Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The A.I.G. Bonuses Were a Good Thing

I mad, your mad, the Congress, the head of the FED Mr. Bernanke and the Secretary of the Treasury are mad, about the AIG bonuses and the AIG bailout in general. Well, it is about damn time!
We need to be angry about this whole mess. It isn't that the bailouts aren't necessary or good for the economy. We are in the worst national and international financial crisis of our lives and extraordinary measures have been required. But the way it has been done has revealed the insulated, arrogant bubble these financial types are living in. These financial eggheads have finally been revealed for what they are, selfish, greedy paper shufflers who add no value to our economy but who think they deserve huge rewards for performing unethical and financially destructive tasks well.
I know the big democrats had their hands in the pie to but this whole thing is sooo republican. Come on lets all get rich in the stock market, where nothing is what it say it is; where lying, cheating and stealing are considered virtues. That is what we need to be angry about. Remember the tenants of the republican religion? No, not the god thing, I'm talking about their real religion, money and power, the "free" market that because of it's amazing abilities was the answer to all of our problems. If the government would just get out of the way of innocent hard working business men and let them do what ever they want to make money!
We sleep walking citizens listened to the promises and were sympathetic to their cause. After all didn't big businesses supply people with jobs, didn't they contribute to charities, weren't they benevolent corporate citizens who believed in truth, justice and the American Way. Actually, no.
Reagan started the ball rolling by advocating the government and all those darn regulations of their's were blocking honest hard working people from making money and stimulating the economy. The government, unions, laborers and OSHA were the problem in our country and Big Corporations and wealthy people were the answer, Let them go and the wealth would trickle down to the undeserving workers and laborers. And for 29 years our politicians have clung to those beliefs as though they were the Holy Grail. Even after Enron ruined thousands and thousands of people's lives and recordings were made of their traders contempt for the rules of fairness, equity and value in business transactions, there was no national anger. Just a few years ago the republicans were saying that 401K's were the logical replacement for the time honored American tradition of well funded pension plans. Those of us who believed that will now be working well into our "retirement years".
Make no mistake about it, we will be paying for the abuses that republicanism believed in for generations to come. Our taxes will go higher, our standard of living will go lower and we the people will pay for the lying, cheating and stealing carried out in the name of Ronald Reagan's philosophy of government and capitalism. We need to be mad!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Pharmaceutical Giants Merge Into Less and Less

Have you noticed how many of the giant drug companies are merging lately?

Just like their buddies in the financial industry they are driven to merge into larger and larger mega-companies. Remember how the mantra of justification for this conglomeration of competing companies used to be rationalized as achieving 'new efficiencies' with the combined forces of the two different companies. At least that was the marketing talk. And like all marketing slogans this one purposefully covers up the truth. You may also recall that when Bush negotiated for the Medicare Part D plans, that now cover prescriptions for the elderly, that he would not allow the government to negotiate prices with Big Pharma because that would 'discourage' all the money they put into the development of new drugs.

They needed that extra cash that grandma and grandpa had to pay out for the "donut hole" to fund the discovery of ever newer and more amazing drugs produced by the white smock wearing heroes with the nerdy glasses that they show in their most earnest commercials.

Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened: when is the last time you heard of a brand new drug? Maybe Chantix, the stop smoking drug that can make people psychotic or Advair which contains a drug shown to increase the risk of death in it's users. Overall there is a trickle of new drugs that are hitting the market. Mostly we have retreads, like Nexium: a reformulated Prilosec, Clarinex which is Claritin, AmbienCR a remade Ambien etc.

These gigantic drug companies will no longer fund the production of a drug that won't automatically make them multiple billions of dollars a year. In other words, the larger these companies get the less motivation they have to shepherd new drugs into production.

Given the advancements in the sciences of molecular biology and genetics that have been achieved in the past two decades, we now have the knowledge to make drugs that exactly mesh with an individual person's genes, but there is not enough financial motivation for Big Pharma to manufacture them. So when you see those commercials again about how much the drug companies need to make to be able to invent new drugs remember that they are lying. They spend the bulk of their budgets on advertising not new drug development. Many new drugs are discovered and very few of them are produced.

The Failure of Big Pharma The Atlantic Business Channel

The Innovation Gap in Pharmaceutical Drug Discovery Kellogg School of Management

RX R&D Myths: The Case Against the Drug Industries 'R&D Scare Card' Public Citizen

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Report: US on short end of health care 'value gap'

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press Writer | March 12, 2009

WASHINGTON --If the global economy were a 100-yard dash, the U.S. would start 23 yards behind its closest competitors because of health care that costs too much and delivers too little, a business group says in a report to be released Thursday.

The report from the Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of major companies, says America's health care system has become a liability in a global economy.

Concern about high U.S. costs has existed for years, and business executives -- whose companies provide health coverage for workers -- have long called for getting costs under control. Now President Barack Obama says the costs have become unsustainable and the system must be overhauled.

Americans spend $2.4 trillion a year on health care. The Business Roundtable report says Americans in 2006 spent $1,928 per capita on health care, at least two-and-a-half times more per person than any other advanced country.

In a different twist, the report took those costs and factored benefits into the equation.

It compares statistics on life expectancy, death rates and even cholesterol readings and blood pressures. The health measures are factored together with costs into a 100-point "value" scale. That hasn't been done before, the authors said.

The results are not encouraging.

The United States is 23 points behind five leading economic competitors: Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France. The five nations cover all their citizens, and though their systems differ, in each country the government plays a much larger role than in the U.S.

The cost-benefit disparity is even wider -- 46 points -- when the U.S. is compared with emerging competitors: China, Brazil and India.

"What's important is that we measure and compare actual value -- not just how much we spend on health care, but the performance we get back in return," said H. Edward Hanway, CEO of the insurance company Cigna. "That's what this study does, and the results are quite eye-opening."

Higher U.S. spending funnels away resources that could be invested elsewhere in the economy, but fails to deliver a healthier work force, the report said.

"Spending more would not be a problem if our health scores were proportionately higher," Dr. Arnold Milstein, one of the authors of the study, said in an interview. "But what this study shows is that the U.S. is not getting higher levels of health and quality of care."

Other countries spend less on health care and their workers are relatively healthier, the report said.