Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I am flattered and humbled that my last post was discussed on the last flagship podcast, but I am sorry to say that I think Rob Long is wrong about TPP.
When Rob says that, “somethings are true even if Barack Obama says they are true and TPP is good for this country.” I am going to get into more of the substance of TPP in a few moments, but I’d like to begin by saying that Obama advocating for anything is a red flag. Why should I trust Obama when he says this is free trade or that this is good for America? Why would I trust anyone in government after the last 8 years? Did the Affordable Care Act make healthcare more affordable? Did Dodd-Frank protect consumers or did it just end up hurting small community banks while protecting big banks and big law firms? I should trust Obama on TPP after he said there wasn’t a smidgen of corruption at the IRS? I should trust Obama after he said he found out about Hillary’s server on the news even though the FBI documents showed that he emailed her on that very same server? I’m sorry, but Barack Obama is not to be trusted.
The same goes for members of congress because I do not believe a single member of congress read the 6,700 page TPP bill. If they didn’t read the 2,700-page Affordable Care Act, then they most definitely didn’t read the TPP bill. The federal government is not worthy of our trust and they have forfeited their right to pass massive comprehensive bills of any kind.
I have not read the entire bill myself, but I have looked into one area that should be of particular interest to all voters. The TPP will be terrible for average people because it will limit the availability of generic drugs and will stifle innovation in large drug companies.
Before I can continue to explain this, I have to explain how drugs are patented, protected, and approved by the FDA. When a drug company develops a new drug it has to go through a tremendous amount of red tape and testing before it can be approved for human use. The process is so extensive that it can actually bankrupt companies, which is why they are protected by patents. A drug patent lasts for 20 years. I personally think that 20 years is too long, but I’ll take them at their word. After 20 years a competing company can market a generic version of the drug, right? Wrong. Before another company can market the generic drug they have to re-perform all of the costly proof of efficacy trials. The generic company has to redo the trials because the original developer can withhold the initial research proving the drug is effective for an additional 5 years. The drug patent of 20 years is more like 25 years. Things become even more complicated when new benefits of existing drugs are found. I could spend an entire post arguing about the inefficiencies of the FDA drug approval process. The basic point is that it’s absurd that generic drug companies have to prove the efficacy of a drug that has already been proven to be effective; it’s not good for competition or innovation.
The TPP will only make the aforementioned drug approval process worse because it takes it international. The 5-year extension for data acquired during initial drug testing could be extended from 10 to 12 years in the signatory nations. Things continue to get even more complicated when new uses of existing drugs are found. We would be turning over an increasingly bureaucratic and inefficient drug approval system to a supra-national organization. I doubt things will become more efficient, but I can almost guarantee innovation and competition will continue to be stifled.
A final thought on free trade in general. I support free trade in theory because I view it as an extension of capitalism. The goal is to create an environment where I can prosper and that same prosperity can be spread across the world, which will hopefully improve the lives of everyone. My concern is with how free trade or what is called free trade is actually practiced today. I find myself wondering if free trade is actually possible? How can we compete against countries that are unscrupulous and have little thought for individual citizens? Is my iPhone worth the terrible conditions at the Foxconn factory? Would American companies figure out how to make their devices in the US, if they didn’t have the option of cheap foreign labor? What are the negative effects of large American companies thinking of themselves as international companies rather than American companies that happen to make some products overseas? If we can’t actually compete does that make it free trade? What about the social consequences of industries leaving? Are cheaper clothes at Walmart worth the erosion of the community and social fabric? I don’t know these answers, but I agree with Richard Feynman when he said, “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered, than answers that can’t be questioned.”
I do know that if TPP is passed the generic drug market will suffer, innovation will suffer, competition will suffer, and Americans will suffer. The more removed the governors are from the governed, the worse it will be for the people. The average citizen can barely get their congressmen to care about them, how will we be able to influence the new TPP bureaucracy? We won’t.