Trump’s conjuring of an immigrant terrorist mob marching for the border was a truly superior and well-time exercise in cynical, evil political manipulation. Yet today’s new drug pricing proposal — while less telegenic — may even be a few notches more evil and cynical.
As with many cynical and evil political gestures, the Trump drug plan can claim a connection to some elements of truth, masquerades as a response to the justifiable public anger about rapacious drug prices. Toxic populism.
People should be angry about how both Republicans and Democrats have sold them out to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry. This is particularly true in connection with the key problem addressed in the Trump admin’s new initiative, which proposes that Medicare should pay for drugs based on a price tied to an index of prices paid for the same drugs in other industrial countries. When prescription medicare prescription drug benefits were first introduced under George Bush in 2003, Big Pharma succeeded in obtaining a law blocking the government from negotiating medicare drug prices. Seven years later, with the passage of the ACA, Obama and the Dems cut deals with Pharma that left the 2003 law blocking negotiations intact, an added a few other vast giveaways to the drug companies (including a surrender on the idea of allowing for the importation of lower-priced drugs from abroad).
While few people are aware of this sad narrative of crony capitalism, popular rage about high drug prices has only increased, and has become a significant factor in the midterm elections. Most people have a pretty good idea that politicians, and the elites, are to blame for the way they get ripped off when they go to the drug store. So Trump’s plan plays brilliantly on that anger — while simultaneously bashing and blaming those despicable European socialist countries, where drug prices are kept low by government mandate.
Today’s plan makes for a good sound bite. I can’t wait to see what happens when Pfizer has to start paying off politicians in France and England, trying to raise drugs prices there, in order to support inflated drug prices in the US. Good plan!