Self-identified socialist (and U.S. Senator from Vermont) Bernie Sanders joined MSNBC hostÂ Ed SchultzÂ yesterday to discuss what each of them views asÂ Barack Obama‘s noble quest to transform the American healthcare system into aÂ government-run, taxpayer-funded enterprise.
Sanders, who foundedÂ the Congressional Progressive CaucusÂ – which features a host of far-left luminaries likeÂ Barney Frank,Â Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee,Â Nancy Pelosi, andÂ Maxine WatersÂ – told Schultz: “The real solution of course is a single-payer national health-care program, which is the only way … that you’re going to provide universal, comprehensive, cost effectiveÂ health care to all of our people.”
“The drug companies and the insurance companies,” Sanders asserted for good measure, “have historically spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure we remain the only country in the industrialized world without a natonal health-care program, and that we continue to pay the highest prices for prescription drugs.”
By making the foregoing statements, Sanders demonstrated that, as a socialist, he is entirely ignorant of basic economics — an ignorance he attempts to maskÂ behind aÂ well-rehearsed litany of lamentations condemningÂ theÂ greed that purportedly motivates all manner of capitalist ventures, most notably the drug-manufacturing industry. Meanwhile, he entirely missed the obvious.Â
For instance, Sanders didn’t mention thatÂ prescription drugs are sometimes expensive because theyÂ cost a great dealÂ to develop. Only one in every 5,000 to 10,000 compounds that are tested ultimately make it throughÂ the 15-year, $1.3 billionÂ process of research & development, clinical trials,Â and FDA approval before ending up on theÂ pharmacy shelf.Â The senatorÂ never evinced the barest shred of awareness thatÂ when a company produces a successful drug, it needs to recoup not only the money that was spent developing it, butÂ also the money that was spent developingÂ the failures.Â Indeed, only 20 percent of FDA-approved drugs generate enough profit to cover the cost of research and development.
From listening to Sanders, one would never realize that drug prices in fact have not skyrocketed in recent years, but rather have barely risen at all. In September 2007Â the annual inflation rate for drug prices was a mere 1 percent — a thirty-year low. This was chiefly theÂ result of the ever-increasingÂ use of generic drugs, whose pricesÂ have fallen because of free-market competition–the very antithesis of what Sanders, the socialist, proposes.
And of course, Sanders was silent on the fact that the very health-care system which heÂ routinely savagesÂ has beenÂ responsible forÂ fully 90 percent of the lifesaving drugs produced worldwide.
Nor did Sanders see fit to mention that countries with government-run health care invariably keep prescription-drug prices down by imposing price controls andÂ rationing. As a result, many of the cutting-edge medicationsÂ from which Americans benefit are not even available in places likeÂ Canada, Britain, France, Italy, and virtually every other country where price controls are in force.
Senator Sanders, who understands nothing about the financial risks that entrepreneurs like drug manufacturers take on a regular basis,Â is quite content to sit back andÂ accuse the evil capitalists of beingÂ excessively greedy — in stark contrast, presumably, to himself and all the other selfless altruists who populate the United States Congress.
Though Ed SchultzÂ presented Sanders asÂ some sort of expert who “tells it like it is” on the subject of healthcare,Â it would have beenÂ virtually impossible for the talk-show hostÂ to have unearthed anyone less knowledgeable, less capable of counseling a wise course of action,Â orÂ more certain to waste every moment of his viewers’ time, than Sanders.