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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/10/17

What's the Cost to the American People of Keeping Senators Like Patty Murray in Office?

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To the industry, these people are for sale for pennies on the dollar, or more accurately mils on the dollar, plastic coins worth less than a penny.

Consider: The return on industry lobbying -- let's round up and call it $10 million across several Senate terms -- is $124 billion in protected profit per year. Looking at the drug price mark-up in the Taibbi article -- from $4 to $1000 -- gives a profit increase of 250 times the original (and still profitable) $4 price in India. Let's lower that increase, since I'm sure Taibbi picked an extreme example. Let's say that, on average, the protected U.S. profit is "just" a 100-times increase over what's profitable overseas.

If this is true, it's very safe to say that of that $124 billion in profit, at least $100 billion is bought by lobbying Congress for price protection.

So what's the ROI to the drug companies on its $10 million in bribes (sorry, entirely legal campaign contributions)? If it's $100 billion ... again, per year ... the ROI on campaign contributions is at least $10,000 in profit for each $1 spent to protect it, or more than 10,000 to 1.

If I'm off by a factor of 10, the ROI is ... 1,000 to 1.

Very cheap dates indeed. Corrupt Senators like Patty Murray need a better agent, or at least a union. After all, real agents get 10 percent. Acting as their own agents, politicians like Murray can't manage to squeeze one percent out of one of the most profitable industries in the world.

And her failure to extract more feathers for her nest is worse when you consider that Congress is the sole source for price protection at the national level. Corrupt Senate votes like Murray's can't be acquired anywhere else in the country.

Corrupt Democrats Keep Drug Prices High in Connecticut

Now comes David Sirota to tell a similar story (emphasis mine):

Why Are Drug Prices Going Up? Democratic Power Players Help Pharmaceutical Industry In Connecticut Battle

Wide majorities of voters want public officials to reduce American medicine prices, which are the highest in the world and have become a key driver of skyrocketing healthcare costs. And yet as politicians including Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have continued to call for a crackdown, corporate power players have successfully blocked even minimal reforms -- with the help, at times, of industry-connected Democrats, whose party portrays itself as a consumer-defending critic of the healthcare industry.

As Congress holds more hearings on the issue, the fight over drug prices has moved to [state] legislatures -- and an intense debate in Connecticut most starkly illuminates the battle lines. There, the House, the governorship and all constitutional offices are controlled by a Democratic Party that has long criticized the pharmaceutical industry for its pricing practices. Connecticut, though, also has America's highest number of insurance jobs per capita, and a cadre of powerful public officials with financial and familial ties to the insurance industry -- a situation that adds to the influence the industry already wields through its campaign cash and lobbyists.

The situation:

Fresh off a presidential campaign that saw both parties' candidates promising to make prescription medicine more affordable, Connecticut lawmakers in January introduced legislation to bring more transparency to drug prices. The bill, which mirrors similar initiatives in other states, also aims to stop insurance companies from effectively forcing their policyholders to pay more for medicine than it actually costs -- a lucrative scheme that critics say allows insurers and their affiliated pharmaceutical benefit managers to pocket the difference.

Despite the pharmaceutical industry's opposition, the Connecticut legislation initially seemed headed for approval: It was sponsored by the Senate Democratic and Republican leaders and was backed by high-profile officials like the Democratic state comptroller.

Who could make this go wrong? Industry-connected Democrats:

But a few weeks ago, bill proponents say, Connecticut's insurance commissioner Katharine Wade pressed for changes that would weaken the penalties in the legislation and leave enforcement of its provisions to the healthcare industry itself.

Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, who appointed Wade, came to her defense. "We must take much greater care in considering the impact our actions have on Connecticut insurers," he said. House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, a Democrat, suggested lawmakers were not sufficiently listening to insurers -- and then sponsored an amendment to implement Wade's proposals. He also backed an amendment to strip out a separate provision in the bill designed to compel insurers to more explicitly disclose all their fees to policyholders.

It goes on from there. Please read Sirota's good work for the rest. Among the revelations, you'll find a web of interconnected, industry-connected relationship among the Democrats that can only be described as corrupt, considering the outcomes.

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A writer who contributes to a number of publications, including digby's Hullabaloo, Down With Tyranny, Naked Capitalism, Truthout and Alternet.

On Twitter — @Gaius_Publius

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