AuthoR
Alan Wallach

Alan Wallach

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Cure for Drug Gouging.

It seems to me that the solution to the drug cost problem is to eliminate patent protection for drugs. This is so that there will be competition in the drug industry. The argument that we need incentives is bullshit. Let the drug companies that don’t like being prevented from screwing the public, go out of business. There will be others to take their place. In fact, an additional possibility is to treat the development and production of drugs like any other federal defense contract. The NIH should contract with the drug company to produce a solution (cure or treatment) for a particular ailment on a CPFF (Cost Plus Fixed Fee) basis which is how the government contracts for other things. This means the NIH sends out for bids for a particular solution and based on competitive CPFF estimates, which also considers the approach to the problem, awards a contract. If the drug companies won’t participate, no problem. There are a host of universities that will bid. For those of you that don’t know what CPFF is: If the cost exceeds estimate, the cost is reimbursed at the rate established in the bid. If the cost is less, the fee is still the same. This is an incentive to get finished below estimate. The fee is fixed as a percentage of the original bid. The costs themselves are audited. There can be no price gouging this way. Our greatest progress occurred without profit at medical and/or research facilities.

McLUHAN’S MESSAGE

This las year culminating in the nomination of Donald Trump has convinced me that the concept of the 24/7 news channel, which at one time seemed promising, is an unmitigated disaster. There is not enough significant news to fill the airways and pressed for profits (ratings) or they don’t survive, they opt for the most outrageous pieces of news. Then they select the ones that will produce ratings, regardless of their significance, and repeat them over and over and over supplemented by the views, with a few exceptions, of the most vapid talking heads. If it was benign, I could ignore it. But it produced a Donald Trump which removes it from the benign and puts it smack in the malignant category. And I’m watching it metastasize before my eyes. McLuhan was prescient.

REPUBLICANS AND RACISM

The republican party is now clearly racist. They ate up the birther argument and reacted in concert with Trump’s claim Obama wasn’t born in the US. The implication was that when he was born, his mother knew he was going to run for president and so falsified a birth certificate. Considering the legs that this absurd allegation picked up, one can only deduce that the republicans were racist. They had decided to prevent him from doing anything, hoping to eliminate him from the history books. He tried to work with them in congress with obstruction at every turn. Now that he has accomplished many things without congress, they call him an imperial president.
This election season has clearly shown that Trump is a racist, even though some of his best friends are African-Americans, some are Muslim and some are Mexican, a racist attitude if ever there was one. Democrats took a beating in 2010 primarily out of laziness getting out to the polls and because of that, the house of representatives is so gerrymandered that even with a million vote majority, democrats are in the minority. I can only hope that the Trump nomination and his emotionally disturbed behavior and campaign will cost republicans both the senate and the house. But for our nation’s sake, please vote even if it’s inconvenient.

REPUBLICANS AND EDUCATION

The ignorance of the American electorate is obvious. One need only follow our election campaigns and see who gets elected. Madison said 250 years ago and it is emblazoned on my high school that “Education is the true foundation of civil liberty.” This ignorance can be reduced with proper education. Fundamentalists in particular, fanatically resist that the government wants to educate their children. Republicans cater to them by pushing educational decisions to the local levels, where the curricula will be established by the dunces in their midst. They are terrified that their young might learn something modern. This is great for republicans because with an ignorant electorate they can be convinced to vote against their own self interest. One of the reactions to federal standards by some of these dunces is home schooling. Just calling it that is a joke in many cases (not all). A function of government is to educate its people. And the people who administer it should be the smart ones, not the dunces.

Proposals to make college affordable to all is essential, especially now. Back in time, I got a college degree and a good one, which cost me fifty dollars per semester. I got a masters degree in the Air Force. And I went to graduate school on a PhD program on the GI bill. So college level and graduate school cost me virtually nothing. My children are saddled with student loans but at the undergraduate level they once weren’t too bad. Tuitions were reasonable at ivy league colleges. But later on, law school and business school are draining them. And my grandchildren are even worse. Today college students without means and their parents are saddled with huge debt and can’t find jobs that pay enough to cover it. The banks are raping the students. The cost of money for banks is close to zero and the interest they charge, which republican congress refuses to change, is obscene. At least something is being done to take the loans away from the predatory banking industry. But a democratic platform is and should be to make college level education affordable. In most of Europe, college is free for those who want it and have the intellect. It was once so in the US and I believe could be again and should be. State schools should be as close to free as possible with totally free being the goal.

