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Pharma Pushers & Petro Pimps

Dealing drugs is the greatest business in the world. They say prostitution is the oldest profession, but I say it was probably drug dealing. Actually, prostitution is a sort of drug dealing – endorphins that are released during orgasm are mighty addictive.

Why is it the greatest business? Well, every business requires two things to survive: a marketable product and repeat customers. Drugs and whores are the ultimately marketable product. Most products market themselves as something that will assist you in feeling good or getting laid; drugs and whores actually deliver. And repeat customers are a lock when your product will make the customer die or feel miserable without it.

Drug dealers and pimps have always been and will always be a part of our society. The question is: how much power do we want to give them?

I’m not talking about the street-corner pimp, the street gangs, or even the sophisticated drug cartels. Just end illicit drug prohibition and legalize prostitution and replace them with regulation and harm reduction and the profits dry up quickly for all the black marketeers. Seriously, it worked with alcohol (when did the last bootlegger gang make headlines?) and gambling (see anybody “running numbers” in your neighborhood lately?)

I’m more worried about the legal drugs and prostitution that are ruining our lives and poisoning our planet. I’m talking about our entire federal political structure being ruled by pharmaceutical pushers and petroleum pimps.

First let’s look at the pushers of pills, and then we’ll deal with the pushers of petro. According to the Center for Public Integrity, in their 2005 report: Drug Lobby Second to None – How the pharmaceutical industry gets its way in Washington:

The pharmaceutical and health products industry has spent more than $800 million in federal lobbying and campaign donations at the federal and state levels in the past seven years…

No other industry has spent more money to sway public policy in that period.

Most of the industry’s political spending paid for federal lobbying. Medicine makers hired about 3,000 lobbyists, more than a third of them former federal officials, to advance their interests before the House, the Senate, the FDA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other executive branch offices.

The U.S. government contributes more money to the development of new drugs—in the form of tax breaks and subsidies—than any other government.

Annually, the industry spends nearly twice as much on marketing as it spends on research and development… In 2004, Pfizer spent almost $120 million for media ads for Lipitor, the world’s number-one selling prescription drug, while companies promoting erectile dysfunction treatments Viagra, Levitra and Cialis spent $425 million.

A third of all lobbyists employed by the industry are former federal government employees, including more than 15 former Senators and more than 60 former members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nearly $87 million of the contributions went to federal politicians in campaign donations, with almost 69 percent going to Republican candidates. Top recipients of the industry’s campaign money include President George W. Bush (upwards of $1.5 million) and members who sit on committees that have jurisdiction over pharmaceutical issues.

Does anyone else remember a time, not too long ago, when there were no ads for prescription drugs at all? At the time, we must have believed that if we had a sickness and our doctor knew of a medicine to treat it, he’d prescribe it to us. Now we are bombarded with ads for pills to treat restless legs, irritable bowels, droopy dick and balding head – we used to call that “getting old”. Now we’re supposed to “ask your doctor about” new prescription Fuqitol – it treats something you never thought you had with side effects worse than what it fixes!

But what if you don’t take drugs, legal or illegal? What if you’re perfectly healthy and organic and a vegan triathlete? What effect does pharma pusher lobbying have on you?

George W. Bush used his first-ever veto to kill a bill that would’ve given federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. It passed through both houses of Congress with support even within his own party. The majority of Americans favor stem-cell research.

The spin with the White House is filled with the usual junk about the “sanctity of life” (until it reaches enlistment age, I suppose, and as long as it is American) and that we mustn’t “experiment” with human life. The fact that no one’s head explodes from the sheer irony is testimony to the Orwellian state we now live in; those embryos wouldn’t even exist had we not “experimented” with human life enough to come up with fertility clinics, and most of those embryos will be thrown away. Some sanctity, eh?

So what moved veto-less George to finally act? Sure, there are political points to be gained with the Women’s Subordination, er, I mean, Religious Right crowd – “embryo” sounds like “baby” to them, and they’d much rather have these 150-celled Petri dish “babies” tossed in the medical waste than have some mean old, book smart, Bible-hating liberal scientists playing God with them.

But what I see moving George is that $1.5 million in campaign contributions, hush money paid from the pharma pusher to the beat cop to just look the other way. For what motivates a pusher more than protecting his turf?

See, there is some hope that embryonic stem cell research may lead to cures for paralysis and many diseases. Cures. Not prescriptions for drugs that you’ll have to take for the rest of your life to manage the pain and effects of your paralysis or disease. Curing things removes the demand for the product. Pharma pushers don’t want stem cell research like heroin pushers don’t want methadone clinics.

You see the effect of the pharma pushers in efforts to fight medical marijuana. The federal government will not even allow researchers to acquire any medical marijuana* for the scientific trials that will prove its medical efficacy – because they know what the results will be and do not want to hear them.

