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THIS OTHER WAR IS ALL ABOUT YOU
By Frank Kaiser

We seniors are under attack.

In their insatiable lust for profit, the pharmaceutical industry has become so bold, so arrogant in its grab for riches, it now menaces the fiscal and physical health of most seniors.

It is war. America's drug lords versus America's seniors.

Consider:

  • Big Pharma continues to block any reasonable Medicare drug benefit for even the poorest of seniors. With more lobbyists than there are members of Congress, spreading around more money than God, they render Congress impotent to pass an effective drug bill.

  • When progressive states attempt to right this wrong, Big Pharma sues them. Last year, drug companies forced Vermont to void legislation calling for negotiated bulk purchase discounts for low-income residents. Now they're going after Maine.

  • Big Pharma recently initiated a disinformation telephone and direct-mail campaign aimed at seniors. They claim that drugs bought in Canada are inferior, even dangerous. These are essentially the same medicines they manufacture for US consumption. But without the obscene profits.

  • Drug companies will do anything to maintain their ill-gotten annual return on revenues some 300 percent higher than the median for all Fortune 500 industries. When drug patents are about to expire, either a bought-and-paid-for Congress extends this protection or, through a sweetheart legal maneuver, the company automatically keeps cheaper generics from the market for another two and a half years. Either way, our pocketbooks are plundered of billions. (The president's October 21st reversal promising quicker generics won't change this a whit.)

  • The HMO industry — Big Pharma's evil brother and equal partner in the cartel to bleed seniors dry — just raised my wife's premium 89 percent for no drug coverage and higher deductibles. Next year they threaten to pull out completely. As you know, she's far from alone.

There is little any of us can do about these vultures' insatiable lust for money. But we can do something about their enablers, their Congressional lackeys whom we alone elect.

SKUNKS VS. RATS

Soon, we geezers will cast arguably the most important votes of our long lives. Our personal stakes are enormous. And although our choice may be between skunks and rats, there is a difference.

For each of the last eight years, Congress promised a Medicare drug benefit. Like a drunken uncle's New Year's vow, each year Congress has cynically repudiated their promise. That's eight times and counting.

These slime-balls must believe that we're all idiots with memories of mush. Our government's contempt for seniors is palpable.

This year, the Republican House voted a drug benefit with so little substance it was privately labeled No-Cal.

To its credit, the Democratic Senate attempted to help the 10 million poorest of us with a truly adequate and affordable drug benefit. Because it was to be administered through senior-preferred Medicare instead of Republican-preferred HMOs, the GOP quashed it, citing our nation's inability to afford the annual cost of $40 billion.

We routinely spend more than that on failed weapons systems!

If the Democrats had any spine, they'd force the repeal of Bush's reckless trillion-dollar tax giveaway to the Kenny-Boy Lays of the land. Alas, courage is as rare as honor in our nation's capitol.

Still, vote we must.

As usual, we seek those doing the least harm. On the Medicare drug benefit issue, that's the Democrats. In fact, without a strong Democratic presence in Congress next year, there is no hope for any drug benefit bill.

NEST EGGS BUSTED

Now let's look the other big issue: your pocketbook.

Right now, your finances and mine are in tatters.

Our nest eggs continue to diminish. The new "Corporate Responsibility Act," Congress' chance to reestablish faith in the stock market, is as toothless as my Aunt Cora.

Wall Street knows this. Predictably, the market continues in free-fall. And with CD interest rates still tighter than Joan River's face, it's little wonder 1.5 million retirees have returned to work.

Meanwhile, our president does everything possible to derail Medicare and Social Security. Bush wants to give control to the private sector where we will be enrolled in HMOs that drop us when we get sick and with Wall Street brokers who will fleece us every chance they get.

Skunks or rats? Both are shameless toadies who believe they are elected to serve corporations.

For me, though, the Democrat skunks may smell, but they are far less dangerous to my health and pocket book than the Republican rats.

Today in almost every way, GOP stands for Get Old People. It's enough to make you want to slap someone.

My suggestion? Vote them out of office instead. Hold your nose and vote Democratic.

© 2002 — Frank Kaiser


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