A Task That Needs to Be Done (Guest Voice)
A Task That Needs to Be Done
by Robert Coutinho
I recently had to go into the hospital due to an emergency. On my last day there, I got a new room mate who talked about politics, economics, and other items. What I learned from him was very important.
The man was in his early sixties. He was probably of average intelligence. He had worked most of his life in manual-labor jobs such as construction, landscaping, cleaning, etc. From what I could discern, I suspect that he voted mostly for Democrats (unsurprising in Massachusetts). What surprised me (and greatly disturbed me) was his nearly total lack of understanding about certain realities of our country.
1. He honestly believed that if a program on television was not purposely fictional that there was some legal or contractional requirement that the people tell the truth. Those of us who follow TMV usually have either assumed or at least hoped that people realize that some of the talking heads on television are either wildly misinformed or deliberately lying (most likely the latter). I think that we need to concentrate on informing the public that commentary on television has no requirement to be honest.
2. He was under the grossly incorrect delusion that the federal government pays for the vast majority of research for new drugs. The pharmaceutical industry would love this to be true, however, it turns out that the bill is footed by the companies trying to invent and develop these (often) life-saving and cost-saving items. A recent article at Forbes [http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2012/02/10/the-truly-staggering-cost-of-inventing-new-drugs/ ] showed that the average cost is currently $1.3 billion, with major players paying more like $4 billion or higher. Additionally, virtually all new drug development is occurring the the USA because it is the only market left that makes such development profitable.
3. He had the misconception that all items offered at a bank were FDIC insured. He had no clue that any bank could offer interest-bearing assets that were considered to be at-risk investments.
4. He was understandably cynical when it came to politics and the finance industry, yet somehow seemed to not know any legitimate reason why he should be cynical. The only information that he actually had about Romney was a vague feeling that the man had somehow hurt our state while he was governor and that he would be a bad president. He really had no specifics to offer on these views.
5. He had a deep mistrust of Wall Street. He believed that the financiers were probably psychopaths. Astoundingly, he had no idea that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was actually a government agency. When I explained that many of the lawyers who had worked for the agency had moved into lucrative, seven-figure-salary jobs with law firms that represent the firms that the SEC is supposed to regulate, he asked me what could be done. He suggested that, perhaps, congress would pass laws to prevent the obvious conflict of interest with people being recruited from a regulatory agency into the firms that represent the regulated industry. I then explained to him that those same lawyers—as well as the firms that hire the lawyers and the firms they represent—are major contributors to the election campaigns of those same law makers. He was easily able to draw the obvious conclusion (his exact wording was something to the effect of, “So we’re f****d?”)
The reason that I am writing this article is so that readers will realize that we have a huge job ahead of us. This man did not watch FoxNews (he does not subscribe to cable television). He seemed genuinely interested in the topics discussed. He even kept an open mind when I informed him of his misconceptions. Never the less, it disturbed me to see first-hand just how difficult of a job the creators of lies and deceptions have made our job.
Robert Coutinho is a disabled pharmaceutical chemist living in Massachusetts. He has been learning about life, the universe, and everything since he was born in 1963. He has had little else to do since his disability began in 1997.