George Graham

Bernie is Right – Again

bernieI wonder why Bernie Sanders needs to point out the glaring aberrations in American society. They seem so self evident to me. And evidently to the thousands who flock to his political rallies. So why do they still need to be pointed out?

Why, for example, does Bernie – or anyone – need to tell Americans that the pharmaceutical companies are robbing us?

Are too many Americans stubbornly refusing to recognize the truth? Or are they too absorbed in their daily lives to notice how they’re being swindled?

Of course in a country of more than 300 million people, it could be that individuals feel powerless. So why should they worry about things they can’t change?

But in a democratic society like this, if enough individuals get together, change is achievable. It’s like those tiny ants that you see carrying a big chunk of chicken (or whatever) across your driveway.

Among his demands for reform, Senator Sanders is calling on Congress to allow Medicare to bargain on bulk purchases from drug companies. You might think Medicare can insist on discounts just like any other big buyer, but Congress actually passed a law banning Medicare from using such standard negotiating tactics.

Why? The pharmaceutical industry lobbyists greased the politicians’ palms and twisted their arms as usual.

Here’s how the deal is went down, according to a group called the Campaign for America’s Future:

When the Bush administration put together the prescription drug bill in 2002, it invited lobbyists in to help draft the bill. As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson detail the story in their book “Off Center,” the drug industry contributed nearly $30 million in the 2002 election cycle, three-fourths to Republicans who controlled the White House and the Congress. In 2003, the drug industry spent more than $100 million on federal lobbying.

With that kind of Congress, it’s no wonder Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world – even though it’s our taxes that fund much of the research that developed the drugs.

Sanders says one in five Americans don’t fill a prescription because they can’t afford to – and that means people are dying while the drug companies rake in huge profits.

As Sanders noted, Americans spend about 40 percent more on a prescription than Canadians… nearly five times more than people in Denmark.

And it seems the scam gets worse when the government foots the bill.

Here’s a personal example:

I’m a diabetic and I take insulin injections twice a day. A bottle of insulin used to cost about $30 just about anywhere in Lakeland. Since the government started paying for it (under Medicare Part D) the price is anywhere from $80 to $120 – except at Wal-Mart where it’s about $24.

That’s the kind of craziness you find in America’s “free market,”  where big corporations are free to rip us off – with the complicity of a corrupted Congress.

Of course,  if he becomes President, Sanders can’t change society single-handed. Nobody can.

But even if he doesn’t get elected – even if he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination – he will have performed a great service this election season by raising public awareness of so many shameful inequities and abuses in America.

If enough of us get mad enough, we might run those thieves out of Congress – and send the lobbyists packing with them.

Click for the CAF’s report.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for