PHARMA: Atlas is not impressed by the Illinois reimporter

Regular contributor, and one of several token free-marketer contributors to this deeply socialist blog, Atlas, does not like what he sees from the apparently failing effort of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to enroll anyone in the campaign to buy drugs from Canada.

Today on our local NPR outlet, Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) was asked why the Illinois reimportation juggernaut had only signed up 1,200 Illini. His answer–well, we don’t have the money to advertise it. Hello? Where does he think big pharma gets the ad budgets that the great state so lusts for? From charging more than the cost of chemicals in Ireland and the UK, that’s where! Guess "great" ideas don’t sell themselves, eh? Well, guess what? Neither do great medicines! None of this stops our intrepid Governor from exporting his import fiasco like a dangerous contagion to other demagogues in charge of unfortunate states–Kansas is the latest victim. One wonders how much all this interstate politicking costs the taxpayer.

Later on the same program, Dr. Quentin Young (a former Cook County health commissioner and academic who is no friend of pharma) acknowledged that although AIDS is a pandemic worldwide, it is reduced to a chronic condition domestically. By what? Pharmaceuticals!

Meanwhile, while our Governor traipses across the fruited plain running for VP on a Clinton 08 ticket or whatever it is that he is trying to accomplish, Illinois Medicaid (which funds real FDA approved drugs for the needy, including many AIDS sufferers) is criminally underfunded due to the Governor’s foolish pledge (reminiscent of Bush the Elder) to never raise taxes regardless of how much his pharma bashing campaign accompanied by a bloated and corrupt security phalanx drains from the treasury. What’s more, having gambled and lost on the Presidential election, IL now faces the spectre of Federal retribution for its flouting of law and FDA regulation prohibiting reimportation in the form of denial of a Medicaid tax and spend maneuver that it was counting on to plug a multimillion dollar hole in the budget. What comes around, goes around.

Those of us who retain some semblance of sanity and economic literacy here in the Land of Lincoln can hardly wait to lose this loser of a Governor. Wish us well.

I did have to respond to Atlas because the hint of sanity, or at least of not running up a huge deficit just to avoid a tax increase, was implicit in his rant. And that gets us close to the ultimate heresy among Republicans of calling for a tax increase (even if George HW Bush’s tax increase did set us up for the party that was the 1990s). Atlas responded:

I can’t speak for the Republicans (I’m an independent you know). But if you’re going to write a check you’re going to have to cash it. Politicians of every stripe these days seem to be incognizant of this. Even Democrats won’t raise taxes in some cases, and Republicans seem to think deficits don’t matter. To some extent they may have a point (leveraging and all that), but at some point common sense dictates they do matter, and I think we’re getting there.

I think low taxes are good in that they stimulate the economy, and rates prevalent in the US and UK in the 60s (70%-90% at the highest marginal brackets) are counterproductive, except in that they inspired the Beatles to record "Taxman". But many people, I among them, would not object to paying more taxes if the money was really used for practical solutions to pressing problems.

The trouble is much of the money is wasted on corruption and folly. Having grown up in Chicago, I can assure you that many if not most of our tax dollars are wasted if not outright stolen by featherbedders and mobsters. So social reform must be accompanied by political reform, or many will trust in the private sector as the least worst vehicle for good works.

So there really is some dissension on the free-market right from the Rove-Bush-Cheney "deficits don’t matter" orthodoxy. Perhaps Atlas and I will be burnt at the same stake?


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