Where will the money come from? Don’t get me started. I don’t have the time. Kudos to Harvard for what they are doing for low income families. Maybe other schools will follow suit. I live in hope.

REPUBLICANS VS. LABOR

Back in the thirties, the growth of the labor movement gave rise to the middle class. In unity the worker got the strength needed to demand what they wanted. Industry eventually was forced into a 40 hour week, had to pay workers a decent wage and provide benefits or they would face strikes. Companies didn’t give in easily. They tried to break strikes at first with muscle and succeeded. This worked for a while until labor answered with corresponding muscle which, by the way, is how the mob got into labor – as the muscle. Industry complained bitterly to their legislators.

From that point on, republicans have spent the last seventy or so years trying to weaken or even break the unions in the interests of their corporate contributors and lobbyists. I have to say that the democrats don’t have completely clean hands regarding labor. The Kennedy’s were well known to be anti-Hoffa, president of the teamster union. Other democrats were also complicit. Slowly but inexorably mostly republican legislators were very successful. It began with the Taft-Hartley act in the 1940’s, which made labor divulge its finances giving industry the intelligence needed to evaluate the strike threat. A rich union could afford a strike. A poor one, no. So unions kept their financial condition hidden until the republican Taft-Hartley act forced them to reveal it. Then right-to-work laws passed by state legislatures when they got the opportunity, weakened unions ability to collect dues, reducing their financial strength. President Reagan, that icon of the right, may he have no peace, broke the back of the flight controllers union. State governors like Scott Walker and John Kasich signed laws limiting the power of government employee unions. The phony excuse was cost savings and reducing government. This insidious step by step destruction of labor resulted significantly in the fading of the middle class. Labor created a standard for wages and benefits that forced industry to be competitive even for non-union workers. There was always the threat that if they didn’t compete with wages, their labor pool would be small or their own workers would form a union and force them to do it.

The argument was made that automation is forcing labor downsizing is a bad one. One of labor’s primary goals from the beginning was to make management share productivity increases with their employees. If companies did this there would be no problem, but without unions or weakened unions, they don’t. All productivity gains go to the owners. If productivity increases are shared, working hours can be reduced, paid vacations increased, benefits increased etc. – no reason to downsize. If automation causes changes in skills required, education can get workers prepared for changes. Now businesses fire their employees and in many cases eliminate local manufacturing entirely. They ship their manufacturing overseas where costs are slave-level wages. Ask yourself the question, how do republicans get working people to vote for them when all they want to do is stab them in the back? It has always puzzled me.

REPUBLICANS AND ME

I am at my ripe old age a liberal and I guess will always be, despite a famous quote erroneously attributed to Churchill that one must be conservative at thirty-five. I am also a democrat. There was a time, long gone, that I could have entertained voting for a republican. I should add that I have entertained but never voted republican. Back in 1968, I was so angry at Hubert Humphrey’s refusal to oppose the Vietnam war because of his fear of Lyndon Johnson, I had every intention of voting for Nixon. That was the sixties equivalent of voting for Trump, although is retrospect it can’t even compare to Trump. I went into the voting booth and when I reached for the Nixon lever, my hand started to shake violently like Dr. Strangelove’s arm and pull me to the Humphrey lever like a ouija. But today, voting republican is not even a consideration.
The republican praxis if to fuck the voting public while simultaneously convincing them that they are helping them. This coupled with the blatant stupidity of a large portion of the American electorate that believes the rhetoric and votes against its own self-interest, gives the republicans close to half the votes in every election. The term working-class republicans should be an oxymoron. That it is not, is an American disgrace.
There are millions of republicans who vote thus because they always have, or their parents and/or neighbors have. They are lazy because they don’t think before they vote. And if not lazy, they are ignorant and have no fucking idea what they are voting for. I hear the comment often from republican voters “I am a conservative.” When I inquire socratically what that means, they usually haven’t got the slightest idea. Some know a little, and reply they are fiscally conservative and some even concede that they are socially liberal. They don’t know what that means either. Some know the propaganda buzzwords or talking points like the “deficit is too large.” They have no clue what implications that has and how it affects them. The republican phony concern about the deficit reminds me of the man with the horse that costs too much for his upkeep. He decides to teach the horse to eat less. Each day, he feeds the horse less and less until the horse drops dead. The man’s reaction is “just when I get the horse to cost me nothing, the horse dies on me.” Republicans would cut government spending until the government dies and provides no services. They say that’s good, that is, until they need help for themselves or their constituents. Then they scream about the failure of government. But under normal circumstances there’s no money for roads, communications, public transportation, bridges, disease control, help for natural disasters etc. etc. The republicans did find the money and manage to get us into a disastrous war in Iraq which cost us trillions, off the budget. But fix a pothole? No fucking way. I’ve also found that even the politicians promoting reduced government spending don’t have the slightest idea why they are doing it. Most have no background in economics and are sold on these talking points by lobbyists of industries contributing to their election campaigns. Reduced government is code for eliminating regulations. A very large mass of American voters don’t ask which party will help them and vote for it. They belong to their party first, thenlet themselves be convinced that the party’s platform is what they should believe, and then spend the rest of their time spitting out talking points that they don’t understand, like a catechism.

