Friday, May 19, 2023

Puppet Mastery


Friends, my latest article beats a familiar drum: I encourage New York's two Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to reject efforts to persecute and overregulate PBMs, i.e. "pharmacy benefit managers".  



Dancing to the Lobbyists' Tune Won't Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Chuck Schumer's heart is in the right place: he wants to lower health care and prescription drug costs for New Yorkers and for Americans, and he's calling on his fellow Senators, like our own Kirsten Gillibrand, to pass a major health care reform bill this year. We could certainly use one. The question is: what kind of reforms do we need?

Unfortunately, all too often regulators and Congresspeople fall for the “solutions” proposed by lobbyists and favored by major campaign contributors. And, all too often, these “solutions” backfire, increasing federal spending, health insurance rates, and out-of-pocket costs for ordinary citizens.

With the so-called PBM Transparency Act, it sure looks like many Senators are in danger of falling into this same old trap, even if they don't realize it. On the advice of players in the marketplace that have every interest in raising drug prices, they're proposing to crack down on a pillar of the health care industry – PBMs, or “pharmacy benefit managers” – that are already doing exactly what they're designed to do: exert downward pressure on drug prices and save Americans billions of dollars every year. Obviously, the lobbyists are having none of that!

Everyone agrees on the scale of the problem. Here in New York we pay more for health care than the residents of any other state (about $14,000 per year in 2020), just like we pay more in taxes, and invest more in our public schools. Seldom, however, do we get a return on these “investments” that justifies their vast expense.

New Yorkers, like Americans across this country, pay vastly more for the same prescription drugs than do patients worldwide. The truth, however, is that this problem could be worse. It will be worse, if we keep listening to the same lobbyists and special interests who got us into this mess in the first place. It will also be worse if we crack the whip against PBMs, which negotiate with pharmaceutical wholesalers to lower drug prices. PBMs reduce Medicare's outlays for prescriptions by 20%, and, by one measure, they save each and every American about $1,000 per year. Few little-known companies can make that claim!

No wonder, therefore, that the three corporations that dominate the drug wholesaling business – McKesson, Cardinal, and AmeriSourceBergen – would like to put these pesky PBMs in their place. And no wonder that the pharmaceutical and “health products” industry as a whole, which just reaped a record windfall from the COVID pandemic, is spending record amounts, $374 million in 2022 alone, on lobbying, with the goal of further padding their profits. That makes drug companies the top sponsors of political lobbying efforts, and by a country mile, too.

What's more, the benevolence of corporations like McKesson, Cardinal, and AmeriSourceBergen cannot simply be assumed. McKesson recently agreed to a $141 million settlement with its own shareholders over concealing the benefits it reaped from an illegal price-fixing scheme. In March, a unit of McKesson announced 800 layoffs, despite the company's robust sales and profitability.

Cardinal Health recently inked a $557 million deal to sell part of its Chinese operations to government-owned “Shanghai Pharma” – demonstrating an impressive capacity to monetize drug use under both capitalist and Marxist-Leninist conditions.

AmeriSourceBergen is the biggest of the three companies. It recently agreed to pay $6 billion to settle a case brought by the Department of Justice involving the careless distribution of opioids (a similar settlement was agreed with New York State in 2021), but it faces additional legal challenges on the opioid front. It also recently laid off 450 people, despite enjoying almost $1.7 billion in net income in 2022. Either to shore up its tarnished reputation, or to remove the sting of its association with a place as provincial as “America” (the company aims to boost its global reach), AmeriSourceBergen will soon rename itself “Cencora”.

If, therefore, the Senate wants only to scratch the backs of corporate megadonors and insider lobbyists, then by all means it should pass the “PBM Transparency Act” expeditiously. If, on the other hand, like our Senators Schumer and Gillibrand they want to improve our health care system and lower costs, they should tap the brakes. Punishing the few forces at work in American health care that exist only to control costs is not the answer.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.


And here it is at the Olean Times-Herald: 




In other news, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina is about ready to declare his candidancy for the Republican nomination for president.  Is he really running for president, or for vice-president?  Your guess is as good as mine, but I suppose, if DJT ends up in the Big House, virtually anything could happen in 2024, right? 


Fox News may or may not right the ship after the Dominion/Tucker Carlson debacle, but for now they seem to be firing people left and right.  That hardly seems like a good sign, does it? 


This is the second article I've seen about "No Labels" and its desire to run a third-party candidate for president.  This is the first I've seen about speculation that Joe Manchin could be that candidate.  I like the idea!  There's no quicker, easier way to elect Trump, and to send Biden into retirement, than by dividing the anti-Trump vote. 


Houghton University, a local Christian college, is in hot water because it fired two employees who refused to delete their preferred pronouns from their email signatures...although it is by no means clear that that was the only reason for their dismissal.  Bottom line: the culture wars are impacting Christian colleges and universities no less than they are secular institutions of higher learning.  What's more, wokeness is imperiling Christianity just as it is every other facet of Western Civilization. 


Finally, this is a very interesting article about Japan's internal dialogue about whether or not it should become more of a military power.  Japan increasingly believes that it requires robust means of self-defense, if it's to deter Chinese aggression, and it may even require offensive capabilities, if it's to come to the defense of regional allies like Taiwan and South Korea.  My take: Japan can build up its forces all it likes, but only nuclear weapons can guarantee Japan's security.  I know the Japanese have a well-founded aversion to nukes, but they do have their uses... 


