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Archive for March 17th, 2010

This column by Tim Carney in the Washington Examiner should make every honest person nauseous. It explains how the big pharmaceutical companies are Obama’s biggest allies. This is well know inside the beltway, but average Americans don’t understand that Obamacare is largely a giveaway to powerful interest groups. Two observations are worth making. First, the pharmaceutical companies are going to get screwed over once the bill passes. The budget numbers will look terrible and the White House, under pressure to do something (besides just higher taxes), will stab the companies in the back by imposing price controls. Second, even though this will be bad for healthcare since it will undermine research on new drugs, I will take a certain perverse satisfaction in that result. Heck, I think opponents of government-run healthcare should have offered amendments to tax and regulate the industry during debate on the healthcare bills. Companies that climb into bed with government deserve all the bad things that happen to them:

As they whip for the health care bill, Democratic leaders pack a mean one-two punch of populist rhetoric and the hefty financial backing of the drug industry. …drug industry lobbyists, according to Politico, spent the weekend “huddled with Democratic staffers” who needed the drug lobby to “sign off” on proposals before moving ahead. Meanwhile, we learn that the drug lobby is buying millions of dollars of ads in 43 districts where a Democratic candidate stands to suffer for supporting the bill. The doctors’ lobby and the hospitals’ lobby are also on board with the Senate bill. …Of all the single-industry lobbies in Washington, the largest is the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA spent $26.2 million on lobbying last year — that’s nearly three times as much as the insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, which spent $8.9 million. If you include individual companies’ lobbying, pharmaceuticals blow away the competition, beating all other industries by 50 percent, according to data at the Center for Responsive Politics. Given this Big Pharma clout, it’s unsurprising that the bill Obama’s whipping for — Senate bill — has nearly everything the drug companies wanted: prohibiting reimportation of drugs, preserving Medicare’s overpayment for drugs, lengthy exclusivity for biotech drugs, a mandate that states subsidize drugs under Medicaid, hundreds of billions in subsidies for drugs, and more.

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The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that the so-called stimulus generated jobs and growth. I addressed some of the profound shortcomings in CBO’s Keynesian model in a previous post, pointing out that the model is structured to produce certain results regardless of what happens in the real world. Interestingly, the Director of the CBO, Doug Elmendorf, basically agrees with me. In a recent speech, recorded by C-Span, he was asked during the question-and-answer session whether the model simply spits out pre-determined numbers. After some hemming and hawing and a follow-up question, he confessed “that’s right” when asked if the model would be unable to detect whether the stimulus failed. The relevant exchange begins around the he 39-minute mark of this recording, and Elmendorf’s confession takes place shortly after the 40-minute mark (I selflessly watched the entire thing so you wouldn’t have to suffer waiting for the key moment).

I’m not sure whether this admission is good news or bad news. It is a sign of progress, I suppose, that CBO’s Director is now on the record acknowledging that the model is useless (at least for purposes of measuring the effectiveness of more government spending). But it is perhaps an even more troubling indication of what’s wrong in Washington that nobody is concluding that the time has come to junk Keynesian analysis. This is either an updated version of The Emperor’s New Clothes or a perverse form of the joke about the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight because there’s light, even though he lost them someplace else.

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 I realize, of course, that this is actually very un-funny when you think about it, but it’s the best I can do. To darken your day, I just checked the intrade.com betting site, and the market is guessing that there’s a two-in-three chance of this turkey getting approved.

By the way, the nice folks at WordPress told me something that may have solved my problem with getting pictures to show up. This one worked when I clicked “preview,” so hopefully you’re seeing it without having to do the extra click.

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