The American Nuthouse

Well, we’ve done it. Donald J Trump, politics’ answer to the Kardashians and the Housewives of New Jersey is the presumptive nominee of the republican?? party. A monster created by the visual media for money and the ratings of a reality show is now the nominee of one of the two major parties of this once proud country. Having acted irresponsibly by overexposing this sick joke of a candidate and instead of apologizing to us for their gross error, the talking heads are doubling down and trying to legitimize him and show how he might just win. The alternatives to Trump were so incompetent and/or disliked, there was no one to displace him. The result is that a monumental schmuck is now running for president. I once thought it couldn’t get worse than W. But it did. I remember that old proverb, “It always gets darkest before it gets black.” And Andy Borowitz observation is valid. Even if he loses, we are still left with the morons who voted for him.

Climate Change

Man made climate change is real. But it’s not only the CO we dump into the atmosphere, which is bad enough, it’s also the destruction of the rain forests. No plants = no oxygen. The deniers are sick. Even if it weren’t proven, there’s enough evidence to indicate that it certainly wouldn’t hurt and might help to behave as if it were proven. Bill Nye quoted Upton Sinclair and it bears repeating. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Why are Republicans?

Trump has demonstrated something very interesting. Most republicans are not conservatives. They are republicans, regardless – born that way, parents that way, friends that way, church that way, club that way, neighborhood that way etc. If you ask most, not all, republicans why he or she is a republican, my personal experience is that they really can’t give you a sensible answer. Many have told me they are conservative. But when I ask them what they mean by conservative, they haven’t got the slightest fucking idea. Some will spit the republican talking points at you but they have no idea what they mean and how it affects their lives. That is the only way you can explain why almost half the US population votes republican, most of them against their own self interest. Given the current chaos in the republican party, it would make sense for the sane republican politicians to leave the party and form a new more issue-oriented center-right party. They would pick up some centrist democrats and marginalize the lunatics. That’s what would happen in a parliamentary democracy which we thumb our noses at. But it wouldn’t work here because most of the current republican voters wouldn’t change parties. They would vote republican no matter what. Republican politicians know that the voters really couldn’t care less about issues. They don’t even know what the issues are. They just vote republican because that’s the thing to do. Trump has proven that. He’s a closet democrat. As time passes in this campaign, his democratic leanings come to the fore with no effect whatsoever on his poll numbers. Republican voters don’t care that he’s a democrat as long as he calls himself a republican.

The Disgrace called Media

TV networks are so panicked to call the election first, that they can’t even wait until people are finished voting. Brian Williams tried to explain the dilemma MSNBC has in the NH primary that everyone is doing it so they have to. They don’t. The minute the polls closed but before people voted, they made their predictions. This is destructive to our democratic system. We stopped doing it in national elections. Why is it OK locally. It was bad enough that they felt that they had to give that psychopath Trump hours and hours of free air time because he called Mexicans rapists. They gave no time to serious candidates like Kasich, Bush and Sanders for months because ratings were more important than democracy. They should all have their licenses taken away and their places on the airwaves given to other entities. They are a disgrace and they get worse every year.

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