It's generally recognized that people have the right
to eat. When famine
breaks out, relief agencies rush food to the hungry. Politics and war may get in
the way (indeed, they are often the causes of the famine). Sometimes relief
efforts are too small or come too late. But the advanced industrial world usually
acts as if it has a moral obligation to respond to a hunger crisis.
In recent years, humanitarians have been taking a similar approach to
global public health. Shouldn't we be rushing medicine to people who need it, no
matter where they live and no matter how much money they have in their pockets?
The California energy crisis isn't over: it's only in
remission, thanks to a massive statewide commitment to conservation, a mild
summer, and the judicious retreat by energy conglomerates from their extortionist
pricing tactics. But the state's electricity consumers have been left with
permanently higher utility bills, and the state's taxpayers have been slapped
with a tab of nearly $10 billion to pay for the past year's price spike.
Democratic Governor Gray Davis is demanding a rebate. We'll see how far he gets
with FERC, the Republican-run Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Drug expenditures in the United States have doubled since 1993 and are expected to double again by 2004, according to a study by the Health Insurance Association of America. Elderly people now spend more on medicine than on doctor bills. Many health plans have cut back on other benefits because of their rising drug bills. About one-third of seniors have no insurance and are therefore paying the highest, nondiscounted retail prices.