Overdosing on Prescription Drugs

Editorial written by Christopher Morrill on Sunday, October 22, 2000

from the severe-obesity-in-the-federal-government dept.

Screw prescription drugs. If you can't afford them, it's not my fault. Go eat your dog food and collect your soda cans and leave me the hell alone.

Anytime you need that many prescriptions to stay alive, it's a sure sign that maybe you just need to go ahead and die, already.

Someone has to say it.

I am exaggerating a bit to make a point.

Prescription drug "benefits" and "relief" have been the cornerstone of almost everyone's campaign in the year 2000. Not in recent memory has one single issue so dominated an election year. Everyone's talking about prescription drugs, from the presidential candidates all the way down to the nominee for town dog catcher.

What's remarkable is the lack of argument over it. There's absolutely no variation of opinion. Everyone seems to want a government takeover of prescription drugs. The Democrats want to give you a big bribe in exchange for your vote; the Republicans want to give you a slightly smaller bribe. It's a bribe either way. Everyone's on the bandwagon.

How did this happen? When did this crisis occur? Did I blink and miss it?

Whatever happened to the good ol' days, when Republicans would automatically oppose any new government spending plan? Apparently they like this newest welfare plan...and have signed on with enthusiasm. The GOP's lack of spine on issues like this make me remember why I just couldn't vote for them anymore.

Forget for a moment whether we can, as a nation, afford a prescription drug benefit. Sure, we can. Thanks to tremendous over-taxation that the government is so adamantly opposed to giving back to us, we could hypothetically afford a lot of things. We could probably afford to buy prescription drugs for the entire third world if we wanted to. Heck, if we were feeling frisky, we might just buy the entire third world. Period.

But that doesn't make it right. It's still someone else's money.

A drug company, like any business, will charge as much as the market will allow for it's products. Not more. If prescription drug prices were truly too high, no one would be able to afford them. Then the drug companies would go out of business.

It's an amazingly simple economics lesson that any college freshman can tell you is correct. The "invisible hand" slaps you upside the head again. Hurts, doesn't it?

Even better, with government intervention, prescription drug prices will likely go up. By creating a new entitlement, demand will increase. That's a promise. Guaranteed government payments will encourage drug companies to "pad" their prices because they know the "customer" isn't footing all the bill.

(Test this sometime by getting an estimate for car repair. Wait a few weeks so the shop forgets you, then take it back for the same estimate. But tell them your insurance company is paying for it. Which estimate do you really think will be higher?)

Don't tell that to a most politicians, though. Logic means nothing to them. They're too busy making good intentions into bad public policy...and, of course, buying votes in the process.

Once again, the government is coming to the rescue. Government has already wiped out poverty, put every person to work, won the war on drugs, erased discrimination, established world peace, reduced gas shortages with the greatest of ease, saved the environment, educated everyone, and outlawed death itself.

And that's just Al Gore.

But don't worry. The same government that has solved all those problems is now going to work it's magic on prescription drugs. The same politicians that relentlessly bash evil HMO's are wanting to put seniors into a...you guessed it...government HMO.

The irony is thick.

If Social Security is the "third rail", what are prescription drugs? The "fourth rail?" Better yet, the "Firestone"?

The truth is something like this:

Senior citizens are, per capita, the wealthiest age group of our population. I find it hard to sympathize with their plight. Our tax dollars already float a spectacularly inefficient Social Security and Medicare system that funnels most of it's money towards Wrinkled-Americans. When that much money goes to the people who generally need it least, it's really hard to feel sorry for them.

I'm sure there are some seniors who have problems affording their prescription drugs. That's a given. However, there are a lot of people that have trouble buying a lot of things. We don't automatically buy everything for everyone, do we?

Do we?

Thankfully, you can't make any arguments that are based on the plea "But, it's for the children!" That's a really persuasive tactic when you're dealing with helpless little rug rats, who are so cute in their pre-criminal years. But that tired modus operandi doesn't fly here. Some seniors may indeed wear diapers, but most are far from helpless babies.

In fact, the elderly have had their entire lives to plan for their retirement. What were they doing all that time? Playing an extra round of golf, or putting new tires on the RV? Do they not hold some responsibility for their own situation?

Apparently not, because neither Republicans or Democrats are standing in the way of the largest government expansion since Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society", which worked so well. No one is saying "no".

Seniors are dependable voters, probably because they have nothing better to do on a Tuesday. Like go to work. So all politicians feel the compulsive need to kiss their Depends-enwrapped asses, even on trivial issues. It's a shame.

That's one of the reasons I'm sometimes glad to belong to an alternative political party. I'm a Libertarian, which can be a hopeless task on occasion. But at times like this I'm proud of it. I can say things the Republicans really want to say, but can't, because they're too busy trying to win re-election. Happiness is: being able to say what you really think.

Just remember what Nancy Reagan preached about drugs. Then apply it to Uncle Sam picking up the tab for your prescription drugs...

...just say no. Because someone has to.