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“Drugmakers Add Insult To Injury”: They Know How To Make Government Work For Them

It’s one thing for Pfizer to renounce its U.S. citizenship, moving its official residence to Dublin, Ireland, as a tax dodge — all the while continuing to run the business in the United States. That disgusting tactic happens to be disgustingly legal, thanks to our indolent Congress and its failure to fix the corporate tax laws.

It’s quite another to insult the public with blatant phoniness that avoiding billions in U.S. taxes gives the company “the strength to research, discover and deliver more medicines and therapies to more people around the world.” Those are the words of Pfizer’s chief executive, Ian Read, an accountant by training.

The Pfizer deal involves a merger with a much smaller Allergan, an Ireland-based company that happens to do its business in New Jersey. Wall Street analysts scoffed at the notion that the deal had any purpose other than to let the company avoid billions in U.S. taxes — billions that other American taxpayers will have to replace.

Since Read took the helm in 2010, Pfizer has slashed its research and development budget.

We assume the company will expect the United States to continue subsidizing research through the taxpayer-supported National Institutes of Health. We assume it wants the U.S. government to continue defending its intellectual property rights.

Pfizer made headlines more than a decade ago when it persuaded the city of New London, Connecticut, to use eminent domain to seize a working-class neighborhood around its shiny new headquarters — and replace it with an upscale shopping, hotel and office complex more to the company’s liking. Actually, it was a condition of its move to the city, according to The Day in New London.

The Supreme Court gave the controversial plan a green light in 2005. Four years later, Pfizer abandoned New London.

Yes, the drugmakers know how to make government work for them. Their lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, leads efforts to ensure that Americans pay far more for their products than citizens of other countries.

The drugmakers’ crowning achievement was getting a Republican-controlled Congress to write a Medicare drug benefit law to their specifications. While funneling billions in taxpayer subsidies toward helping the elderly buy drugs, it forbade the U.S. government to negotiate the prices on behalf of said taxpayers.

No other Western country lets drug companies charge whatever they think they can get away with. This is why the government of Norway pays about $460 for an injection of the asthma drug Xolair and our Medicare pays about $860.

(Pfizer also lobbied against proposals to let Americans buy their drugs from other countries at these lower prices.)

These conversations always circle back to the drugmakers’ argument that Americans must pay their price to cover the high expense of developing wonderful life-enhancing products.

We can close that circle by asking: To the extent that high U.S. drug prices support research and development benefiting the world, why are Americans the only ones footing the bills?

The drugmakers don’t talk much about that publicly for a very simple reason. It is not in the interests of their executives and investors to stop Americans from playing the chump. If they can get the job done by writing checks to obedient U.S. politicians and the chumps keep re-electing them, why make trouble for themselves?

In a recent annual report, Read told shareholders of Pfizer’s desire to earn “greater respect from the public,” which entails “acting as a respectable corporate citizen.”

Read may have reason to take the American public for easily deceived children. Basic decency, however, demands that he limit such thoughts to private dinner parties.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, December 3, 2015

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Big Pharma, Congress, Corporate Mergers, Pfizer | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Squeezing Out Any Would-Be Competitors”: Building Monopolies, One Merger After Another

Corporate World is experiencing a surge in the urge to merge.

Control of market after market — from cable TV to chickens, banking to washing machines — has been seized by less than a handful of enormous corporations. Rather than compete, they collude to set prices, cut quality, shrink service and squeeze out any would-be competitors.

There was a time, not that long ago, when monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies were not only frowned upon by our public officials and watchdog agencies but also aggressively challenged and busted up. In recent years, however, corporate giants feel free to get ever-gianter by gobbling up their competitors, knowing that the watchdogs will barely bark, much less bite. In fact, now that the Supreme Court has turned corporate campaign donations into legalized bribes, our so-called “public” officials — including congress critters, governors, judges and even presidents — have become tail-wagging accomplices to the amalgamation of corporate power.

The Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for cheerleading this consolidation, including allowing the merger of AT&T and Verizon to capture 70 percent of all wireless phone subscribers. But this is not just a Republican phenomenon. Obama’s Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Aviation Administration genially waved through American Airline’s takeover of US Airways and United’s consumption of Continental, effectively leaving air travelers to the brutish mercy of one or two bullies in every major airport — and no service at all in smaller cities.

Now come dominant health-care giants Aetna, Humana, Anthem and Cigna, as well as Walgreens and Rite Aid, demanding to merge into behemoths that would control the availability of health insurance and essential medicines to millions of Americans. Ironically, the very lawmakers, corporate lobbyists and pundits who push and praise each of these mergers are also the noisiest preachers of the virtue of competitive markets, small business and consumer choice.

Oh, they also claim to be champions of the people’s will — even though the clear will of the vast majority of Americans is to stop the merger-mania and anti-consumer monopolization that corporate America and its political servants are hanging around our necks. That’s not just ironic. It’s cynical, hypocritical… and disgusting.

Even our brewskis are falling to monopolists. Belgian conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev is set to swallow South American-owned conglomerate SABMiller. The merger, they gloat, will be the first “truly global brewer.” Indeed, it will control a third of all beer sales in the world and a whopping 70 percent of all U.S. sales.

The monopolizers assert there’s no anti-trust problem because hundreds of small breweries are popping up like dandelions all over America and the world, thus creating wide-open competition. The winner, says the Anheuser-Busch behemoth with a wink and a crooked smile, will be the one that gets the most customers.

How free-enterprise-y! And fallacious. The “winner” will be the one with the key to the marketplace gate. To get customers, you first have to be able to get your beers in the bars and on store shelves, which is mostly controlled in the U.S. by beer wholesalers who distribute beers from various breweries to the retailers. These wholesalers can simply refuse to distribute the brews of smaller “competitors.” Now, guess which big honking beer-maker has been aggressively buying up wholesale distributors in recent years in order to fill the shelves with their brands and lock out the new independents?

If Anheuser-Busch InBev is allowed to become the first global brewery, it won’t be because it makes the best beer but because it’s rigging the marketplace to slam the door on its “free enterprise” competitors. The word “free” in “free enterprise” is not an adjective, it’s a verb; i.e., let’s “free up” the enterprise of small business people by stopping giant monopolists from locking them out of the marketplace.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, December 2, 2015

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Corporate Mergers, Monopolies, Small Businesses | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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