Panderer in chief

by Russ Roberts on September 15, 2008

in Politics

For me, this video captures much of what is wrong with the political process in America. Here is the text:

Lance Armstrong: Senator Obama and Senator McCain, we will lose more than 560,000 Americans to cancer this year–1,500 a day. That amounts to one American death every minute. What are three specific things that you will do to help accelerate the fight against this disease?

McCain: As president, I will lead the effort for stronger and more coordinated public and private research efforts.

Right—let’s start with a totally empty statement that has the vague sound of good management but in practice means absoluteIy nothing. 

I worked in the past to double NIH funding 

You did? That was so generous. I know your wife is a wealthy women but still, the NIH budget is real money and for you to double it, well that just blows me away. What? Oh, you mean you voted for doubling it using taxpayer money. I get it. OK. Never mind. But it sure sounded grand the way you said it. I suppose that was the idea.

and I will also work for greater focus on healthy living, early detection, and ensuring access to quality and affordable care for all Americans, especially those who are denied coverage because of a devastating disease like cancer.

Oh yes, greater focus. That’s what’s missing. Focus.

This is a fight we must, and will, win as a nation.

Definitely. Thanks for all the specifics. And now for Senator Obama’s answer.

Obama: First, I’ll double cancer research funding.

Way to go! Very specific. But I assume you mean taxpayer-funded research. Like your opponent, you use language that implies it’s your doing. Either way, why only a doubling? Why not a quadrupling? Or a ten-fold increase. If you’re going to make a meaningless pledge that’s pure pandering, think big!

Second, I’ll provide affordable health care for all Americans. As someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I’ll make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick. I’ll push them to cover cancer screenings, and provide treatment and preventive care.

Great idea. Why not have the government just take over the whole business of insurance?

Third, we’ll modernize the health care system to reduce medical error, lower costs and improve the quality of patient care. 

Ah, modernization. That will make such a big difference.

It’s time for a government that wages a war against cancer as aggressive as the war cancer wages against us.

Love that military metaphor.

As president, I will lead that fight.

But Senator McCain promises to win that fight. Where’s your optimism?

Here is what I wish one of them had said:

Cancer is a horrible disease and we currently spend billions of dollars both publicly and privately to fight it. I’d love to spend even more, but of course a dollar spent fighting cancer is a dollar not spent fighting heart disease and I’m not sure we’ve got the right balance. Maybe we need to double the amount we spend fighting cancer or maybe we need to cut it in half. As President  I pledge to make our public funding of research as effective as possible rather than listening to the loudest voices. Wish me luck. Finally, I pledge to reduce the regulatory hurdles facing drug innovation that reduce the returns to research and delay the arrival of life-saving drugs.

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