[Marxism] Drugs, Wars, Prisons and Corporate Wealth
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Thu Apr 25 07:55:36 MDT 2019
Drugs, Wars, Prisons and Corporate Wealth
By Bonnie Weinstein
The principle of profit is king holds true for the military and prison industrial complexes as well as the healthcare industry and industry in general. War, prisons and the healthcare industry all have one thing in common—they make money off of human misery.
There’s a multitude of examples of how the quest for higher profits endangers the health and welfare of working people. But two recent examples in the medical industry stand out.
Pharmaceutical corporations spend tens-of-millions of dollars on advertisements—on everything from hemorrhoid ointments to late-stage cancer drugs—because they profit tremendously from the sale of them.
The financial wellbeing of pharmaceutical corporations depends on profits from the sale of drugs to individuals, and to insurance companies that insure drug coverage. Profit is the purpose of their existence.
Safety, efficiency and accessibility for the poor to life-saving drugs are only important if they make a profit.
In the case of the manufacturers of opiates that have killed over 70,000 in 2017 alone,1 addiction is profitable because they can sell more drugs—proving capitalism and medicine are incompatible.
The depths of greed
In a January 18, 2019 New York Times article by Danielle Ofri titled, “The Insulin Wars,”
“Between 2002 and 2013, prices tripled for some insulin. Many cost around $300 a vial, without any viable generic alternative. Most patients use two or three vials a month, but others need the equivalent of four. Self-rationing has become common as patients struggle to keep up. In the short term, fluctuating blood sugar levels can lead to confusion, dehydration, coma, even death. In the long term, poorly controlled diabetes is associated with heart attacks, strokes, blindness, amputation and the need for dialysis. The exorbitant prices confound patients and doctors alike since insulin is nearly a century old now. The pricing is all the more infuriating when one considers that the discoverers of insulin sold the patent for $1 each to ensure that the medication would be affordable.”
This means that people are getting sicker and even dying because they can’t afford the insulin they need because the industries’ profit margin is more important than their lives.
In a January 31, 2019 New York Times article by Barry Meier titled, “Sackler Scion’s Email Reveals Push for High-Dose OxyContin, New Lawsuit Disclosures Claim,”
“The lawsuit, which was filed in June by the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, claims that Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family knew that putting patients on high dosages of OxyContin for long periods increased the risks of serious side effects, including addiction. Nonetheless, they promoted higher dosages because stronger pain pills brought the company and the Sacklers the most profit. ...The lawsuit alleges that the Sackler family received more than $4 billion in opioid profits since 2007, when the company pleaded guilty. The lawsuit includes claims that McKinsey and Company, a consulting firm, prepared reports for Purdue Pharma to develop strategies that would increase the prescribing by doctors of the more powerful forms of the company’s painkillers. According to the complaint, McKinsey consultants advised Purdue Pharma to increase sales by claiming that opioids reduced stress and made patients less isolated. Patients on drugs such as OxyContin can in fact become socially withdrawn. McKinsey consultants, members of the Sackler family were told, also planned to study techniques for keeping patients on opioids longer and McKinsey urged Purdue Pharma to fight efforts taken by federal agencies to stop illegal drug sales...”
Financial success for the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, in fact, contributed to more than 70,200 American deaths in 2017.2 This is nothing short of mass murder for profit. And, under the private, for-profit medical industry, big business has nothing to lose by people getting sicker while becoming addicted to their drugs. It just means more profits for them all around.
Death and incarceration is big business, too, in the USA
War and the sales of weapons—from small arms to nuclear arsenals—is the USA’s biggest industry and is underwritten by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of $716 billion for 2019 alone, that includes a 2.6 percent pay increase for service members.3 (And this figure does not include the cost of the U.S. police force.)
Meanwhile, the private corporations that manufacture these weapons keep increasing their profits while causing death and destruction across the globe—also good for business. The rebuilding, cleanup and exploitation of natural resources after wars and bombings, sometime in the future, amounts to a business-investment for U.S. corporations.
The giant prison industrial complex—including immigrant detention centers—fuels the U.S. public and private prison system, which profits off the imprisoned poor.
The poor, unlike their wealthy counterparts with plenty of bail money and lawyers, are unable to provide for their own defense, and are found guilty, or forced to plea to a lesser charge—even when innocent—only to languish in jail because there is no equal justice under capitalism.
The irony is that the cost of keeping people in jail could pay for college scholarships for all state and federal inmates:
“Incarceration costs an average of $31,000 per inmate, per year, nationwide. In some states, it’s as much as $60,000. Taxpayers foot the bill for feeding, housing and securing people in state and federal penitentiaries.” May 19, 20174
So, while the costs of the Prison Industrial Complex are astronomical, taxpayers pay for them, making incarcerating people very profitable for big business—and not just directly from taxpayers—but indirectly through the “new slavery,” i.e., corporations exploiting dirt-cheap prison labor to increase their profits instead of having to pay union wages.
Free education from cradle to grave for all would go a long way toward ending the “crimes of the poor against the poor” such as theft, drugs and gang wars. It would benefit all of us and drastically reduce crime, but that’s just not profitable and, therefore, not good for business.
The solution is socialist revolution
The fact is, that under the capitalist system, crimes against the poor by the rich, like medical price-gouging, war, mass incarceration, slavery and pollution, are perfectly legal because they are profitable for the .01 percent who own the means of production, and the raw materials necessary to run them. And crimes of the poor against the poor are profitable for big business, too.
The capitalists have it covered both ways.
Capitalism’s profit motive is stacked against the masses of humanity and against the incredible life forms that share this planet with us.
We can keep our planet and ourselves alive and healthy only by democratically and collectively building a socialist society.
Then we can turn production for profit into a democratically structured system of production for all the things people want, with equal prosperity for all. Socialism will, at long last, bring the brutality of capitalism to a final end, to the benefit of the whole world.
1 “More than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids—a two-fold increase in a decade.” National Institute of Drug Abuse, January 2019
3 “2019 Defense Budget Signed by Trump”
4 “How much does it cost to send someone to prison?”
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