If you’ve been following my attempts to unsubscribe from Bernie Sanders’ mailing list, you should know that it was a nail-biting 48 hours as I waited to hear back from his team after my last missive on Thursday. So many thoughts went through my mind: Maybe they were tired of hearing from me; Maybe they weren’t interested in what I had to say at all, maybe they had just been pretending all along; Maybe they were busy – we all get busy, right?; Or maybe they were all lying in a ditch somewhere!

So it was with great relief that I opened my inbox this morning to find a message from the folks at TB – a message that appeared to have been crafted especially with me in mind!

My response follows:

 

Hi Team Bernie,

I have to say, I was a little anxious when I didn’t hear anything from you in over 48 hours (just over 48 hours.) So I was relieved to see your message to me this morning, informing me of Bernie’s plan to take on Big Pharma and its outrageous pricing of prescription drugs.

Of course Bernie’s not taking on Big Pharma at all. If he were doing that he’d be calling for the abolition of the FDA: the agency that makes bringing drugs to market so prohibitively expensive that only the big established companies can manage to do it. Combined with their cozy relationships with the “regulatory” agency, and their ability to patent the medicines they create, this virtually guarantees them a monopoly position in the marketplace. So of course they set whatever prices they want to – they’re not facing any real competition.

And if you think the FDA is necessary to ensure the safety of drugs and medical devices, you might want to think again. It is estimated that FDA restrictions have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, while at best preventing only a fraction of that number. (http://www.fdareview.org/) Here’s a little something I wrote on the topic, if you’re interested (and you seem to be): http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2014/04/dallas-buyers-club-nails-fda.html

Astronomical prices for prescription drugs – indeed, ridiculous healthcare costs across the board – are the product of government intervention in the marketplace. But rather than look to the source of the problem, you’re just reacting to its effects with the only tool you seem to have at your disposal: even more intervention in the marketplace.

You speak of forcing drug companies to disclose more information about their pricing, “banning” the practice of paying competitors to restrict generic drugs from the marketplace and imposing “severe penalties” on drug companies. All of this involves more government force, and none of it addresses the source of the problem – which of course IS government force.

You even advocate a national health care system that “puts people ahead of profits”. Maybe you didn’t read the article I sent earlier (no worries – I know you’re busy) where I explained the role of profits in getting markets to produce what people actually want and at prices they can afford. Removing products from markets means removing peoples’ voices from determining what gets produced and how. I kind of thought we all learned this lesson back in the 20th Century but I guess not. Maybe I could have some of my friends who live in countries with nationalized health care write to you about how they can’t even get treatments that are readily available here (you know, for the little things like cancer, ongoing seizures, or getting an autism diagnosis before the age of five). It’s all “free” though and I guess that’s what matters.

It occurs to me that your hearts are in the right place, but you’re just not thinking very clearly. You’re reacting to situations without taking the time to understand how they came to be. At the risk of overstepping the boundaries in our relationship, I’d like to recommend something for all of you: meditation. It just might help you to think more clearly, to look deeper into the roots of problems and maybe to come up with some more thoughtful solutions – more peaceful ones too. I’m even going to recommend an app for you all to make it all a little easier. It’s called Headspace, and you can sign up for free here:  https://www.headspace.com/

Again, I hope I haven’t been presumptuous here. I am enjoying our little dialogue and look forward to our continued correspondence.

Please do unsubscribe me from your list.

Sincerely,

Bretigne Shaffer

UPDATE, SUNDAY SEPT. 13:

Nothing Yet from Team Bernie Today.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

It’s Sunday. Maybe they don’t send out emails on Sundays.

UPDATE, MONDAY SEPT. 14, 12:08PM:

Sometimes you just need to have a little faith, and remember that other people are busy too. After yet another 48-hour silence, I just received a missive from the Team, this one about “breaking up the banks.” I’ll be out most of today so probably won’t get to this until tomorrow, but I really can’t wait to get to this. Oh Team Bernie, we’ve got so much to talk about…

UPDATE, TUESDAY SEPT 15:

Hi Team!

It’s great to hear from you again! I had feared that after my most recent (5th) attempt to unsubscribe from your list, you might not have wanted to continue our discussion. So I was pleasantly surprised to see your email yesterday morning.

So let’s get to it. You say:

“The greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the worst recession since the Great Depression.”

We’ve talked about this.

You can’t just look at the superficial manifestations of a problem and claim to understand how to solve that problem. Yet that is what you’re doing here again.

Bernie’s entire position is founded on a belief in class warfare, but without recognizing who the plundering class is. His view pits “the rich” against the rest of us – which I’m sure makes the real oligarchs very happy as it keeps the attention off of them. He correctly says that the middle class is disappearing, but he doesn’t understand why that is. He believes that the financial crisis was caused by “the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street” – but doesn’t stop to ask how it is that the bankers, et al. got away with this behavior.

If he did bother to ask, he would learn the following:

1. That the government’s inflation of the money supply was at the root of the financial crisis, as it has been at the root of every financial crisis since (and including) the Great Depression;

2. That one of the reasons banks and other financial institutions can get away with reckless behavior is something called the FDIC – Federally guaranteed deposit insurance. Prior to the founding of the Federal Reserve and the introduction of FDIC, banks collapsed all the time, and the world didn’t fall apart. That is as it should be – if someone is doing a crappy job of running a bank, they should go out of business and let someone else do it. And no, it doesn’t “bring down the entire economy” to have banks go out of business – other banks or other companies will buy up their assets and take over their business. It’s what happened before the federal govt. got involved and it’s what would happen if it got uninvolved – as it should.

3. That another of the reasons for the banks’ reckless behavior is something called “moral hazard.” It’s what you get when you create a situation where people are not held accountable for their actions. It’s what you get, for instance, when the government has a history of bailing out failing financial institutions, which ours does, and which Bernie, to his credit, opposed the last time around.

4. He would also learn about a thing called the “Community Reinvestment Act”, under which banks and other lending institutions faced severe penalties if they failed to meet racial lending quotas – even when it meant pushing loans on those who really could not afford them.

The financial crisis that we are continuing to live through is not the result of “rich greedy people”, but the direct result of government interference in the economy. Bernie doesn’t see this, and every one of his “solutions” – including his call in your latest email to break up the banks – just involves more government interference in the economy. Three guesses as to how that’s going to turn out.

I think you guys need to have a little talk with Bernie.

Until next time, I remain

Bretigne Shaffer (please unsubscribe me.)