A couple of days ago, the New York Times reported on a little-noticed provision inserted in the “fiscal cliff” legislation. The report is a prime example of what ails our broken Congress.
According to the Times, a bare two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored what the Times called “a largely unnoticed coup” on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into Section 632 the “fiscal cliff” bill that delays the effective date of a set of Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients.
The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar without government controls. The company’s chief executive immediately informed investment analysts of this measure and its likely positive effect on the company’s bottom line.
That one simple bit of language may gladden the hearts of corporate investors, but it is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.
And there you have it–the deep corruption that lies at the heart of the current legislative process. At the same time sanctimonious Congressional “fiscal hawks” are wringing their hands over “runaway” health spending and demanding reductions in Medicare coverage and benefits for millions of seniors living on fixed incomes, they are voting for costly measures to benefit big Pharma. In this case, adding insult to injury, a big Pharma company that had just admitted to defrauding the government.
Economists warn about the growing inequality in America, and the pernicious effects of the growing gulf between the 1% and the rest of us. This was a vote to take from the middle-class and give to the rich. Political scientists warn of political cynicism and its corrosive effects. This is the sort of blatant quid pro quo that feeds that cynicism.
Pollsters tell us that Americans prefer head lice and cockroaches to Congress.
This crap is why.