By Max Ammerman
Hello, my dear reader! Today we’re going to talk about Interest Groups, and the effects they have on our government. Ah, the Interest Group: the appendix of the American political system. We know that it’s there, most of us just aren’t entirely sure as to what it does; yet it has the potential to do massive damage if we don’t understand it. While I may not be entirely certain what the appendix does for me (as I’m told it is only a semi-vestigial organ), I can attempt to shed some light on how interest groups can present problems to the political process.
An Interest Group is a group of like-minded individuals or organizations that have similar political ideologies, who strive to ensure that legislation or policy favorable to them is passed. Now on the surface level, this concept is a perfectly innocent one: after all, there could be an interest group that strives to have this picture of a Corgi Puppy snuggling a slightly smaller Plush Corgi placed in city halls all across the nation.
Unfortunately, Interest Groups tend to have much more nefarious goals in mind than pictures of cute puppies. For a prime example of this, just look at PhRMA (the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America). PhRMA represents thirty-two brand name drug companies in the US, such as Phizer and Indy’s own Eli Lily. PhRMA and its affiliate companies also spent around 40 million dollars lobbying in the second quarter of 2009 alone, and an astonishing 63 million dollars in the first quarter of 2016.
But what do these astronomical sums of money do? Well, it is the result of this spending that people like Martin Shkreli can increase the costs of Daraprim, a drug used to help AIDs patients, by roughly five thousand five hundred percent. Daraprim, which used to cost only $13.50 a pill, now costs $750 a pill. This is because legislation that has been passed due to PhRMA’s contributions prevents the negotiation of prescription medicine prices, as well as the regulation of prescription medicine prices. If some frame of reference is required for how bad this is, Campath, a drug used to treat Leukemia, costs roughly two-thousand, four hundred dollars per dose in the US, relative to the six hundred and sixty dollars per dose in Canada. Yeah, that’s an increase of nearly four hundred percent.
Lists of horror stories like that of PhRMA continue on at infinitum, covering a broad range of topics. From the NRA’s vehement opposition to background check laws, to PETA’s hypocritical use of euthanasia in its shelters, to the Energy Lobby fighting for less federal regulations on carbon emissions; Interest Groups have long been influencing American politics. However, the solution to this problem could be relatively simple: the people demanding more regulation on these third parties that have been tainting our democracy.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look up what an appendix does.
Sources: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106899074; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=110997920; http://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/pharma-bro-martin-shkreli-pleads-not-guily-new-charge-n586676; http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/pharmaceuticals-facts-policies-and-ncsl-resources.aspx; http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/04/first-quarter-doldrums-hit-lobbying-outlays-for-most-but-pharmaceutical-industry-bucks-the-trend/; http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=129359&page=1; https://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/lemtrada-economics-ms-treatments/