The high cost of legal drugs, and the deadly fentanyl epidemic

On behalf of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, welcome to The Take, your opinion-politics newsletter. Please sign up for it here.

Our take


Congressional Republicans should focus on drug costs, not Obamacare repeal: Instead of attacking Obamacare, a program that has worked to provide coverage to 20 million Americans, Congress ought to turn its attention to health care’s cost drivers. One place to start is with the high cost of drugs.

Fentanyl, once obscure, is the deadly drug du jour: Heroin still kills far more Americans than fentanyl. But what’s alarming is the rapid increase in the number of fentanyl users. The opioid painkiller is so powerful that people can overdose and die within minutes.

There’s plenty of time to be pessimistic about 2017. With the start of the new year, let’s be hopeful. Our list includes more rain and more affordable housing, fewer police shootings, a vibrant Sacramento riverfront and a playoff run by the Kings.

Barbara Boxer’s lessons as she departs and Kamala Harris arrives: Harris’ first job must be to deliver for the state. In that role, Boxer could offer a few lessons.


Dan Morain: Barbara Boxer ran, served and is leaving on her own terms. She won’t go down as one of history’s most influential senators, or one of its great orators or deepest thinkers. But she leaves as she arrived, a passionate fighter on the issues that matter to her. Unlike politicians who reflexively duck, bend and dodge, Boxer never hid who she was.

Karin Klein: A California charter school advocacy group is issuing its own school report cards because the new one from the State Board of Education is so confusing.


John M. Hein: Ways education can adapt to changing economic demands.

Elizabeth B. Wydra: President-elect Donald Trump is flouting the Constitution by refusing to really address his business conflicts of interest.

Take a number: 749

California’s death row at the end of 2016 reached 749, by far more than in any other state. In the latest Numbers Crunch, Foon Rhee looks at how progressive California is behind much of the nation in moving away from capital punishment. Among the issues of 2017 will be whether the courts open the way for executions by upholding Proposition 66. Gov. Jerry Brown, a lifelong foe of capital punishment, would have the final say.

Their take

Las Vegas Sun: With a moderate Republican governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, Nevada is poised to stand its ground against a wave of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment that arose during the presidential campaign and is now rolling across several states.

Redding Record Searchlight: Exxon financed projects aimed at undermining the growing scientific consensus about global warming and continued to sell stock to investors without acknowledging climate-change-related business risks. Several state attorneys general, including California’s Kamala Harris, opened investigations to see if the company violated securities law. Assuming Xavier Becerra becomes the next California attorney general, he should put the Exxon investigation near the top of his “to do” list.

Los Angeles Times: Water agencies deny that the sole purpose of tiered pricing is to encourage conservation, but such rate structures provide fair and sensible incentives for Californians to use their most precious public resource wisely.

San Diego Union-Tribune: The California Legislature was very active in 2016, which, on balance, tends to bode ill for the economic and personal liberties of the state’s residents. Sadly, the “Good” list is much shorter than the “Bad” list.

Raleigh News & Observer: What now, then, for Gov. Roy Cooper? He must address HB2, but on that and other issues he’ll need to use the governor’s office as the bully pulpit it can be. Cooper is going to find few people even willing to listen in the Legislature, so he must go directly to the people of North Carolina.

The Seattle Times: There are ways Congress could improve the Affordable Care Act, including seeking a way to make health insurance more affordable for all. But Obamacare is fulfilling its mission to help many thousands of Americans get health insurance.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The Wisconsin Supreme Court sent a disturbing message this week about its commitment to protecting the public’s right to know. The court’s 5-2 decision in the case involving state Attorney General Brad Schimel was mistaken – twice – and came from the same swamp that produced state GOP legislators’ efforts in 2015 to draw curtains on government transparency.

Syndicates’ take

Paul Krugman: Americans used to find tinpot dictators funny. What about now?

David Leonhardt: Going without sugar, cold-turkey and no sweeteners added.

Nicholas Kristof: Lessons from the media’s failures in its year with Donald Trump.

Frank Bruni: My dinner with Carrie Fisher.

Trudy Rubin: Donald Trump’s tweets will only stir the pot with China.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: The top priority in 2017 is to protect democracy, at home and abroad.

Dana Milbank: Alexander Hamilton’s warnings of tyranny echo on the eve of Trump.

Ruben Navarrette: Democrats in California are turning renegade against President-elect Donald Trump. But usually, the federal government is too powerful for states.

Ross Douthat: My negative view of the GOP and what Donald Trump’s reactionary fans call “the Cathedral” – the whole liberal media-political-academic-entertainment complex – was a crucial part of why I assumed that Trump could not defeat them.


I do not trust most members of Congress to spend $1 wisely, much less $38 billion. There are enough incentives for Congress to manage our money wisely without allowing earmarks. Conny K. Saab, Fair Oaks

And finally

Childhood trauma can last a lifetime. A 20-year-old Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which tracked the impact of severe trauma, is getting renewed attention of lawmakers now. Here’s how you can help. – Ashley Snee Giovannettone