a final and lasting solution to the opioid epidemic as well as easing other socioeconomic problems plaguing small communities like Kermit was the focus of community forum held there last week by presidential The town hall meeting, conducted inside the Kermit Volunteer Fire Department on May 10, was just one several similar stops the current Democratic senator from Massachusetts planned to make by the end of the weekend, the others having been planned for towns in Ohio.
Addressing a crowd of about 300 people as a group of West Virginia Women for Trump and West Virginia State Republican Party members staged an opposition rally a block away, Warren wasted no time getting into why she had specifically come to Kermit.
The visit, she told the crowd, was directly attributed to the opioid epidemic, and why she views it as being a two-fold problem which currently casts a wide net throughout the country for which a quick and decisive solution is needed.
She explained how drug dependence is a glaring medical problem in need of funding for prevention as well as for free treatment facilities for those already struggling with addiction.
“We have two problems in America today, but I want to start with the medical problem,” she said. “People have a less than one in five chance of getting the medical treatment they need. And it’s not because we don’t know what to do about it, it’s because we as a country won’t spend money right now for the medical treatment people need when they’re caught in the grips of addiction. But addiction is a medical problem and it needs a medical solution.”
Warren also labeled the problem as also being “one of greed,” offering Kermit as an example of being a small town that had been inundated with millions of opioid pills over the last decade for which it eventually filed a lawsuit against five of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies in early 2017 for damages the flood of pills left in its wake.
“People didn’t get addicted all by themselves, they had a lot of help from corporations that made big money,” she said. “They got people addicted and they’re keeping them addicted. This is part of the reason I am in Kermit today…this town of only 400 citizens received nearly 13 million opioid pills. That’s more than 30,000 pills for every resident living here.”
Warren said those corporate executives directly responsible for creating opioid epidemics in towns like Kermit should not only be held financially responsible but additionally held criminally liable as well.
Regarding financial responsibility, Warren said she and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md), recently introduced a bill known as the “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” which she asserts will provide $100 billion in funding over the next 10 years “to meet the crisis head-on and to wipe it out.”
She said the goal is to allow the money to funnel down from the federal government to the affected communities while simultaneously sanctioning the communities themselves to prioritize how to use it most effectively.
“It would mean about $50 million a year right here in West Virginia to help fight this problem,” she said.
While she admitted the $100 billion provided by the bill is a great deal of money, Warren said the burden would not be put on the backs of taxpayers but, at least in part, on the backs of many of those she said created or helped create the crisis to begin with: those ultra-rich individuals and families who either directly or indirectly profited from it.
The Ultra-Millionaire Tax, she explained, overall would ultimately target the 75,000 wealthiest families in the country and would tax these families two cents on every dollar beyond the first net worth $50 million of each to help fund not only the battle against opioids but other social programs as well.
“Two cents for every dollar above the first $50 million on the biggest fortunes would pay for universal child care for children 0-5, for universal Pre-K for every three and four-year-old, increase the pay for every childcare worker and preschool teacher; it would pay for universal technical, two-year and four-year college for every one of our kids; it would do student loan cancellation, and it would give us $100 billion to attack the opioid problem,” she said. “And here’s the amazing part, there would still be nearly a trillion dollars left over to build a better future for our country.”
In response to only three questions that could be asked at the conclusion of her address, all of which essentially pertained to how communities will go about achieving the ultimate goal (getting this money directly to the communities for their specific problem areas), Warren said once each community has identified its needs and met its accountability requirements the money would then be allocated directly down by the federal government.
“You know, not every community is seeing this problem the same way…there are places where you need to put a lot more into outreach, some where you need the beds, some where you need long-term assistance, some where you need better foster care for the affected children,” she said. “The point is for Washington to be a good partner to every community on the front lines of this opioid war and other community problems.”