Friday, January 12, 2007

A spoonful of sugar:

Malcolm scans today's on-line Washington Post and splutters over this:

This month alone, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent more than $1 million on full-page newspaper ads touting the success of the existing Medicare drug system.

Drug companies spent more on lobbying than any other industry between 1998 and 2005 -- $900 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. They donated a total of $89.9 million in the same period to federal candidates and party committees, nearly three-quarters of it to Republicans.

To recapitulate:
  • The Drugs firms have putsched the Republican Party (and, therefore, the US Congress over recent years).
  • Their suzerainty over the elected government has been such that an act allowed Big Pharma to fix prices, and nixed the US Government from even negotiating prices for prescription drugs dispensed under Medicare.
  • The incoming Democrats have pledged to overturn this.
  • Apparently, the Dems considered (and rejected) direct federal involvement as purchaser and provider. A milder option, to authorise the private insurance corporations to negotiate with the pharmers, is now the preferred option. The question remains: what clout will this have?
  • By no coincidence, pharmer money has smartly followed the shift in political advantage, being used to bring Democrats on board.
  • Bush (who got £600,000 of pharmers' contributions to his 2004 campaign) has said he will use the presidential veto on any bill, maintaining it interferes with the "free" market and competition between the pharmers.
  • In any event, the ban on importing cheaper drugs and generics from (mainly) Canada will stay.
Malcolm does not have any formula for sorting out this shambles. His instinct is, if ever there was a point of confrontation, a ne plus ultra, this ought to be it. What have the Dems, in the longer term, to lose by pushing the issue? Why not challenge, nay provoke a Bush veto? Does anyone outside a few pharmer boardrooms and K Street lobbyists believe a stand would cost Democratic support and votes, now and in 2008?

Why, for heaven's sake, do politicos consistently, almost instinctively, run for cover; and neglect the supreme good of their voters and supporters? Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien [The best is the enemy of the good], wrote Voltaire (and, incidentally, Eisenhower once cited): he had it the wrong way round.

Malcolm can only mutter his habitual mantra: "It was ever thus"; and draw on the opening paragraph of Barbara Tuchman' s pacy read The March of Folly:
A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?
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