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Est. April 5, 2002
March 21, 2019 - Issue 781

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Americans are Being Poisoned
Charged a Fortune for the Cure


"Contamination of water and air and soil and adding to
the worst mass extinction the world has seen in millions
of years.  All of this is less than than the tip of the
Trumpian iceberg, but he doesn't care as long as money
can be made by the rich through his efforts.  What he
doesn't seem to have noticed is that humans are a part
of what is being destroyed and he has visited even
more suffering on the American people."

There is a connection between the degradation of the human environment and the cost of the medications that will mitigate, if not cure, the maladies caused by impure drinking water, dirty and toxic air, and food that is grown in soil that is depleted of its nourishing qualities, and Big Pharma is raising the prices seemingly on a daily basis.

How much of the connection between the cause and the cure is intentional and how much is just a by-product of a capitalist “free market” system? That is the question that should be on the minds of every person who enters a pharmacy to buy prescription drugs. Everyone who is overtaken by the “epidemics” of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other typical American maladies should be asking one question. Why?

And the other question is: Why does it cost so much for medications that cause people who are ailing to choose between eating and paying rent, and buying the needed drugs? There are people who routinely have to choose between the necessities of life and what purports to be life-saving drugs? For many, it's a decision made on a daily basis.

As for the first question, just look at the environmental degradation that is rampant in the U.S. For generations, the rivers and many lakes of the nation were used as sewers, as if the toxins and filth that were poured into them by industries and municipalities would have no effect. After all, they eventually flowed into the oceans and weren't they vast enough to absorb it all? We're seeing the answer to that now, with threats of extinction of marine life on a scale never seen since humans walked the earth. It's that walking on the earth by humans that has caused the demise of species on a scale that has not been seen for millions of years. In the aggregate, there is very little clean drinking water in the U.S.

Destruction of the forest cover of the earth, especially the rainforests, has damaged the “lungs of the earth,” so that they do not purify the air as they did for eons before human activity, especially since the industrial revolution. The relentless massive use of chemicals for fertilizing and protecting the plants from pests and disease has depleted the soil such that the food that is forced from the ground does not contain the nutrients that are needed to keep people healthy. Those chemicals are toxic to most living things, including the eaters of that food. Even though the quality of the food is not as good as in generations past, there are millions in the U.S. who are food insecure, if not starving. Food insecurity means that a family wonders every day where their next meal is coming from, and we do not count fast food as a substitute for nutritious meals. One answer to the corporate food that is presented to the people is organic farming and gardening, but that method still is a very small portion of U.S. agriculture.

Considering that it will take years for that kind of change in the country's food system, if it ever comes to pass, 325 million people will have to depend on the big business of prescription drugs, which are more and more priced out of the ability of wage working men and women to pay. They sometimes don't fill the prescription, or they cut their pills in half, or they skip days. Or, they just don't take any medications, preferring to feed their children or grandchildren or keep a roof over their heads. Why are the drugs out of sight in price?

Dean Baker, a macroeconomist and founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., has ideas about curing the constant rise of drug prices. He wrote recently, “The first one, 'The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act,' would end the patent monopoly for any drug that sold for a price exceeding the median price in five other major countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan. This would allow large savings since drug prices in these countries are roughly half as much as in the United States. Drug companies would have a choice of either lowering their prices or losing their patent monopoly.”

Another bill in Congress now would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and, as Baker pointed out, since Medicare spends about $100 billion a year on drugs, it would give the government program great bargaining power to lower prices. The U.S. Veterans Administration, while it does not negotiate as the term is understood, but it has ways of buying its drugs at a lower rate than that which the general public is forced to pay. Negotiation, however, would be a great benefit to the people. Also, because drugs very often are much cheaper in other countries, a bill has been introduced that would allow everyone to import drugs from those countries that, as Baker noted, have comparable safety standards on drugs as the U.S.

Big Pharma is sure to bring out its big guns, many of whom have been in government, either as elected officials or have worked in the very agencies that are supposed to regulate monopolistic industries like the pharmaceutical corporations. And, be sure that those corporations will open their formidable war chests of money that they have received from their overpriced drugs.

The pharmaceuticals are not the only ones who fleece the people. They just take from the percentage of the population that has health insurance and try to get their outrageous prices from individuals who have no insurance. What wage-working man or woman can pay $1,000 a dose for medicine? Who can pay $10,000 a dose? Their television commercials tell the audience that, if they can't pay, there is help available, but that “help” is not going to come close to paying such high prices. Drug prices must come down, if people are going to try to survive in a degraded environment.

One example of the way people are being sickened is to study the statistics of ground water and the pollution of that water and the water that is taken from lakes and rivers. There is little to drink that has not been tainted by various chemicals, most of which are there without the peoples' knowledge. A year ago, USAToday reported, “The problem of contaminated drinking water extends far beyond Flint, Mich. A study found tens of millions of Americans could be exposed to unsafe drinking water in any given year, consuming a wide spectrum of contaminants, including fecal coliform, lead and arsenic. In 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards, according to the study, published (in February 2018) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

While corporations across the country are contaminating water supplies, the U.S. Military poisons groundwater with impunity. According to World Without War (WWW), “America is experiencing one of the greatest public health crises in its history with up to 110 million people potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with Per and Poly Fluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS. A major source of the chemical contamination comes from the aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) used in routine fire-training on military bases. The military allows the poisons to leach into the groundwater to contaminate neighboring communities which use groundwater in their wells and municipal water systems.”

WWW pointed out that the Pentagon “assumes no liability and refuses to pay for cleaning up the contamination it has caused.” In just one aspect of military operations, firefighting, Army Col. Andrew Wiesen, the Department of Defense's director of preventive medicine for the Office of Health Affairs, told the Marine Corps Times, “We don't do the primary research in this area...the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is responsible for that.”

The U.S. Military has been widely reported (when it is reported at all) to be one of the most egregious polluters wherever it exists and the U.S. has some 800 bases around the world. If they feel that they can be so cavalier in its leaving trails of poison in its home country, imagine how they must treat people near its bases around the world, especially the poor countries whose inhabitants are reviled by the U.S. president, Donald Trump. Since the military mind runs to dreams and plans of conquest, no one should be surprised at the U.S. services' attitude about their spreading pollutants and toxins liberally on the earth.

That attitude is merely a reflection of Trump's perverted view that the earth is for exploitation without end and that nothing should stand in the way of making profit. And, that's the sole purpose of corporations in the U.S.: Making profits for shareholders...without end. Consequently, to make it possible for companies to do that, unfettered, he put Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA. Pruitt, as attorney general of Oklahoma, sued the EPA time and again to bring an end to regulations that protected the people and the planet, but hampered Corporate America from making their accustomed obscene profits.

In agency after agency after federal department, it's what Trump did in his nominations and appointments. He named people to posts whose main purpose was to destroy the effectiveness of the agency they supposedly were to lead. It's what Trump, as president, set out to do and what he has done every day of his presidency: Contamination of water and air and soil and adding to the worst mass extinction the world has seen in millions of years. All of this is less than than the tip of the Trumpian iceberg, but he doesn't care as long as money can be made by the rich through his efforts. What he doesn't seem to have noticed is that humans are a part of what is being destroyed and he has visited even more suffering on the American people.

Worst thing is that he seems incapable of understanding, but, if he does understand yet continues to act in the manner in which he's acted in the first two years of his presidency, he's mad. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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