The dispute traps Obama between his campaign rhetoric and the political realities of health-care reform, which depends in large part on tacit support from drugmakers and other industry groups. Under the earlier agreement with the White House, the pharmaceutical industry agreed to contribute $80 billion toward reform over 10 years in exchange for protection from further cuts.
“It’s about being a candidate as opposed to being president,” said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “When you become president, you realize that the sound bites don’t always work in reality. . . . I think they’ve looked at the problems now and have concluded there’s no way to ensure the safety of medicines reimported into the United States right now.”
This is hilarious and doesn’t really need much in the way of commentary.
As a candidate, Barack Obama endorsed the idea of allowing consumers to import cheaper pharmaceuticals from other industrialized countries. In the Senate he co-sponsored a bill that pushed the idea.
But now that he’s president and is taking money from the pharmaceutical lobby (PhRMA) to help get his bullshit health care bill passed, his administration is backtracking. His FDA chief Margaret Hamburg is pulling out the old safety canard. The CBO has estimated that a bill sponsored by Byron Dorgan to allow drug re-importation would save the government $19 billion over 10 years, and save consumers $80 billion.
There’s no legitimate reason to bar re-importation, except one: to preserve a subsidy for the pharmaceutical industry and, by extension, preserve the flow of campaign contributions to the Democratic Party. That is why President Obama is now opposing the sensible measures he endorsed as a candidate. He is pursuing this year’s expedient goal of getting a campaign war chest now that he’s already achieved last year’s expedient goal of getting elected.
To have a PhRMA hack openly defending this flip-flip as justifiable shows how morally lost these people (and their defenders in the media) are. They really think that expediency is a defensible ideology and they are legitimately flabbergasted when people expect that a president follow through on his campaign promises. Apparently we are supposed to assume that a political candidate always lies and just accept that, and those of us who do not are “naive.” As my friend David Sirota put it:
There is no substantive reason why what a president cannot push what he promises on the campaign trail – especially when it comes to something like pharmaceutical reimportation, which every other industrialized country has legalized. I repeat – there is simply no substantive reason why a president cannot push what he has promised on the campaign trail. The platitudes from corporate lobbyists insisting that the alleged difference between “campaigning and governing” somehow absolves politicians from breaking their promise is deliberately designed to perpetuate the status quo.
There are a lot of people in DC who are drinking the same Kool-Aid this dingbat from PhRMA has been drinking. You know the disease has reached an advanced stage when they start saying this stuff out loud.