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wednesday: sugar, antibiotics and chemotherapy

sugar

So, the other day, there was a story from another insider about the nature of the discussions between Christine Romer and Tim Geithner on the size of the stimulus package. Romer made the case that size does matter (she’s one of the few women who will say that out loud). Geithner compared money spent by the government on stimulus projects as “sugar”, while irresponsibly helping his diabetic friends in the financial industry mainline. Romer disagreed that government money was “sugar”, she said it was more like an antibiotic to prevent infection.

I wish these two would stop acting like doctors. The correct answer is that more stimulus money could have been like a shot of vitamin B12 to a patient suffering from pernicious anemia .  The B12 is not a cure for the disease but will keep the patient functioning until a cure can be found.

But anyway, we now know that Romer was right, as is the case of many women who make a good case based on knowledge, insight, research and experience but are hobbled by idiots like Larry Summers who long ago decided he wasn’t above denigrating their expertise and so may have inadvertently sent our economy into a lost decade….
Where was I?

Oh, yes. Then I saw the partial transcript of an interview between Fareed Zakaria and Ann Coulter and immediately thought that Geithner and Ann have been sucking down pigs-in-a-blanket at the same cocktail party. Courtesy of Digby, we get this snippet:

ZAKARIA: OK, let me ask – let me ask – we’ve got to go, but I have to ask Ann this, which is there’s – there is a strong case that he has made – Obama has made, which is about Medicare. And, on that issue, I want to know whether you think it will work. Not – I know that you wish that he didn’t say it and that the Democrats’ took entitlement reform more seriously, and I happen to agree with you there.

But, when you ask the American people, should – are you willing to deal with the budget deficit by cutting Medicare, 78 percent say no. I mean, I don’t think you can get 78 percent of Americans to agree on the time of day.

COULTER: Right.

ZAKARIA: Where do (ph) –

COULTER: It’s the utter irresponsibility of former Democrats. It’s hard to take treats away from people, and that’s what we’ve done. And Democrats set up a Ponzi scheme with social security and Medicare, and it’s running out now. And, yes, it’s very hard to take the treats away once you start giving them away, which is why it was utterly irresponsible for Democrats long dead and gone to set up these systems that could never last.

But, you know, it would be very helpful –

Whoa, Ann, treats?  The government already took those treats away when it increased my payroll taxes in 1986, the year I started working full time as a chemist.  I could have used that yummy treat to buy a car that had an automatic transmission and power steering.  I could have sent my kid to a better summer daycare center.  I could have stuffed that money in a bank account and bought a CD with it.  But some Republican told me, no, *assured* me, that if I did the responsible thing and put that money away in the Social Security Surplus fund, there would be plenty of money for me to live on when I got to be too old to run around  the lab to move heavy gas tanks and sniff solvents all day.  Wasn’t that what was promised?

Ann, was your party lying to us?  Was it a “treat” back then or was it just a clever ploy to soak young workers out of thousands and millions and BILLIONS of dollars that were then given to the rich in the form of tax cuts?  Because, Ann, I call that fraud.  Do we look stupid to you?  Ok, the people who read your books look stupid to you, but the rest of us are not stupid Ann.

Tim Geithner, do you agree with what Ann, the Dishonest and Fraudulent Republican, is saying?  Is our taxpayer money only “sugar” and a “treat” to those of us who gave it to you in the first place?  It’s one thing to lose your looks, Ann, it’s quite a bit more devastating to lose your integrity.   I thought Republicans were all about “we should spend our money on the things we choose”.  So, if the majority of Americans want to spend that money on Social Security and Medicare and more stimulus, that seems pretty much in keeping with the Republican creed.  It’s OUR money because WE are the government and WE choose to spend it on fiscal stimulus and social safety net insurance programs.

I paid my premiums, I want my insurance, Ann.  It’s not a treat.  If MetLife pulled this shit, they’d be out of business.  As for Geithner, he’d better snap out of it.  People who were once employed and relatively prosperous get very angry and restless when their hard work is vanished and have to listen to some idiot who thinks having a steady paycheck is “sugar”.  FDR wanted to avoid that but Obama and Geithner are oblivious.  You guys need to get out more and meet new people.  I know a lot of very bright PhDs who are cooling their jets right now because they can’t find jobs. Why don’t you go talk to THEM?  Want their LinkedIn IDs?  They could be working on cures for schizophrenia and cancer but they’re at home, wasting their research time looking for jobs that never materialize and losing access to the scientific journals that will keep them on top of their game.

Meanwhile, Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline, points to a disturbing convergence of outsourcing, plant failures, counterintuitve GMP and FDA regulations and corporate cost-benefit analyses that are leading to a shortage of chemotherapy agents.  That problem is just getting started.  It’s only going to get worse.  And we on the left have to ask how we might have contributed to the problem.  The drug industry needs regulation, no doubt about that.  But have we regulated recklessly?  Have we not studied the consequences of regulation?  Don’t we want regulations that avoid this kind of thing where cancer patients are now hanging on for dear life hoping and praying the shortages are temporary?  That’s not to say that regulations are the only source of the problem here.  There are others.  There are fewer and fewer incentives for companies to operate in a socially responsible manner.  Profits are, well, profitable.  No one has told the shareholders what this is going to cost us as a society.

This is a shameful and sad legacy of our inability to deal with the drug industry in a rational manner.  I’m disgusted by all of us.  I’d wish a plague on all of our houses but in that eventuality, we’re all screwed.  There’s probably a shortage of tetracycline too.