By Jonathan Donald Jenner
Publicly funded research should yield publicly owned drugs which are available to the public at the cost of the production.
In the capitalism of today, the pharmaceutical industry, whose research is guided the whims of the market, and whose ability to price gouge under the pretense of research-incentivizing, government granted monopoly power, kills us. (See our own Brian Callaci’s great piece ‘Maximizing Shareholder Value Is (Literally) Killing Us’). But we don’t have to pay for and develop new drugs the way we do. A (hypothetical) National Pharmaceutical Development Administration (NPDA), funded by taxpayers, could develop drugs that would then be owned by taxpayers, who, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t price gouge themselves. Moreover, research priorities would be set publicly for research for diseases where we need them the most.
Dr. Jonas Salk found the cure for polio and made the cure freely available, refusing to patent the drug, and helping millions around the globe. And yet, his research is the exception, not the rule, in biomedical research. Why don’t we make it the norm?
Recent slum clearance in Islamabad
By Danish Khan
The processes of economic development across different countries and different times are uneven, multi-faceted, and even counteracting. In recent history, as the global South industrialized and urbanized, manufacturing jobs moved from the global North to the global South. But such structural changes to the global economy didn’t just happen; they were cajoled by a policy package that included policies of free trade, deregulation of financial markets, de-unionization of the work place and a reduction of the state’s role in an economy. When advocates of these neoliberal policies are confronted in the US about the dismal outcome(s) of their prescribed policies (see: the Rust Belt), they argue that these policies are helping the world’s poor by generating employment in developing countries. If neoliberal policies are simply transferring jobs from the developed world to the developing world, their argument goes, these policies would be regarded as progressive and redistributive. Who, with an eye to global equity between rich and poor countries, could oppose such policies?
By Gerald Friedman
The Wall Street Journal cited Gerald Friedman’s research on single-payer healthcare in it’s recent hit piece on Bernie Sanders. The Journal made great mention of the $15 Trillion dollar price tag for single payer health care, and omitted Friedman’s finding that single-payer health care would replace $20 Trillion dollars in private health care spending, for a net savings of $5 Trillion dollars.
It is said of Economists that they know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. In the case of the article “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion,” this accusation is a better fit for the Wall Street Journal that published it. The WSJ correctly puts the additional federal spending for health care under HR 676 (a single payer health plan) at $15 trillion over ten years. It neglects to add, however, that, by spending these vast sums, we would, as a country, save nearly $5 trillion over ten years in reduced administrative waste, lower pharmaceutical and device prices, and by lowering the rate of medical inflation.
These financial savings would be felt by businesses and by state and local governments who would no longer be paying for health insurance for their employees; and by retirees and working Americans who would no longer have to pay for their health insurance or for copayments and deductibles. Beyond these financial savings, HR 676 would also save thousands of lives a year by expanding access to health care for the uninsured and the underinsured.
By Sai Madhurika Mamunuru
Over the past year, the Government of India has revoked the licenses of nearly 9000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in India. According to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, NGOs are expected to report details of donations received from abroad. These organizations, the government claims, failed to comply with the regulations even after being issued a notice. This “crackdown” by the Indian government comes at a time when other Asian economies (all of them, democracies) are becoming increasingly intolerant of organizations that contest the policies and practices of the State. Read more
By Jonathan Donald Jenner
Everyone needs housing, and housing is canonized as a human right across many declarations including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Yet across the globe, housing is largely distributed to individuals on markets, from private owners to private buyers. Private owners have their own rights, which include the ability to exclude and the ability to set the rent too damn high. Save for those who profit from ownership of real estate, we’re all hurting. As we work to stop our hurting, we’ve got to recognize the good work of activists and organizations who are helping out those hurt the most. But we’ve also got to bring ideas for structural change to the table, and expand our imagination beyond only shoring up the egregious offenses of an unjust system. One shining example of a structural alternative to housing comes from the small village of Marinaleda, Spain.
