“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thus begins the body of the Declaration of Independence. The most fundamental right that exists in the United States of America is the right to life, and yet there is little discussion about it in modern politics.
There are of course those in the religious right who trumpet that the rights of an embryo takes precedence over those of an adult woman. But no one is talking about the rights of the 45 million Americans without health insurance, including 8.9 million children whose only fault was being born into the wrong family. Over the past four years, the number of uninsured in this country has risen by 5 million. During that same time President Bush passed tax cuts for the rich that will cost the nation $726 billion over the next decade, while ensuring that fees and co-payments for government aid programs rise, effectively raising taxes on the poorest people of this country.
The preamble to the Constitution clearly states that its purpose is to promote the general Welfare of the people of the United States.
But the Institute of Medicine says that lack of insurance causes 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year and that taxpayers fund 85 percent of the roughly $35 billion annual cost of treating the uninsured. Whose welfare is promoted by allowing this to continue? The only answer is that this policy promotes the welfare of the American pharmaceutical industry, the “most profitable business” in the United States according to CBS News.
American drug prices are the highest in the world, despite the fact that, according to the Associated Press, “More than half the money needed to create top-selling prescription drugs came from U.S. taxpayers and not industry investment.” According to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, and Pharmacia & Upjohn, five of the largest drug companies in the world, spend an average of 31.74% of their total revenue on marketing, as opposed to a paltry 14.8% on Research & Development, all while making an average 19.78% profit.
At the same time, the American Medical Group Association’s 2003 Medical Group Financial Operations Survey reported an “average loss of $3,977 per physician, a result of what officials called continued stress from reduced payments from insurers.” So much for the idea that American drug costs are so high to allow Big Pharm to research and produce all these wonderful drugs.
American tax dollars are producing the drugs that allow Big Pharm to enjoy profit margins that are almost unheard of in a supposedly competitive economy. The current administration has further acted on behalf of Big Pharm to extend drug patents beyond their intended span so no generic drugs can be produced that might bring down costs.
There is need for a crusade for the right to life in the United States, a crusade by all Americans who realize that the lives of 45 million of their countrymen are worth more than the government-subsidized profits of a handful of giant corporations and their billionaire owners.
McGaffey can be reached at email@example.com.