Monday, August 29, 2016

FDR warned us about EpiPen and other business scams a long time ago. We chose not to listen. Now we're playing "whack-a-scam."

Above: President Franklin Roosevelt, ca. 1941. No administration did more for the health of Americans than the Roosevelt Administration. FDR's New Deal ushered in thousands of new or improved hospitals and clinics, paid unemployed health professionals to deliver medical services to struggling Americans, provided health care to millions of young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps, improved the quality of food and drinking water all across the country, ran immunization campaigns, and much more. According to a sociologist from Oxford University and an epidemiologist from Stanford University, "During the Depression, mortality rates in the United States fell by about 10 percent... we estimate that every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By now we've all heard about the outrageous price gouging associated with the EpiPen. Like the Pharma Bro incident (and countless incidents that never make it into the mainstream media) it's a tale of greed, monopoly, lobbying, and campaign contributions. As pharmaceutical prices are jacked up 100, 200, 300%, the salaries, bonuses, and investment returns of those increasing the prices are jacked up as well - 100, 200, 300% and more. See, for example:

"Mylan CEO's Pay Rose Over 600 Percent as EpiPen Price Rose 400 Percent," NBC, August 23, 2016

"Senators Probing EpiPen Received Donations From Mylan PAC," NBC, August 26, 2016

"EpiPen Uproar Highlights Company’s Family Ties to Congress," The Intercept, August 24, 2016

"The Scandal of EpiPens Runs Deeper Than Most of Us Realize," Alternet, August 26, 2016

Pharmaceutical executives, like financial industry executives, know how to game the system for hefty profit. And by the time Americans are wise to the game, it's too late; the scam has already run its course and the scammers have hit the jackpot - they're millionaires for life. And while Mylan (the company behind the EpiPen scandal) is being investigated, you can be sure that other companies have already started planning the next get-rich-quick scams. Super-wealthy executives and investors must be having a good laugh watching the public play whack-a-mole or, in this case, "whack-a-scam."

It doesn't have to be this way, of course. President Roosevelt warned us about these types of people & scandals a long time ago.

FDR on Greed    

In 1933, FDR explained how greed (and the greedy) had ruined the American economy: 

"They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish. The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

FDR on Monopolies 

In 1936, FDR said of consumers and monopolies:

"Of course we will continue to protect the consumer against unnecessary price spreads, against the costs that are added by monopoly and speculation."

FDR on the problem of Corporate Money In Politics & Government

In 1936, FDR said:

"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They [Corporate America] had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. And we know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob."

Above: A WPA poster promoting health care. New Deal policymakers were committed to getting Americans the health care they needed, regardless of income. Today, we foolishly put our faith in super-wealthy, profit-driven executives & investors. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

FDR: Health Care As A Right

In his Second Bill of Rights speech, FDR argued for health care as a right, not as a privilege... and not as something you only get in the emergency room after the problem has gotten out of hand:

"We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are... The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health."

In other words, FDR was saying that our health should not be dependent upon sociopaths and monopolies.

We chose not to listen to FDR and his New Deal, thus opening the door to EpiPen-type scandals

As a culture, we've turned our backs on the New Deal. The signs are everywhere: Union participation is down (and thus, so are job benefits); Glass-Steagall was repealed; Social Security is under constant political threat; infrastructure is crumbling & children are drinking lead; work-relief programs have been classified as pie-in-the-sky dreaming; our national park system has a multi-billion dollar backlog; retirement security is going the way of the Dodo Bird; and the list goes on and on. Many of the things that our ancestors worked so hard for, we have let fade away - too glued to our smartphones to give a damn. And so we have let the charlatans, cranks, and political puppets take over, believing their lies about trickle-down economics and the holy "JOB CREATORS." Unfortunately, it turns out that the holy "JOB CREATORS" are more focused on jacking up drug prices, and striking it rich off our gullible minds, than they are with creating decent-paying jobs. 

So, let's summarize: FDR warned us about the deleterious effects of greed, monopolies, and corporate money in our politics & government. But, collectively, over the past few decades, we've yawned and said: "Yeah, whatever Roosevelt." Then, Mylan and many other companies--practicing greed, taking advantage of monopoly, and buying & lobbying politicians--outrageously jacks up prices, empties our wallets, and drives up the cost of health care and health insurance.
  
Make no mistake about it: By ignoring  FDR's warnings & rejecting the New Deal, we're asking for the abuse we receive. Companies like Mylan are simply answering the call.

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