Live in a three bedroom apartment for $22/month in Marinaleda, Spain. No joke & no gimmicks – just a municipal government that serves its citizens, not landlords.
By Matson Boyd
Pick up a newspaper, ask a member of congress, or worse yet, ask someone on Wall Street, and you’ll hear that the way to stop climate change is to pass cap-and-trade— put a price on carbon and let Wall Street trade in the carbon permits. This understandably has many folks concerned that we’re going to commodify our atmosphere and open the door to Wall Street shenanigans. Our recent history of bubbles and fraud suggests there’s some reason to worry about what Wall Street will do as we tackle climate change. But on closer inspection, capping carbon doesn’t require trading carbon. And the loopholes and fraud that have plagued carbon trading schemes stem from “offsets”, which are not needed at all. So which systems of carbon regulation are vulnerable to Wall Street trickery, and which are resistant to it?
By Luke Pretz
Numbers about income are thrown around recklessly in general conversation about the economy, often to justify the status quo and make people feel ‘lucky’ about their table crumbs. Talking About Income is a series where we peer behind the numbers and explore how income, its distribution, and makeup have evolved and shape our economy today.
Forty years ago, according to US Census Bureau data, the median household income was $11,800. Two years ago the median household income was $51,939. At first glance these are some very encouraging numbers giving the impression that incomes are growing a lot. Those numbers seem to suggest that maybe the capitalism of the last 30 years — a variety that has cut social insurance, crushed unions, minimized taxes for the rich — was a really beneficial. In the context of an economy that has grown from $5.4 trillion to $16.3 trillion maybe it was actually the case that growth did trickle down to the working class as proponents of free market capitalism suggest. However, when we apply some simple economic tools to these numbers we uncover the not so surprising truth: the average worker and their family hasn’t improved their position all that much. The pie has grown, but our share, even in absolute terms, has stayed the same. Read more
By Sue Holmberg
[This is a crosspost from Grist, where staff economist and Roosevelt Institute Research Director Sue Holmberg also writes.]
The pope’s encyclical on climate change was received with both enormous enthusiasm and criticism, reactions that will only intensify as he continues to lead efforts to solve our climate crisis and generate momentum for the U.N. Climate Conference later this year. His latest move? Inviting Naomi Klein, author most recently of This Changes Everything, to help lead last week’s Vatican conference on climate change.
By Ricardo R Fuentes-Ramírez
Puerto Rico’s governor recently has said the island cannot pay its $72b debt and is close to defaulting, despite yesterday’s eleventh hour payment of $645.2m to pay its general obligation. The government has been lobbying US Congress to allow it to file for bankruptcy but it remains unclear if this will actually help. Because of its colonial status, Puerto Rico is operating under a legal, political, and economic straightjacket. Media outlets within and outside Puerto Rico have been covering the island’s recession since it began in 2006, and the current fiscal crisis since Puerto Rican bond ratings began spiraling down to junk status in 2014. However, most media coverage has discussed the Puerto Rican crisis as the result of a big government that spent too much money. Therefore, the conclusion is that Puerto Rico should follow austerity measures, laying-off public employees, and privatizing as much as possible of the island’s assets. The actual origins of the crisis suggest policy should be moving in the opposite direction.
By Sai Madhurika Mamunuru
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Smart Cities Mission, wherein the Indian government promises to select, invest in, and build a hundred smart cities across the country over a period of five years. Though various definitions of a “smart city” can be rather nebulous, the concept essentially involves the efficient use of information and communication technology (ICT) and big data to provide improved services to people living in urban areas.
It is important to understand, however, the structure that underlies this initiative. Who pays for the Smart Cities Mission? Who benefits? Are the benefits felt by everyone? Does the plan reduce urban inequality? How does it redefine the urban experience and urbanization?
Illustration by Prathap Ravishankar for The Hindu