According to the ACLU’s Drug Law Reform Project:

MDMA (also known as Ecstasy), LSD, heroin and cocaine are all more readily available to researchers for medicinal studies than is marijuana. Through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the federal government maintains a monopoly on the supply of marijuana available for research. Scientists who want to study the medical benefits of marijuana with the goal of developing it into an FDA-approved prescription medicine either cannot obtain marijuana for their research or receive from NIDA marijuana of inferior quality and insufficient potency* to meet the FDA’s drug approval standards.

*The medical marijuana provided by NIDA is grown at the University of Mississippi and is still supplied to six federal patients in tins of 300 joints every month to this day. This marijuana is such low grade “ditch weed” that it cannot be used for true medicinal studies.

Even though 80% of Americans surveyed support medical marijuana and eleven states have passed medical marijuana laws, the federal government continues to squash research, fight state reform efforts, and imprison people using marijuana in accordance with state law.

Why? Again – protecting the pharma pushers’ turf. Marijuana is an effective medicine for glaucoma, nausea, pain, seizures, asthma (yes, asthma!), anxiety, depression, stress. And best of all, you can grow it yourself, freely (or about $35-$50 an ounce, if you factor in the costs of indoor growing). What drug dealer is going to sit by idly and watch his ma
rket dwindle away as they all learn how to grow their own medicine?

Another area where we see the influence of the pharma pushers is at the end of life. Euthanasia is fought in every form in which it appears in the headlines – Terri Schiavo, Oregon’s Right to Die law, and these New Orleans doctors and nurses being prosecuted for murder when all they did is ease the suffering of dying people who were left for dead by a government that “couldn’t foresee the breach of the levies”.

The concept driving the pharma pushers’ business is that no matter what ails ya, they got a pill for it. At first there’s a pill that will make you feel good, then there’s a pill that at least will make you feel not-awful, and finally there’s a pill that will just keep you going. But no matter what, you’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to keep living, because dead people are lousy customers.

If we set the precedent that death is a natural thing, something not to be feared but something to be embraced when the body has outlived its usefulness, then we remove one of the primary motivators for acquiring more pills. If we allow that painless death is an option you may consciously choose, we make the options of side-effect laden pills less attractive.

None of these points should be taken to express that all pharmaceutical drugs are awful. Certainly many more people are alive today thanks to the research and products of the pharmaceutical companies. What makes them pushers is the fact that they’ll protect their hustle even at the expense of their customers.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan pushed through Congress. It specifically banned the federal government from letting Medicare collectively bargain for better prices for prescription drugs. Heck, that would be like letting the crackheads form a union and demand a group discount. It also specifically banned the importation of prescription drugs from foreign countries, like Canada, that do collectively bargain for cheaper prices. Once again, protecting the turf. Tony Montana of “Scarface”-fame couldn’t have written friendlier drug pusher legislation.

Finally, there’s the petroleum pimps, pushing the drug we’ll gladly murder people for. Sadly, we all know we are addicts, we can see the smoggy haze in our cities, we can hear the wheezing of our children afflicted with asthma in greater numbers than ever before, and we can feel those summertime temperatures getting hotter and staying hotter longer. Our addiction is wrecking our home with mightier hurricanes, melting glaciers, extinct species, and oil-fueled wars.

The entire scientific community is convinced of the dangers of global climate change and that the human contribution to this change is undeniable. Meanwhile, our government says the “jury is still out on global warming”, and they ain’t too sure about evolution, either. Science is edited out of official government documents and our education system is being rigged to produce complacent test-takers rather than critical thinkers. China and India are overtaking us in science and technology and our government is considering mandating the Pledge of Allegiance and allowing school prayer. Our petro-pimps don’t like the science, so they ignore it today and work to create an education system that produces fewer scientists and a society that de-values science in favor of mythology.

Our economy is hopelessly addicted to oil, and our petro-pimps in office want to keep it that way. Should we wean our way off the juice by increasing fuel-economy standards? No, junkie, now have a Hummer with a huge tax credit, you’ll love it! Should we invest seriously in biodiesel and alternative fuels? No, junkie, biodiesel leads to hemp and our pharma buddies wouldn’t like that! Should we require industries to adhere to stricter pollution controls? No, junkie, you’ll burn fossil fuels as quickly and as much as you want to – cutting back is way too hard.

Is it a surprise we find our country in its current dire straits, when it is run from top to bottom by drug dealers? Look where our executives come from: Bush – failed oilman, son of successful oilman; Cheney – defense contracting to fight oil wars; Rumsfeld – drug company exec; Rice – former oil company board member with an oil tanker named after her! When $800 million in seven years is pumped into our government by drug pushers, when for five years the country is run by drug pushers, you should expect a country full of drug-addicts, full of low self-esteem, being slapped around and degraded, homeless or underemployed, unable to stand up to the pusher and throw the monkeys off their backs.

In recovery, it is said the addict has to hit “rock bottom” before he or she will be amenable to treatment. How many of us must die or suffer for a pharmaceutical company’s profit before it is “rock bottom” in America? How corrupt must our political machine become before it is “rock bottom” in America? How many more American soldiers and Iraqi civilians must die before we hit “rock bottom”?

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