Laffer's fellow supply-sider, Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute, found himself the only person in the room opposing the Gutknecht bill when he testified before a House Reform subcommittee June 25. "Rather than subsidizing new drugs for seniors," said Moore, "the government should withdraw from this industry altogether. The free enterprise system will bring these life-saving new wonder drugs to market more rapidly and more affordably than will government." Moore's thesis was totally rejected by the subcommittee chairman, doughty Indiana conservative (97 percent ACU) Dan Burton.
That is bitter fruit for an industry that in the 2002 election cycle contributed $16.3 million to Republicans and $4.4 million to Democrats. Its roster of big-time lobbyists includes Haley Barbour, Tommy Boggs, Ann Wexler, Rick Hohlt and Vic Fazio.
"I had no idea that positions were so hardened, and it seems to me driven by a visceral contempt for the drug industry," Greg Scandlen of the Galen Institute told his conservative e-mail correspondents Sunday. "I don't know where that anger is coming from. I don't buy the idea that the anger is based just on differential pricing."
It may be coming from dead-of-night legislative ploys, to extend drug company patents and shield vaccine makers from lawsuits by families of autistic children (enraging Rep. Burton, grandfather of an autistic child). One pharmaceutical lobbyist, asking that his name not be used, has a theory: "It's the image of arrogant white boy CEOs, no women or minorities, flying around in Lear jets."
Beyond pharmaceuticals, the nation that has built amazing wealth through the profit motive may have embarked on a populist temper tantrum against corporate America. The outrage voiced by Democrats has infiltrated Republican ranks. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's denunciation of the drug companies for "putting profits ahead of people" wins surprising Republican assent.
In truth, American companies have provided drugs for the world that scored victories over heart disease, diabetes, cancer, polio and other maladies, but now may be deprived of research funds. Would George W. Bush cast his first veto to save the geese that laid the golden eggs?
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