Weekly Pulse: Steve King’s Suicide Pact, Sin Taxes, and the Avastin Controversy

Posted Sep 22, 2010 @ 11:29 am by
Filed under: Health Care     Bookmark and Share

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Flickr, gadgetgirl2007, Creative CommonsRep. Steve King (R-IA) is urging Republicans to swear a “blood oath” to shut down the U.S. government until health care reform is repealed.

King is one of an growing number of Republicans who say that, if the GOP takes over congress this fall, they will hold up every appropriations bill until the Affordable Care Act is repealed, as Steve Benen reports in the Washington Monthly. Brian Beutler of TPM explains how this would actually work.

Blood oath or suicide pact?

Benen thinks the hardliners are crazy enough to actually follow through—They’ve done it before. In 1995, the Republicans shut down the federal government because then-president Bill Clinton refused to sign off on Congress’s radical plan to slash Medicare and other social spending. Several hundred thousand federal employees were furloughed because there was no money to pay their salaries and every aspect of the economy suffered, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

Ultimately, the GOP blinked and unfroze the government when the polls turned against them. Hence King’s proposed blood oath. King wants an ironclad commitment to shut down the federal government to repeal health care reform regardless of the consequences.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones predicts that a government shutdown would generate a backlash against the Republicans and an uptick of support for the Affordable Care Act. For one thing, a shutdown would give Obama and the Democrats plenty of airtime to sing the praises of the legislation. Also, history shows that the public has very little patience with a party that is willing to hold the entire federal government hostage to their extreme ideology. King’s plan is more of a suicide pact than a blood oath.

Condoms and porn

In other bodily fluid news, Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Cast interviews me about the ongoing fight to enforce occupational health and safety laws in on porn sets in California.

Under California law, porn producers must give performers condoms or equivalent protection, but producers routinely ignore the law. Performers who insist on using protection are blacklisted within the industry. A non-profit called the AIDS Health Care Foundation is pushing state safety regulators to bring the porn industry into compliance.

Usually, the adult entertainment industry is at pains to portray itself as a mainstream, multi-billion dollar industry that has shed its shady past. Yet, when they are ordered to obey the same occupational health and safety laws as other employers, industry groups are pleading poverty and threatening to off-shore jobs. I guess they are just like other corporations.

Pizza, pap smears, and propaganda

Alexandra Tweten of Ms. Magazine reports that so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” have a new weapons in their campaign to lure women into their fake clinics: Pizza and pap smears.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are anti-choice front groups that mimic full-service reproductive health clinics in the hopes of diverting women from seeking abortions or birth control. Tweten found a coupon from a CPC in St. Cloud, Minnesota that offers $10 off a pap smear and a free small Little Ceasar’s Pizza with every visit. Come for the extra cheese, stay for the anti-choice propaganda.

The wages of sin

In these tight economic times, many governments are considering so-called “sin taxes” on cigarettes, sodas, and other unhealthy products. The idea is to raise money while encouraging people to make healthier choices.

Monica Potts of TAPPED argues that progressives shouldn’t get too enthusiastic about sin taxes because they have a disproportionate effect on the poor. All sales taxes are regressive because lower income people spend a much higher percentage of their income on purchases than rich people. Income taxes are more progressive, and less paternalistic, than sales taxes.

Avastin is the new death panel

Nick Baumann of Mother Jones debunks the latest right wing health care conspiracy: An FDA panel recently recommended that chemotherapy drug Avastin be stripped of its indication for late-stage breast cancer.

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal accused the FDA of “mugging” poor Avastin as part of a sinister plan to ration health care. In fact, the science shows that, if anything, Roche, the maker of Avastin, has been mugging breast cancer patients and their insurers—the drug costs at least $80,000 a year and it doesn’t extend patients’ lives. If this is a conspiracy against Avastin, why isn’t the FDA gunning to revoke its indications for kidney, brain, and colon cancer?

Even if the FDA strips Avastin’s indication for late stage breast cancer, doctors will still be allowed to prescribe it off-label; Roche just won’t be allowed to market the drug as a treatment for this condition.

The conspiracy buffs say that the FDA just wants to save money for Medicare and Medicaid. Indeed, if Avastin loses its indication, public and private insurers may be less likely to cover it. However, off-label doesn’t necessarily mean off-limits. Medicare has been covering some off-label drugs since 1993 and the rules were further loosened last year.

As usual, the Wall Street Journal is more concerned about defending corporate profits and bashing regulation than it is about protecting patients.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Comments are closed.