Dear Mr. Berko: What’s wrong with America when the drug company and my health insurer conspired with my doctor to deny a procedure and offer an alternative medication? Why has my diesel Volkswagen been recalled? Why did my mortgage company overcharge me by $3,692 and force me to resort to a lawsuit to get it back? Why were unauthorized fees added to my bank account? Why do defense contractors, such as the company I work for, get away with bid rigging? Why are stockbrokers ruining my pension plan? Why is the federal bureaucracy choking America’s job creation? Why are corporate America and big government evil? Why are drug companies such as Mylan and Turing Pharmaceuticals screwing the public? Why does Pfizer charge $12 for a Celebrex pill that costs the company 8 cents, and why does GlaxoSmithKline sell Paxil pills, which cost the company 7 cents, at $2.20? How can Merck sell Vasotec pills for $1.03 each when they cost 2 cents to produce, and why does Eli Lilly sell Prozac f!
or $1.04 a pill when it costs under a penny? This is just the small stuff that my family uses. I’ve a friend who gets his DUIs fixed, a dermatologist acquaintance who charges Medicare for facials, a lawyer who cheats for his clients and a vet selling medication for three times the online price, and I know two members of Congress who (for cash contributions) granted profitable government contracts to our competitor. I’m disgusted. I just wanted to get this off my chest; I don’t expect an answer, because there isn’t one. — JS, Wilmington, N.C.
Dear JS: Thanks for expressing the anger and frustration most Americans feel but can’t put into words. Your cleanly typed three-page letter was heartfelt and well-written. Though the buck should stop at the top, that’s where our national greed begins.
We pine for the days when the world was flat, when doctors were like Marcus Welby, when General Motors ads said “come away with me, Lucille, in my merry Oldsmobile,” when Folgers was “good to the last drop,” when you could “trust your car to the man who wears the star” and when “Friendly Bob Adams” made loans at Springleaf Finance. We also walked to school.
Recognize that “politics” is defined by two words: “poly,” a Latin adjective meaning “many,” and “ticks,” an English noun denoting bloodsucking parasites. The Roman Catholic Church believes in concept of original sin, and I’m becoming a believer, too. In Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men,” a character says, “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud.” This clearly refers to most members of Congress and 90 percent of the 19,100 professional lobbyists who give advice to Congress. And a Catholic priest with whom I used to play a monthly chess game offered the following passage from the book of Jeremiah: “They have held fast to deceit, they have refused to return. … They do not speak honestly; no one repents of wickedness, saying, What have I done!” They are the cretins in Congress, the 14,800 registered lobbyists and the 4,300 non-registered lobbyists.
On Jan. 21, 2010, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that reshaped the business of politics. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission opened the floodgates to campaign spending. The justices ruled that political spending (limitless contributions by corporations) is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. So we have the best government money can buy.
Some call this phenomenon in social economics “trickle-down evil.” It reminds us that evil begins at the top (the administration and Congress), filters down by imitation and gravity to the corporate world and then goes lower. The Citizens United decision offers enormous latitude while setting the tone for the future. That’s why Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jon Corzine of MF Global and Heather Bresch of Mylan will never spend a day in jail; they just smirk and give us the finger. If these CEOs fail to grow revenues, earnings and dividends, then the evil they do and encourage will keep them employed till they get caught.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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