INDEPENDENT YOUTH | Bennet and Big Pharma

By Evan Vann | 3/13/17

In southwestern Colorado, people are less defined by their party than by their experiences and beliefs. I really came to understand this when talking to a military veteran, libertarian, and Trump voter on the subject of Bernie Sanders. He was obviously not a fan, but did admit that he agreed with Sanders’ stance on pharmaceuticals. He opined that prescription drugs are unreasonably pricey, a sentiment shared by many.

When Sen. Bernie Sanders earlier this year co-sponsored a simple amendment allowing Americans to purchase pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, it seemed like a no-brainer. Amendment 178 would allow Americans to purchase life-saving medication for a much cheaper price than they currently can, which would lower American prices by competition, but because of the Republican majority in the Senate, the likeliness of it passing seemed poor.

Surprisingly, however, the bill stood a fighting chance. Like the Trump voter I talked to earlier, 13 Republicans supported health over profit by voting in support of the bill. Republicans like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul who gave a yea to the bill should have pushed it over the top, but 13 Democrats shot the bill down by voting the other way.

The hottest topic in regard to this debacle has been Sen. Cory Booker from New Jersey, who voted nay. I’ve covered Booker in the past because many have billed him as the rising star of the Democratic Party. A previous contender for Hillary Clinton’s pick as VP, as well as a contender for a 2020 presidential run, Booker is being groomed as the poster boy of the Democratic Party. This is more accurate than people realize: Booker’s cozy ties to Wall Street and disregard toward low income Americans makes him a typical elitist, corporate Democrat. His nay vote is unsurprising, and some progressive publications are covering it, so I won’t.

More important to Coloradans is the fact that Sen. Michael Bennet was among the Democrats who helped crush this important bill.

From his ardent opposition to ColoradoCare, a failed proposal that would have organized single payer health insurance in the state, to his refusal to switch his superdelegate vote from Clinton to Sanders after Sanders handily won the state during the 2016 primary, Bennet’s record is notably anti-progressive.

Booker justified his nay vote on the bill by claiming there was no provision requiring it to meet federal guidelines. This, however, isn’t true, as the proposed amendment clearly states that the “Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees…which may include verifying public health and safety.”

Therefore, the only somewhat logical defense for Democrats’ aversion to the bill is debunked by explicit language inserted for the the purpose of assuring public safety standards.

This highlights a common trend with Bennet. His opposition to ColoradoCare fit well with generous donations he has received from the healthcare industry. His stubbornness regarding changing his superdelegate vote reflected contributions from the Clinton Victory Fund. With Bennet, it is not a question of if he’s being bought, it is a matter of who’s buying, and to what tune.

This time it’s by large pharmaceutical companies, who have contributed over $500,000 dollars to him over his political career. It is a shared trend with all the Democrats who voted for big pharma rather than their constituents: large contributions from the pharmaceutical and health maintenance industries corresponded with their nay votes.

Keep in mind that $500,000 is just short of the average lifetime cost of treating HIV in a male – $379,000.  The drugs used to treat cancer cost around $10,000 a month, excluding therapy and hospital prices. In comparison to the dollars Americans spend on pharmaceuticals, the contributions that Bennet has received seem small in perspective, not because Bennet’s contributions were actually small, but because America has the highest drug prices of any industrialized country. This begs the question: who is Bennet working for?

A nay vote for this proposal was a spit in the face to the estimated 45,000 people that die from lack of coverage each year in the richest country in the world, whose deductibles skyrocket to unreasonable levels because of disproportionately expensive medicine. Every American who is at risk of becoming one of the 643,000 people in this country that goes bankrupt from health-related costs should be offended.

Aside from being ethically problematic, Bennet’s actions shed light on the degrading nature of the Democratic Party. Despite pressure from the public to latch onto populist proposals like the one offered by Sen. Sanders, Democrats like Bennet continue to contradict themselves, burning bridges with working class Americans.

The shift in the political spectrum that resulted in Trump’s presidency is aided by spineless, corporate Democrats who chose profit over peace, planet, and people. The more Democrats act like Republicans, the more Republicans will act like fascists.

I have been writing critiques on Colorado’s corporate Democrats like Bennet and Hickenlooper for as long as this column has existed, yet they always get a second chance. If Democrats don’t have the will to oust their corporate, corrupt politicians, it is up to Colorado’s progressive voters to do it for them.

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About the Author

Evan Vann

Evan Vann is a student at Ouray High School in Ouray, Colorado. He holds interest in government, current events, and activism, and aspires to study political science in higher education.