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Cotton connects disability benefits, drug addiction

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., heads to the Senate subway following a vote in the Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., heads to the Senate subway following a vote in the Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015.
We've arguably reached the point at which high-profile Republicans should probably stop talking about addiction issues altogether. MSNBC's Aliyah Frumin reported this week on the latest discouraging comments.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is suggesting there is a correlation between those who receive Social Security disability benefits and drug addiction. During a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Monday, the lawmaker said “It’s hard to say what came first or caused the other -- population decline or increased disability usage [in several Appalachian counties]. Or maybe economic stagnation caused both.” Either way, Cotton argued, there seems to be what he called a “disability tipping point” -- when such benefits become a norm instead of a last-resort safety net program.

With this in mind, the far-right freshman added, “Population continues to fall and a downward spiral kicks in, driving once-thriving communities into further decline. Not only that, but once this kind of spiral begins, communities could begin to suffer other social plagues as well, such as heroin or meth addiction and associated crime.”
At a certain level, I suppose it's a good thing when policymakers take an interest in addiction issues and look for root causes and possible solutions, but the idea of connecting disability benefits and "heroin or meth addiction" is hard to take seriously without evidence.
But just as alarming is the political pattern that's begun to emerge. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently made the case that heroin addiction only afflicts the unemployed. "If you work all day long, you don’t have time to do heroin," he recently told a New Hampshire audience.
Earlier this month, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson argued "political correctness" bears some of the blame for Americans "throwing away all of our values and principles," which in turn creates an addiction epidemic.
Focusing on addiction issues is good. Far-right rhetoric on the issue, however, doesn't seem to be good at all.
As for Cotton, Frumin's MSNBC report added, "Experts, perhaps unsurprisingly, aren’t pointing to Social Security disability benefits as the reason behind the surge. Rather, they point to a myriad of factors, including prescription drug use, and as Salon notes, failures in law enforcement and the U.S. health care system."