Link to Lasswell letter in Register: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/readers/2020/08/10/letters-reynolds-did-well-restoring-voting-rights/3313358001/
I agree with John Stanford’s essay in the Wall Street Journal today that controlling drug prices would slow biomedical innovation and and research. (WSJ 7/2/2020 – see link below.) When you spend less money on anything you will get less of it. But that’s okay. Today, we get more drug research and innovation than we want to pay for.Most drugs approved by the FDA are required by law to be covered and paid for by Medicare and Medicaid regardless of price! Many are required by law to be covered and paid for by private insurance companies regardless of the price! This is true even when the drug provides little or no improvement over other existing approved drugs! Under such a situation we, of course, get maximum research and development.If we did the same for space exploration, we would probably already have colonies on Mars. If we did the same for climate change, we would probably already have that problem solved. The point is that development of new prescription drugs is not our only priority, and our ability to pay is not unlimited.We don’t have anything close to free market capitalism in the prescription drug market in the U.S. Government is already very involved, mostly providing subsidies, protection from competition, and other benefits to drug manufacturers. It is not unreasonable to set a drug price ceiling that is 20% higher than what is being paid by Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. We can always make special exceptions for something like a vaccine against the Covid-19 virus.
Link to John Stanford essay in WSJ:
I disagree with Paul Michel and Matthew Dowd, (Wall Street Journal, 1/24/2020, link below), that our patent laws do not give adequate and clear protection to inventions. Conversely, we have become too liberal in both what is allowed to be patented and the length of time that patents are granted.
They urge the reversal by Congress of the Supreme Court of rulings that prohibit the granting of patents for “abstract ideas” and “natural phenomena”. Abstract ideas, like mathematical formulas, computer code, or simple ideas drawn on paper, and natural phenomena, like the discovery of particular DNA or naturally occurring chemical compounds, should not be patentable.
Originally, U.S. patents had a maximum life of 14 years, then 17 years, and then 20 years. Companies that earn billions of dollars in profits every year on their patents are very willing to spend many millions of dollars to lobby congress to extend their monopolies. Who spends money lobbying to reduce the term of patents? Shouldn’t the term of monopoly protection granted depend in part on how much it costs to meet government regulations related to the invention? For example, prescription drugs may deserve a long patent term because of the cost to meet government regulations. But there is no logical reason why all patents should be granted for the same length of time. (Design patents are granted for shorter periods, but why should they be granted at all?)
The concept of “intellectual property” is man-made. Since time immemorial, humans have copied one another. For millennia legally protected private property was limited to physical property which could only be possessed by one person at a time. Ideas can be possessed by many people at the same time without infringing on the physical property of others and without the use of force. Monopolies, including the exclusive use of inventions, were originally granted by Kings to favored subjects through the use of force. Our government protects patents through the use of force. Contrary to the Founder’s intent, some patents appear to slow innovation rather than encourage it. The case can be made that no patents should be granted. In this case, Congress should expand patent protection.
Link to Wall Street Journal opinion:
- Seniors and others on Medicare, disability, pensions, and other fixed incomes – they will continue to be paid.
- People who have had no reported W-2 earnings during the past year – since they have been getting by on unearned income
- People who have household earnings around or over $75,000 per year – they qualify for unemployment benefits.
Don’t give grants, but make low-interest rate loans available. We can decide later whether or not to forgive any loans. Don’t allow unrelated “riders” on any pandemic response bill. For example, don’t’ forgive student loans, don’t add any permanent employer mandates such as child care, sick pay, paid family leave, etc. Watch out for and deny other special-interest legislation trying to take advantage of this crisis.
Please try to balance costs versus benefits. We have lived normally with the flu killing tens of thousands of U.S. citizens every year. I am a senior – age 66 – and I don’t need any bailout.
Sometimes, price gouging can be a good thing. If there is a sudden surge in demand for something, say face masks or hand sanitizer, is it better to keep prices low and encourage hoarding that can result in complete outages, or is it better to let prices go up as the market demand allows to discourage hoarding and encourage rapid increases in production? Why would businesses pay for overtime, or expedited shipping, or other higher costs to quickly increase supplies if they are not allowed to increase prices? There are certainly extreme situations where price gouging would be considered by most people to be immoral. (For example, it would clearly be immoral to charge $1,000 for a glass of water to a person dying of thirst when you have plenty of it.) But there are many other situations where allowing prices to go up significantly and quickly helps to make vital products available for important purposes to more people more quickly. Private efforts to keep prices low and to prevent hoarding in an emergency are to be commended, but be careful before you call for laws or regulations to prevent price gouging.
The $1 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel producers just passed the U.S. House and appears likely to become law. The credit, which expired at the end of 2017, will be extended retroactively 2 years and forward for 3 years through 2022. This tax credit started in 2005. How long must the welfare continue? Biodiesel producers are no different than most other businesses and industries in that they become dependent on subsidies and lobby heavily to prevent the subsidy from ever ending. We need to pass laws that phase out all forms of energy subsidies, as well as subsidies given to other favored industries. We need free-market capitalism, not crony capitalism.
Link to related Register report: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2019/12/17/spending-bill-includes-long-sought-biodiesel-tax-credit-renewal/2677476001/
Contrary to the Register Editorial on 12/1/2019, we should not add long-term care as a new benefit under Medicare. (See link below to The Register’s Editorial urging Medicare coverage of long-term care.) If we want to solve problems using the force of government, we should do the minimum needed to solve the problem. In this case, the problem is making sure that people receive medically necessary long-term care, not making sure that money is left to people’s heirs.We currently have a pretty good situation: Many people voluntarily purchase private long-term care insurance. Many others who could afford insurance choose to take a risk and not buy it. Taxpayer-funded Medicaid covers the cost of long-term care for those who are unable to pay. For those in the middle – not on Medicaid, but who would struggle to pay for private long-term care insurance – Medicaid already goes a long way to help them qualify for long-term care coverage. For example, if one spouse of a married couple needs long-term care, the other spouse gets to keep a house and a car and some income, even though Medicaid pays for the long-term care of the first spouse.The best long-term, sustainable solutions to our problems is to give voluntary, free choice to people and then expect them to be responsible for their decisions. To the extent that we allow our government to force everyone into one-size-fits-all welfare programs, there will be ongoing, unsustainable frustrations, disagreements, and dependency problems.
I urge our elected federal representatives to oppose the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. (The Ex-Im Bank provides taxpayer guarantees to U.S. companies that export and sell products to international customers. Authorization is set to expire on 9/30.) This has been and continues to be a quintessential example of crony capitalism. If a U.S. exporter has customers who find it difficult to find financing, the seller can always guarantee a loan and get a security position to get the asset back in a worst case. If they still cannot get financing, the seller could provide direct financing. In any case, our government should not guarantee such loan private companies.
I’m sure that small and large Iowa export companies are heavily lobbying for reauthorize the Bank. I hope our representatives resist the pressure and vote against this bad policy where taxpayers are asked to take the risk and private companies reap the profits.