Editorial roundup – February 15

Drug king: A consumer foe gives Congress the silent treatment

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old poster child of greedy drug companies, smirked and smiled his way through a congressional hearing, ultimately pleading the Fifth.

The reason for his appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was to explain why some pharmaceutical firms dramatically raise prices for certain prescription drugs. Case in point: the decision in September by Turing Pharmaceuticals, where Shkreli was CEO at the time, to jack up the price of Daraprim, used to treat a parasitic disease, from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

The former hedge fund manager, who became the target of national derision for his brash defense of the price hike, could have given lawmakers some guidance. Instead, he declined to answer questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In December Shkreli was charged with securities fraud, unrelated to Daraprim’s price.

After the hearing, he tweeted: “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.”

Fortunately, other industry representatives were more respectful of Congress’ interest in finding ways to control drug costs and offered House members their input. Shkreli had 50 minutes at the witness table, but he shouldn’t have bothered. At least his arrest didn’t change his endearing qualities.

Obama’s wishful budget can’t be taken seriously

The Orange County Register (TNS)

When President Barack Obama submitted his proposed budget one year ago, he claimed that he wanted to do away with the “mindless austerity” of the sequestration, which had provided some measure of limitation on government spending. Then in December, aided and abetted by a Republican-controlled Congress, he eradicated those minor restrictions and replaced mindless austerity with clueless profligacy.

Now he puts forth a budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, that calls for $4.15 trillion in spending, a $223 billion increase over the current year’s budget. His proposal, curiously released while all eyes were focused on the New Hampshire primary, spans more than 2,300 pages, which, in itself, serves as a testament to the federal government’s bloat and overreach.

The president’s budget contains $3 trillion in proposed tax increases over the next 10 years, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The most controversial of these is a $10.25-per-barrel oil tax, which would be used to fund “clean” transit projects and low-carbon technologies such a self-driving cars, which the private sector is already rapidly developing.

With oil prices currently hovering around $30 a barrel, that is a roughly 35 percent tax, which experts project would translate to a price hike of about 25 cents per gallon at the pump. Fortunately, this is a nonstarter for congressional Republicans.

The president’s budget message reads like his State of the Union addresses, espousing his wish list, from “green energy” subsidies to universal preschool to high-speed rail and increased transit funding to $4 billion for a K-12 computer science program to two years of “free” community college to apprenticeship programs to “encouraging” state paid leave policies — none of which is the province of federal, state and local governments.

Obama’s budget would, once again, expand government control over our lives and further burden current and future generations with debt. It is understandable that a lame-duck president with a somewhat hostile Congress would advance a budget sprinkled with fairy dust, but Obama’s proposal should not be taken seriously with regard to fiscal responsibility.