The King is Dead…Long live The King

Having been dirt farmers over the last forty years, my wife and I have tended to live simply. We did take a couple perhaps extravagant “vacation trips” decades ago. Two years running we both went to Augusta (Maine) for the annual Agricultural Trade Show—— even staying overnight at the “Senator Inn” between the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions. Wednesday morning we’d “breakfast” at the McDonald’s on Western Avenue and watch the log trucks rumble past. Good times. Those were the days.

We were less extravagant when it came to health insurance—— just couldn’t afford it so we went without—like many millions—— finally “successfully aging” into Medicare coverage.

Medicare and Medicaid were as close as we ever got to universal healthcare in this backward, barbaric land and then only because of  social movements in those “turbulent” 1960s which all-too-briefly struck fear into the wizened heart of the Washington establishment.

Since then it’s been a steady diet of propaganda and policy pushing the snake-oil that “markets” are The Only Way to provide for society’s needs: Housing, healthcare, communications, energy, technical innovation, transportation. Public subsidy to private profit is the only (rigged) game in town. We pay more to get less than other countries. But such comparisons aren’t typically topics of conversation. Instead we are invited to gape at tawdry “stories” of furtive celebrity-groping, consume Smackdown TV, ruminate on whether Zappe-Hour will reign in PatriotNation (or will Mac Be Back?): This, while sluicing billions to the bipartisan  “Weakening Russia” project, inviting what Commander Biden has called “World War 3.”

Oh dear.

And so when today’s local paper reported (below the fold) (in the “Business” section) that the Pfizer corporation planned to charge $110 to $130 for Covid-19 vaccines the news was unsurprising. The AP reporting was a typically bland, Rip&Read stenography simply recasting a Pfizer press release as journalism. If there was any objection to the price inflation it went unreported here.

Those who remembered that the federal government rolled well over a billion dollars into the development of such RNA vaccines through the NIH (National Institutes of Health), DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and many other federal research entities doubtless rolled their eyes at such corporate gall. But for the AP it was just another Move-along/Nothing-to-see here report.

When Dolly Parton donated a million bucks to Vanderbilt University to fund RNA vaccine research it was news (see New York Times, 3/2/21), but public investment goes typically unreported.

Turns out that there was another way to look at Pfizer’s gambit. Though the AP didn’t mention it, the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA) released a statement last Friday announcing that the “planned price hike would amount to a 10,000% markup above the cost of producing the vaccine, which is estimated to be as low as $1.18 per dose.” (see Jake Johnson, Common Dreams)

Julia Kosgei, policy advisor to the PVA described the move as a “shameless fleecing” of the public, calling it a “truly mask-off moment for one of the great profiteers of this pandemic.”

Despite a chronic lack of real reporting, Americans apparently smell a rat.  Gallup (and West Health) recently released a poll (10/6/22) which asked citizens to grade US healthcare by category: “Overall, Cost of Care, Equitable care, Access to care, Quality of care. “  Average grades ran from C to D-/F——— consistently D/F, across all income brackets on the cost-of-care question.

But so what? The American public has a better chance of reanimating Elvis Presley’s corpse than they do of installing a humane and just healthcare regime. Frankly, the premodern constitutional system still controlled by the dead hand of the 18th century powdered wig set will not allow it. And the new “Originalist”  super majority on the Supreme Court insists that the judgements of the ZombieFramers must supersede the needs and judgements of today’s downwardly-mobile citizens.

Despite the current run of stories about Americans bemoaning a decline in “democracy” Republican congressional leaders are increasingly open in predicting a post-election “debt ceiling” crisis, aimed at finally taking down the hated “Entitlements” of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

In Triumph of Politics (1986), Ronald Reagan’s budget director David Stockman describes the Great Communicator’s plans to cut taxes, increase military spending while “storming the twin citadels of the welfare state——Social Security and Medicare.”

Then, Stockman laments, there was enough of the traditional Democratic Party left so that “politics” triumphed. Under Bill Clinton there was another privatization bipartisan push. Reportedly the “private account” Social Security cards were being prepared when the Monica Lewinsky tempest broke. Clinton had to fold (and bomb Iraq as cover).

This time, they will claim again (fraudulently) that the vastly popular social insurance systems are “unsustainable.”  In 2010, Alan Simpson, co-chair of Obama’s bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform decried Social Security as “a milk cow with 310 million tits.”

We’ll likely hear that sentiment again, probably without the affected ruralist twang.

Elvis reanimation anyone?

Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: