Saturday, January 13, 2007

Symbolism and 50 cents

The Democrats in the House have passed a bill that would require the government to negotiate lower prices with drug companies. This is opposed to the Republican plan, which is to pay the highest price possible. In an open declaration of allegiance to the principle of absolute and unapologetic corruption, 170 Republicans voted against the bill and the president has promised to veto it.

Although the Democrats had an 85 vote cushion, they concede that nothing is likely to change. “This bill has symbolic importance...” said Representative Murphy of Connecticut and the Times reporter editorializes (with no attribution whatsoever) that the measure is unlikely to become law.

So if the idea of negotiating lower prices is just symbolic and unlikely to become law, what is really going on?

According to the gist of the article, it is unlikely that the power to negotiate would by itself have much of an effect. In order to achieve the stated aim of lowering drug prices, the Democrats would need to follow the Veterans Affairs example and implement a federal price ceiling and a uniform list of covered drugs, effective measures to which the Democrats are opposed.

So it’s not really about lowering prices. It’s about symbolism and making the Republicans look bad. Tune in tomorrow as the Democrats symbolically bring the troops home from Iraq while in the material world the Republicans throw another 20,000 into the quagmire. After that, we can look forward to the Democrats symbolically restoring tax fairness for the wealthy while the Republicans have to settle for yet another tax cut for the wealthy. And so on.