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The Mylan EpiPen pricing controversy is why people hate Washington

An EpiPen. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

If you need to understand why Donald Trump has done so surprisingly well in the 2016 presidential race, you don't need to look any further than the controversy surrounding the soaring price of EpiPens.

On Tuesday, USA Today reported that Gayle Manchin, the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), urged states to require schools to stock EpiPens to deal with children with severe allergy issues. (Note: My son is one of these kids; he has a severe peanut allergy.) Gayle Manchin was, at the time, the head of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

As USA Today writes:

The association’s move helped pave the way for Mylan Specialty, maker of EpiPens, to develop a near monopoly in school nurses’ offices. Eleven states drafted laws requiring epinephrine auto-injectors. Nearly every other state recommended schools stock them after what the White House called the "EpiPen Law" in 2013 gave funding preference to those that did.

What's the big deal, you ask? Just this: The Manchins' daughter, Heather Bresch, is the chief executive of Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures EpiPens.

But wait, there's more! Over the past eight years, the price of EpiPens has risen 461 percent while Bresch's salary as chief executive has gone up 671 percent, according to NBC News. In 2015, Bresch made $18.9 million in salary.

Outraged yet? Now you have some sense of how most of the country views Washington — as a place where everyone knows one another, and they all feather one another's nests. For the average American, D.C. is all just one big I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you'll scratch-mine setup that winds up leaving them out.

Very few people have a father who is a U.S. senator. Or a mom who runs a national group overseeing boards of education. And very few people have children who make $19 million a year. The Manchins have all three. And that makes lots of people mad. And convinced that the entire system — elected officials, lobbyists, trade association heads, etc. — is morally bankrupt. And that the only solution is a full-scale removal of the establishment by someone — Trump — who represents everything that the establishment isn't: straight shooting, blunt talking and, yes, willing to offend.

Consider that in a March 2016 New York Times-CBS News national poll just 3 percent of respondents said they trusted the government in Washington to do the right thing "just about always." Seven in 10 said they trusted the government to do what's right "some of the time"; 10 percent said they "never" trusted the government to do the right thing. That district of Washington clearly helps the outsider Trump. In an August NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 48 percent of voters said that Trump was more likely to change "business as usual in Washington," while just 26 percent chose Clinton. Trump has consistently maintained a 20-ish point edge over Clinton on that question throughout the year.

To be clear: There's no evidence yet of wrongdoing by the Manchins or Bresch. (Bresch will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify before a House committee investigating allegations of price gouging.) But, man oh man, does it look bad.

It affirms everything people already believe about How Washington Works — that it's a rigged deal, and they are on the outside looking in because that's the way the elites in D.C. want it. Understand that feeling, and you understand Trump's appeal.