The pharmaceutical companies are evil. And so are anonymous members of Congress

Was alerted to this via Drum (emphasis in original):

In order to earn FDA approval for generic drugs, manufacturers need samples of the name-brand drug to test against. Frequently, however, the name-brand folks refuse to sell their pills for testing. Congress is on the case:

Legislation to ensure access to drug samples for generic drug manufacturers has broad support in Congress, from Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, on the left to Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, on the right. A similar bill in the House also has diverse backers, including Representatives Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, and Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina, who is the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Under the bill, a generic drug developer could file a lawsuit, and a federal court could require a brand-name drug maker to provide samples of its product to a generic company “on commercially reasonable, market-based terms.” The court could also award damages if it found that a drug maker had refused to sell samples “without a legitimate business justification.”

….Lawmakers of both parties pushed for the legislation to be included in a far-reaching budget bill signed by Mr. Trump in February, but it was dropped at the last minute.

So this has broad, bipartisan support and would be an indisputably good thing, but somehow—note the passive voice here—“it was dropped” at the last minute. Apparently somebody’s lobbying budget paid off.

Ugh.  Also, the original article really makes the case for what a policy win this legislation would be:

The F.D.A. says it has received more than 150 inquiries from generic drug companies unable to obtain the samples needed to show that a generic product works the same as a brand-name medicine. Some of the disputes over samples involve drugs that are costly to patients and to the Medicare program and that have experienced sharp price increases in recent years.

“Without generic competition, there is no pressure to drive down the costs of these medications,” the food and drug agency said. Under current law, it said, it cannot compel a brand-name drug manufacturer to sell samples to a generic company.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would save the federal government $3.8 billion over 10 years, mainly because Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs would spend less on prescription drugs. Savings for consumers and private health insurance plans could be much greater.

Well, damn, who is responsible for this last minute “drop”?  Obviously, the lobbyists, but that doesn’t happen without compliant legislators who make this happen.  I’m teaching Interest Groups and I work hard to dispel the notion that interest groups are basically buying the policy they want.  But in some cases, i.e., this one, it is damn hard to argue otherwise.  Of course, this is a buried in the virtual paper story that virtually nobody has paid any attention to, but that, of course, is where lobbying and interest groups can have their most sway, not on highly public, contentious issues like guns, tax policy, etc.  And it’s just damn depressing.

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Where’s the liberal Tea Party?

Nowhere.  Because, as is one of my favorite themes, America’s political parties are decidedly not symmetrical.  Political scientists David Hopkins and Matt Grossman have done great work on this (in a book titled Asymmetric Politics) and they summarize their key insights for the current political context in the NYT:

As the 2018 nomination season gets underway, analysts anticipate a network of insurgent candidates and activists to seek a liberal purification of the Democratic Party, in the same way that Tea Party members took aim at a detested Republican “establishment” via a series of formidable primary challenges and congressional leadership battles. Yet there has been no evidence of a national, ideologically motivated rebellion among Democratic primary voters, interest groups or donors.

The lack of a “liberal Tea Party” reflects a fundamental and longstanding asymmetry between Republicans and Democrats. The Republican Party is the agent of an ideological movement; most Republican politicians, activists and voters view their party as existing to advance the conservative cause.

Because their goals of reducing the scope of government and reversing cultural change are difficult to achieve in practice, Republican officeholders are vulnerable to accusations of failing to uphold principles. They risk becoming targets of interest groups, media outlets and rival politicians who see their role as enforcing symbolic commitment to conservative orthodoxy.

The Democratic Party, by contrast, is organized as a coalition of social groups. Democratic voters tend to view politics as an arena of intergroup competition rather than a battlefield for opposing philosophies, and the party is dominated by an array of discrete interests that choose candidates on the basis of demographic representation and capacity to deliver policy. [emphasis mine] Tensions within the party coalition have eased over time — to the benefit of Democratic leaders, who are now better able to satisfy the various demands of their members and avoid facing a mutiny from within…

This year, Democratic candidates remain focused on challenging vulnerable Republican-held seats more than purging ideologically impure incumbents. Unlike Republican debates over philosophical fidelity, Democratic primaries produce arguments about who will do a better job addressing the real-world priorities of key constituencies as well as competition to secure endorsements from party-aligned interest groups. Liberals have dutifully mobilized behind Democrats (often centrist) who fit their districts, leading to special-election victories like Conor Lamb’s recent capture of a Republican-leaning seat in Pennsylvania.

Liberal candidates and activists can succeed in pushing the Democratic Party to the left on specific issues. But they will do so by appealing to the interests and loyalties of social groups rather than engaging in broader ideological debates.

The Republicans had a great year in 2010.  It would have been even better for them if not for the Tea Party costing them at least two Senate seats.  Whatever happens in November, it is highly unlikely that far-left Democrats will undermine electoral success in the same way.

My Mueller report prediction

I was discussing this with a friend yesterday and even though I’m not particularly good at political predictions, I figured I ought to make it here so that if I am right, I can say, “see, I predicted this way back in April!” :-).

Okay, so here’s my thinking…

1) Mueller is a stand-up guy and in uncovering all he is surely uncovering about Trump, must surely have come to the conclusion that Trump should not be president.

2) Mueller knows it’s really not his place to recommend criminal charges or, probably, even impeachment, but just to present the facts of what he found out.

3) Mueller is a smart guy and knows, therefore, that the best chance of any meaningful accountability for Trump starts with a Democratically-controlled house of Congress.  It is, sadly, clear as day we’re not getting any accountability from GOP “leaders.”

4) Therefore, if Mueller truly wants accountability for Trump (which he almost surely does), the best way to bring that about his to help bring about a Democratic House come 2019.

5) Best way to do that is to release his report which will surely be harmful, and possibly much worse, for Republican electoral fortunes at the moment of greatest political impact.

6) That’s not late October 2018 because that’s too obviously political.  So, my prediction is that he releases his report as late as possible (early September?) that it will still clearly have a midterm election impact, but that it is far enough away that he can plausibly argue that it was not timed to have an electoral impact.

Obviously, odds are that I’m wrong about this.  But, even if this is not what Mueller does, I think there’s a pretty good case that it is what he should do.

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