Follow The Money: Yes To Tainted Toys; No To Cheaper Meds

via Bring It On! by Daniel DiRito on 11/17/07

Time has a way of exposing inconsistenc ies…and when it does, it often shines a bright light upon previously ignored or hidden hypocrisies. For me, Thursday’s Democratic debate helped crystallize my thoughts on one of those situations.

We’ve all heard plenty about the tainted toys being imported from China…toys which have been recalled due to lead content and other dangerous chemicals harmful to America’s children. As the candidates were debating the merits of our trade agreements, it occurred to me that the response of the Bush administrati on to the questionable imports warranted further analysis.

Following an exchange on the topic of our existing trade agreements and whether they provide the mechanisms necessary to monitor and penalize the improper acts (like the exportation of dangerous toys) of those nations and companies (often American owned) doing business in those countries, I took particular notice of Senator Biden’s comments.

After a number of the candidates expressed their criticism of the handling of the imported toys as well as NAFTA and CAFTA (the trade agreements typically associated with questionable trade issues), Biden offered the following with regard to the outrage at the lack of response to the toys in question:

From The New York Times:

SEN. BIDEN: Look, it’s not the agreement; it’s the man. Under the WTO, we can shut this down. What are they all talking about here? It’s about a president who won’t enforce the law. (Applause.) When they contaminated chicken, what happened? They cut off all chickens going in from Delaware — a $3 billion industry — into China. They cut it off. We have power under the — this agreement. I don’t know what anybody’s talking about here. Enforce the agreement.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Shut it down. (Applause.)

As I listened, I recalled another situation which I think even better demonstrates the inconsistenc ies of the current administrati on with regard to trade and the safety and protection of the American public…one that exposes a level of hypocrisy that we shouldn’t accept from our government.

Following the passage of President Bush’s Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003…and in response to the President’s insistence upon a provision to prevent Medicare from negotiating bulk discounts for drugs…there was a push in the Congress to allow the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada in order to assist those in need of less expensive drugs. As it was being discussed, the President threatened to veto legislation which would enable Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada. Back then, he stated he would do so because there would be no way for the FDA to insure the safety of the drugs which would be imported.

When the issue resurfaced earlier this year, the President once again promised to veto the proposed legislation; arguing that it would risk the importation of “unsafe, unapproved, and counterfeit drugs”.

In the absence of sufficient comparisons, one might be inclined to believe that the President’s persistent opposition to imported drugs signals his concern for the safety of the American public…and while I’m sure such concerns exist and may well be sincere…they may not be the primary motivation. I contend that the tepid response to the importation of dangerous toys from China provides an important comparison…o ne that is necessary to identify an inconsistenc y…and therefore serves to illuminate an obvious hypocrisy.

Here’s the thing. There are millions of elderly and poor Americans lacking sufficient insurance coverage and in need of affordable medications. The fact that our President refuses to allow these individuals to purchase drugs from Canada…drugs that Canadians apparently trust and drugs which no doubt keep Canadians well…speaks to one underlying motive. Isn’t is probable that the President’s opposition to the importation of Canadian medications is first and foremost about protecting the profits of large drug companies who charge Americans premium prices for their medications? Keep in mind this is the same President who also vetoed legislation to extend health care coverage to more of America’s poor children. As I look at these issues in conjunction with the measures to insure the safety of imported toys, I struggle to reconcile the contradictio ns.

One must question the lack of substantive action on the part of the Bush administrati on with regard to tainted toys from China…toys that are often manufactured in China by large corporations seeking cheap labor and higher profits. If we’re willing to make the argument that it is prudent to prevent ill Americans from obtaining Canadian medications that are arguably safe and beneficial, then why aren’t we also acting forcefully and preemptively to protect healthy American children and prevent them from obtaining unsafe toys manufactured in China?

I’ll answer my own question. We do so because the Bush administrati on places more weight upon cozying up to corporate interests and protecting their profits than he does upon looking out for the welfare of American citizens. Should the two concerns intersect, all the better; should they not, then we apparently turn a blind eye to danger.

Toss in the fact that we are constantly being bombarded by the Bush administrati on’s mantra that they’re fighting the war on terror in Iraq (at a cost of 10 billion per month) in order to protect Americans at home and the breadth and depth of this President’s efforts to distort and deceive suddenly becomes crystal clear. Protecting Americans ought to extend beyond the concerns for the coffers of corporate collaborator s and the political aspirations of those who have found that fueling fear wins elections.

If this represents the manner in which the Bush administrati on intends to execute its responsibili ties to protect us and keep us secure, I’m afraid I join many Americans in believing the outcome is woefully inadequate.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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