Trump’s Latest Salary Donation Publicity Stunt Won’t Curb the Opioid Crisis

Trump signs a largely meaningless presidential memorandum related to the opioid crisis in October. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The White House on Thursday announced that President Trump has donated his third-quarter salary, about $100,000, to the Department of Health and Human Services, and earmarked it for fighting the opioid epidemic. It’s the third time he’s given his paycheck to an agency that he wants to strip of funding.

He donated his first quarterly paycheck of $78,333 to the National Park Service while proposing a $1.5 billion cut in funding to the Interior Department, which oversees the parks. After the second quarter, he wrote a $100,000 check to the Education Department, an agency that would see $9.2 billion in cuts if Trump’s budget became law. And now he’s giving $100,000 to HHS to combat the opioid epidemic, a public health crisis that experts say requires tens of billions of dollars to fight. Trump, who hasn’t allocated money to that fight, has also fought to cut funding to Medicaid, a leading funder of addiction treatment in the country.

Three quarters of the way through Trump’s first year, it’s easy to see the pattern: His salary donations are publicity stunts meant to draw praise from brown nosers. Ronna McDaniel, head of the RNC, has already obliged.

Before he was president, Trump said he would spend “a lot of money” on fighting the scourge of addiction. Instead, he ignored the conclusions of his own drug commission and months after promising to declare a national emergency, declared a public health emergency, a half-measure that did not make available any new funds.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions named Kellyanne Conway, a lawyer and pollster, the administration’s new opioid czar. Now Trump’s giving $100,000 to a problem that his own White House says costs the country $500 billion a year. Trump’s donation is enough to pay for a year of methadone treatment for 21 patients, among other drops in the bucket, according to STAT News.

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan no doubt knows this. And yet, while announcing Trump’s donation Thursday, he dutifully praised the president. “His decision to donate his salary is a tribute to his compassion, to his patriotism and his sense of duty to the American people,” Hargan said.

He added that the donation will go toward “the planning and design of a large-scale public awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid addiction.” That’s no surprise. Trump is on record saying the solution to the crisis is as simple as telling kids that drugs are “no good.”

Trump’s Latest Publicity Stunt Won’t Curb the Opioid Crisis