  1. Dr.Waddy from Jack: The possibility of Houghton U., a mainstay of our down to earth island of common sense here in nonetheless lala NYS, having gone woke in any way is appalling. Thanks for noting there may be more to this incident.

  2. Dr.Waddy from Jack: I think Manchin has done us very substantial good by being a maverick dem. Oh yeah, it would be nice if we all got along but we on the common sense side have yet even to arrive at a consensus about the existential threat the cultural marxists who have
    very obviously cuckooed the dem nest promise. No such doubt on the left.The cultural marxists are under full steam in their determination to force "fundamental transformation" on an "ignorantly erring America." and will never relent ; they are definitive fanatics with catastrophic intent.This is no time for"peace in our time". The far left will drive tanks through any loopholes we foolishly provide them.OK, so Manchin heads a well meaning "conciliatory " ticket with , oh say, Tulsi Gabbard or Nikki Haley. The former two have garnered the wrath of the dems with their apostasy and will face an all out vicious assault from the dems. Too, Manchin does have some dem bonafides which should give pause to many in the real America(he's not good on guns). A "no labels" ticket would very likely go the way of all 3rd party efforts. Best that Manchin stay right where he is, squarely in Schumer's craw. He wields real power there.

  3. Dr.Waddy from Jack: Ok, so the "Problem Solvers" do gooders in Congress did do some welcome benefit. Kumbayaa around the campfire, really. But the electoral process differs greatly from the legislative.

  4. Dr.Waddy from Jack: An apparent major presumption by the good Problem Solvers" "No Labels" people is that both sides shareequal blame for the political and social melee in our country. That's about like assigning equal fault to the Poles for the Nazi onslaught of 1939. The american far
    left declared cultural, legal and political war on America in the '60s and has never stood down, nor will it ever on its own.

  5. Jack, I hear that Houghton is trying its best to remain true to the Gospel and to common sense, which of course means that the attacks against it will escalate steadily!

    Oh, I disagree, Jack. A Manchin run for the White House would be a gift from above! Would he sacrifice his present leverage in the Senate in the bargain? Not necessarily. He'd be the swing vote still! If anything, his leverage might increase. More importantly, by mounting an (admittedly futile) bid for the presidency, he'd immeasurably increase OUR chances of victory, and, without victory in 2024, the good guys might have shot their wad, democratically speaking. Anything that improves our prospects -- no matter how comical or absurd, in itself -- is to be welcomed, in my view.

  6. Dr. Waddy from Jack: I revere black conservatives for their steadfast courage in the face of unrelenting excoriation (eg. Clarence Thomas). I would celebrate the day Tim Scott becomes President.

  7. Dr.Waddy from Jack: Japanese rearmament: I love the Japanese from my several visits there and from having studied Japan in college afterwards. Their culture manifests much to admire. But there is no denying their gratuitous, relentless savagery (and not just in battle) in WWII and how they suffered for it too.They displayed withering disdain for the peoples they conquered.While living in Singapore in the '70s I saw much evidence of continued hate and fear of them. But they were hard and smart fighters and have made good allies so far. China has good reason to fear them yet due to the 20th century and Japan's dynamism and I'm sure respects the U.S.nuclear umbrella and the U..S. Navy. Perhaps its best if Japan yet betters its defensive capabilities but: I think Japan going nuclear would generate alot of domestic unrest in Japan and China's response might be dangerously unpredictable. I believe Japan has said it will join us in defending Taiwan if it is attacked. Its an interesting position to take because defense of Taiwan does have its doubters in the U.S. Then again, U.S. bases in Japan might well be targeted by China though I doubt China would ever invade Japan, even if the U. S. had left.

  8. Jack, black conservatives do not have it easy at all! They have my admiration and support, but that doesn't mean they have my backing to become the GOP presidential nominee. I'm reserving judgement on that score.

    You may be right, Jack, that the nuclearization of Japan would set off too many alarms bells in the neighborhood. If I were Japan, I might at least keep nuclear weapons tech on the back burner, so that, if things go south with Taiwan and the U.S. gets wobbly, the Japanese can ward off any credible threat from China or North Korea. Again, no one builds nukes in order to use them. They build them so that they will never need to use them.

  9. Dr.Waddy from Jack: If the Japanese were to build the capability to go nuke if needed, since they may be willing to join us in fighting a Chinese attack onTaiwan, would they consider using nukes against China? Would we? Supposing Taiwan mounts a prolonged defense

    as does Ukraine? Taiwan is a plausible tactical keystone in what China may see as a threatening mostly island barrier (Japan, S.Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam, Indonesia, Australia, NewZealand, India and the U.S. Navy).Does Japan see it that way? Maybe. If the U.S. were to hesitate and Taiwan fall, would Japan then go nuke? I agree, possession of nukes is a very powerful deterrent. Might China attempt preemptive strikes on a prospectively nuclear Japan, avoiding U.S. bases? Certainly we would react conventionally but . . .?

  10. Jack, those are all excellent questions. Nukes might not do Japan much good unless they had enough of them to inflict unacceptable damage on China, and that kind of arsenal can't be conjured into existence overnight. Would anyone nuke China to save Taiwan? I very much doubt it. The most realistic scenario for a nuclear conflict in East Asia is one that targets ships, not cities, in my view. That could happen.

  11. Dr.Waddy from Jack: That makes alot of sense. All sides would see benefit in a sea only conflict.