Drug price discrepancy infuriates reader

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

At age 89, I have a number of medical issues that require various medications. I have a question involving Big Pharma pricing practices. There is one particular medication that I was paying more than $95 per prescription until I was told to use one of those discount prescription cards. So I went into one pharmacy and was told it would wind up costing more. Then I went to another drug store where they honored the card and I wound up paying a little more than $20 for the same prescription. Why the ridiculous discrepancy in price and why hasn’t the government cracked down on the price of various medications? It seems to me many people requiring medications are being ripped off by pharmaceutical manufacturers who seem to enjoy playing “Guess the Price” with those who can’t afford playing with their very lives to survive these mean-spirited practices. Let the long-overdue investigations begin.

Herb Stark.

Mooresville, N.C.

Hanson offered outdated analysis on socialism

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In a recent op-ed column, Victor Davis Hanson attributes the return of “socialism” to the American political lexicon to historical forgetfulness. His muddled, misleading analysis paradoxically exposes deficiencies in his own historical understanding.

Hanson relies on a Cold War-era canard that squeezes social democracy, socialism, Marxism and communism into an unvariegated mass, each no different from the others. This ignores a fundamental historical reality: Conceptions of social democracy and socialism long preceded Karl Marx. Hanson’s insinuation that espousing socialist ideas is tantamount to condoning the totalitarian atrocities of Stalinist Russia, Maoist China or Khmer Rouge Cambodia is fear-mongering falderal. Hanson ignores successful social democracies in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, governments balancing market economics and social welfare. Hanson forgets that many popular, effective federal programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Veterans Affairs) are fundamentally socialistic.

Hanson’s historical amnesia encompasses the causes of income inequality. He bizarrely blames globalization and imbalances in foreign trade while holding domestic political decisions blameless. He forgets how tax cuts have redistributed income upward without once fulfilling the supply-side fantasy of a magically expanding tax base and plummeting deficit. Nor does he acknowledge how the hobbling of unions is responsible for one-fifth of today’s income inequality. The 2008 financial crisis evades his notice, as does the fleecing of students by for-profit colleges. He is mute regarding the “gig” economy’s reduction of workers into part-time independent contractors stripped of workplace protections. Festering inequality even led the Business Roundtable (no raving socialists there) to de-emphasize “shareholder value,” the linchpin of the capitalism Hanson lionizes.

Perhaps Hanson fears that open discussion of socialism will broaden political discourse and reveal many conservative orthodoxies as shibboleths destined for history’s dustbin.

David Routt.

Richmond.

Trump failure to protect environment is puzzling

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

When President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change, I assumed it was because it was negotiated by President Barack Obama. When he removed environmental protections from coal and other fossil fuels, I assumed it was because of the money he received from these corporations.

But his recent assaults against our environment defy explanation. He attempted to remove the protections against algae in the Great Lakes, upon which 40 million Americans depend for water. When the G-7 wanted to combat the fires in the Amazon rainforest, the “lungs of the Earth,” he refused to participate. He removed the monitoring of methane gas released from fracking for natural gas, even though these companies did not even want this to occur. Trump is now working to remove protections for the Tongass Natural Forest in Alaska, which is responsible for a percentage of the Earth’s oxygen supply.

Why does President Trump do these things? Evidently it is neither for popular support nor for money. And why do Republicans refuse to say anything to save our children and grandchildren?

Robert Redmon.

Midlothian.

Curb vaping use

among teens

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

As a recent college graduate, I have seen the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes among my peers. Recently, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit against Juul and other companies that make or sell e-cigarettes, claiming the companies target teenagers in their marketing and deceive consumers about the nicotine content in their products. Fruit and dessert vape flavors are addicting a new generation of teens to nicotine, erasing decades of progress in reducing tobacco usage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that e-cigarette use jumped by 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.

Young people aren’t always aware that most e-cigarette products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and has withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety and weight gain. Teens and young adults might more easily be hooked on nicotine and could have their brain development impacted.

The passing of Tobacco 21 and tobacco-free schools legislation in Virginia this year, and the recent court ruling requiring e-cigarette manufacturers to submit their products for public health review by 2020, are steps in the right direction. Effective Tobacco 21 laws should be passed in all 50 states, and Virginia’s law should be amended to be more in alignment with recommendations from national tobacco control partners. We also need more government regulation of e-cigarette marketing. Currently, e-cigarette ads are allowed on television while traditional cigarette ads are not. In addition, manufacturers initially marketed e-cigarette products to adults who already were smoking; online and social media campaigns by companies such as Juul have shifted that target audience to young people.

We can’t afford to wait years to discover the long-term impact of e-cigarettes before we take action. We need to advocate now for policies that prevent youth tobacco and e-cigarette use.

Bryan Tucker.

Glen Allen.

Would ‘utility easement’ give land to border wall?

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The RTD recently reported that President Donald Trump told his aides at an immigration policy meeting when the subject of land seizures came up to “take the land” and “get it done.”

All that is totally unnecessary. Just declare the entire border a utility easement and the U.S. will not have to pay the property owners a nickel.

I have visible proof that the plan will work. There is a power pole in my front yard, a telephone/cable pole in my backyard and a cable company has a line buried in my neighbor’s yard across the street.

In 70-plus years, those aforementioned companies have made millions in profits, but not a penny was paid to the property owners.

Alice Hague.

Henrico.

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