By George Capsis
Times veteran op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, tells a good story of how in 1981, he, as a young Washington Post intern, called the office of the newly elected mayor of Burlington Vermont to learn how this very American small town could have elected a “socialist.” After a lengthy interview with what he thought was an assistant, he discovered he had been interviewing Bernie Sanders himself.
After offering this introduction in a February 4 OP-ED piece, Kristof sets up Sanders for a few punches:
“I admire Sanders’s passion, his relentless focus on inequality and his consistency. When he was sworn in as mayor of Burlington (35 years ago) he declared: “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the millions of families in the middle are gradually sliding out of the middle class and into poverty.”
That trend has continued and accelerated so now the US has the most unequal distribution of wealth of any country in the world with 75.4 % of it being owned by the richest 10%.
But let us get back to the Kristof challenge when he asks Bernie in arresting italics: “Can you translate your bold vision into reality?”
In 1933 another American aristocrat (not with a Brooklyn accent but with a Groton and Harvard accent) also faced the disintegration of the middle class. Franklin D. Roosevelt passed legislation that stopped the abuses of Wall Street and got Social Security and a minimum wage passed (The first minimum wage was $.50 cents and I earned it at the Hamilton Grange Library on 145th Street back when every day I saw destitute men living in cardboard hovels under the 125th Street viaduct).
Kristof echoes a widely held belief by liberals who want the medical single payer system or as Kristof recognizes it “Medicare for all” but offers “it can’t happen because it will cost $3 trillion over a decade.”
We have to pay for our medical treatment and medications whether via Medicare, insurance or from our bank account—it just costs more if we have to pay through a Blue Cross and Blue Shield or AARP, who advertise, churn useless paper, and make a profit. The US currently has the most costly medicine of all of the eleven advanced nations at $8,508 per person as compared to government run Sweden at $3,925.
But what does free enterprise medicine cost?
Recently I have received several calls from a pharmaceutical company making a drug to treat macular degeneration called Eylea asking if I needed financial assistance since the drug costs $2000 per injection. Medicare pays 80% and AARP’s United Health Care pays the other 20% but I of course have to pay a premium to United. (Incidentally AARP was started as, and still is, a marketing company—somebody got the idea to make it look like a 501c3 for senior causes.)
I Goggled my eye drug Eylea and found that it was a product of a multi-billion dollar drug company Regeneron and asked to speak to the press department. After a day’s hiatus, I got a call back from a very controlled young lady. In response to my questions about the high price of their drug, she offered to send me a CNBC interview of their CEO Leonard Schliefer on the subject.
Since October 1970 the price index has gone up 12 percent, while the cost of drugs has gone up 160 percent, but in the CNBC interview, a relaxed and tieless Schleifer is unperturbed. He says “investment goes where there is a profit” and “we can’t discover these in Russia” and “if you can’t pay we help pay for part of it”—but still a 160 percent increase.
As you may recall, as first lady Hillary headed a group to bring about government health insurance and was shot down. Now she argues we should be glad for Obama Care—don’t throw it out and start all over because with those awful Republicans in control you will end up with nothing.
She asks that you boldly follow her banner—“compromise.”
But that is not the banner of youth.