Wednesday, September 7, 2011

None Dare Call It Corruption

Warning: Strident, intemperate post follows (at least at the end).

Exhibit A is a great summary from our friend Dr. Roy Poses at Health Care Renewal of the case of the contaminated heparin:

Bottom line: As most people have by now forgotten, 21 Americans died in 2007 due to contaminated heparin sold by Baxter Laboratories and made from ingredients manufactured in China. Dr. Poses shows that even recently written reports and news summaries dodge the tough questions of corporate responsibility. If a madman had slipped poison into bottles of an over-the-counter medicine and 21 people died, there would be a huge hue and cry and demands that heads roll. As Dr. Poses lays out in detail, various people made some important corporate decisions, all in the name of saving money, that predictably resulted in an unsafe drug being inflicted upon US patients. If you buy a Rolex at a certain discounted price, we all assume, with justification, that you ought to know that it's been stolen. Similarly, if Dr. Poses's summary is factual, anyone buying the heparin or the raw ingredients at the discounted prices being charged ought to have known that the chemicals came from unsupervised and unregulated workshops where purity and safety could not be assured. Not to have carefully tested and monitored the chemicals thus obtained, even assuming it was OK to get the chemicals from those sources at all, was another deliberate corporate decision. Yet no one, apparently, is accountable.

Exhibit B is an investigative reporting piece published by the AP today:

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, who's written many good pieces on the pharmaceutical industry, here reports on a recent study of campaign contributions to the twelve members of the Congressional "supercommittee" charged with coming up with a deficit reduction plan. Not surprisingly, deep-pockets health care interests, including Pharma and doctors, are near the top of the list. Not surprisingly, the offices of the involved congresspeople deny that any of these saintly individuals is ever swayed by mere campaign cash. Not surprisingly, if you believe that line, you have to believe that smart people who manage to make large bundles of money are completing wasting millions of dollars of it by giving campaign donations that produce no results for them at all.

As we have commented on previously:
--the smart Washington money is currently betting that these health-care special interests want the supercommittee plan to fail, based on their assumption that the across-the-board cuts that would automatically be triggered by that failure would be easier for them to live with than targeted and really smart Medicare and Medicaid cost reductions that were aimed at those things that don't help patients. (Given that doctors, hospitals, and drug and device companies all make billions off tests and treatments that fail to provide health benefits according to the best scientific evidence.) Is it possible that all the supercommittee members who take such major campaign contributions from these special interests are not going to be influenced by this preference of their corporate handlers?

The above was all reasonably temperate. Here comes the intemperate part. If all this was happening in Afghanistan or India, and corporations were getting away with murder and the media was keeping quiet about it just because it was corporate and not individual behavior, and politicians were being bought (or even appeared to be bought) by big money, the word we would use for it is "corruption." So my question is--why are people so reluctant to use this word when this happens right in front of us in the USA? Why don't we admit flat out that we have a corrupt corporate system, and that with the Citizens United Supreme Court decision opening the door wide to unrestricted corporate campaign contributions, we have let the corruption flow unhindered from the corporate world into government; and that the media, owned by large corporate interests, has little desire to shine much light at least on the corporate side of the equation?

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