During this election cycle an idea has been thrown around that a certain presidential aspirant is a “single issue” candidate. While functionally silly the notion is rather enjoyable as a fine example of an artful smear. Obviously no serious presidential contender is running on a single issue platform, but the idea does point to an underlying theme within the American political system. If there is a single issue, then it is one of representation and control. Below are five topics which illuminate this terrifying reality.
Healthcare and Big Pharma
- Polls (2015)
- ‘Drug prices are unreasonable’ — 73% Agree
- ‘More regulation on drug manufacturers is needed’ — 53% Agree
- ‘View of the pharmaceutical industry’ — 35% Positive
- ‘Single-payer healthcare’ — 51% Support
- Industry Campaign Contributions 2008-16: $161,403,282
- Industry Lobbying 2008-15: $1,929,077,759
For the richest country in the world the health care system of the United States is, quite simply, a debacle. On average Americans pay 250% more for their health care than those in other ‘developed’ nations, and between 2 and 6 times as much for prescription medication. One may be under the impression that higher costs translate into a higher caliber of service but unfortunately quite the opposite is true. A pertinent example — In a recent study of the quality, access, efficiency, and equity of health care among 11 nations the United States finished dead last (behind the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France, and Canada).
In reality the high costs come not from a high quality of service, but rather from legislative machinations. Unlike other ‘developed’ nations the United States does not have drug price controls in place to keep the cost of crucial medications affordable. Patent and trademark policies allow drug companies to monopolize the market for 20 years or more before generics can be introduced to drive prices down. Many states have mandatory vaccination policies, guaranteeing a market for certain “medications”. And of course the labyrinth of red tape and administrative tomfoolery in the healthcare system as a whole results in a painfully inefficient and costly apparatus. Additionally, important governmental positions are often held by representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. For example the next Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Robert Califf, has for years drawn a salary from four separate pharmaceutical giants.
And to venture beyond the pure statistical inadequacy of the health care system is to wade into tragedy. Every day, seniors in the United States have to decide between food and medication. Each year millions of people go bankrupt due to medical bills, and, staggeringly, tens of thousands die due to a lack of access to health insurance. As the polls listed above illustrate, this fiasco does not operate in the shadows, but rather within the full light of conscious disapproval. Sadly this is but one of many examples in which the operation of the government exists in direct contradiction to the will of the electorate.
- ‘Banks haven’t taken adequate measures to prevent another financial crisis — 62% Agree (2013)
- ‘Stricter regulation on Wall Street’ — 67% Support (2014)
- ‘Wall Street companies should be held accountable for practices that caused the financial crisis’ — 79% Agree (2015)
- Industry Campaign Contributions 2008-16: $2,351,409,385
- Industry Lobbying 2008-15: $3,842,825,478