Down With Tyranny’s Howie Klein says Americans pay more for medicine than anyone else in the Western world because Democrat Steny Hoyer has taken more than one million dollars in bribes from Big Pharma. Excerpts from our conversation:
This interview has been edited and condensed
DAVID: Joining us is Howie Klein, he’s the founder and treasurer of the Blue America PAC, which raises money for progressive and socialist candidates all around America. He also writes Down with Tyranny. Last week, the Democratic caucus nominated Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. The vote goes before the full house on January 3rd. The caucus also named Congressman Steny Hoyer as House Majority Leader. Howie Klein congratulated Congressman Hoyer in Down with Tyranny by writing these words, and I quote, “Should Steny Hoyer be spending the rest of his life rotting in a prison cell? Absolutely.” So, I take it you’re not a fan of Steny Hoyer?
HOWIE: I have never ever been a fan of Steny Hoyer.
I wrote a couple of stories that involve Steny Hoyer. I think that the one you’re relating to is about the cost of medicine, is that correct?
HOWIE: Yeah, because there are only four people in the history of the house who have taken over a million dollars in bribes from the pharmaceutical industry. And Hoyer just crossed that mark. The outgoing Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who will now be minority leader, he’s taken bribes from those big companies, probably a little bit more than Hoyer. But McCarthy and Hoyer are both over a million dollars. So, the reason I brought that up… well there were a few reasons. One strictly had to do with why Americans pay so much more than people all around the world for medicine. And the other has to do with something that’s making heads explode in the House right now. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is saying there should be a rule that if you’re on a committee that’s dealing with a specific industry then you shouldn’t be taking any money from that industry. And of course, congressmen want to be on committees, so they can get that money. It’s bipartisan corruption. Both sides. Now everyone is talking about HR 1, the first bill Nancy Pelosi is bringing up in January. It’s an anti-corruption bill. But the biggest source of corruption in Congress is people taking bribes from the industries that they’re supposed to be overseeing. And Pelosi’s bill doesn’t address that. No mention of it in the bill at all. Now of course, I understand where Pelosi is coming from. If she wrote that into the bill nobody would vote for it.
But if you want to talk about getting rid of corruption, and you really want to talk about reforming Congress there’s no better way than saying to members if you’re on a committee that’s monitoring an industry, you’re not allowed to take money from that industry. And I think everyone would like that. Wouldn’t you like that?
DAVID: Yeah. Explain how the money works. Because if Steny Hoyer is taking a million dollars from the pharmaceutical industry, it’s not going into his pocket.
HOWIE: It does go! It does! It can go into his pocket!
HOWIE: Say you retire. Say you get defeated, and say you’ve got a million dollars left in your campaign war chest. Guess where the money goes?
DAVID: We should call Mel Brooks because it’s The Producers.
HOWIE: You can do anything you want with that money, more or less. You have to be careful what you do, but, for example, you can hire your son or your nephew or your wife or your sister to make sure the money is “well taken care of” and pay it to her.
DAVID: But Steny is pushing 80, and he’s not going anywhere.
HOWIE: OK, what Steny Hoyer does with that money is he uses it to buy power.
HOWIE: So, we’ve talked about this before on the show. There are a number of Democrats who don’t want to be seen taking money from the private prison industry, from payday lenders, from Wall Street or from the pharmaceutical companies. They don’t want their constituents to see that they’re taking this dirty money, so they take it from Hoyer instead. Hoyer acts as a laundromat for this kinda money. And in return he gets the loyalty of those members, and they vote for him to be Majority Leader. That makes it possible for him to get even more money! It’s a dirty little vicious cycle. And he is one of the worst at it. Out of everybody, Hoyer is literally one of the worst. Of the Democrats he’s the worst. Obviously, the Republicans are terrible as well. But Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made a name for herself doing the same thing.
DAVID: So, the people who have the least moral qualms get the most money and then they accrue the most power because they can, as you just said, launder this dirty money.
DAVID: But is it corrupt?
HOWIE: It defines corruption.
DAVID: How is it corrupt?
HOWIE: Because there is the part about paying enormous salaries to your children and your wife if you lose the next election, or if you decide to retire which eventually everybody does.
DAVID: Right but if you’re spreading the money around like manure…
DAVID: How is that corrupt?
HOWIE: Well you’re buying power. You’re not just giving it to people because you like the way they smile. You’re giving it to people so that they will vote for you and so you can accrue power. That’s the reason why Steny Hoyer does that.
DAVID: I think one of the problems the people who want to overturn Citizens United have is they’re not framing it properly. This just isn’t how we classically see a bribe or feathering one’s nest.
HOWIE: But it’s very much bribery. That was the point of my article today, by the way, which is that the reason we’re paying so much more for medicine is because the people writing the laws are getting paid off by the pharmaceutical companies. In other words, Amgen is giving these people who are writing the laws literally millions of dollars. Therefore, the laws get written the way Amgen wants them to get written. I go to places like Thailand and Turkey to buy medicine there. Because of conditions that I have, I have to get very, very expensive medicines. And it’s not half! In some cases it’s not even close to half! It’s like a tenth of what I would pay in America!
For example, an inhaler that I need. It’s a very common thing. In the United States it costs between sixty and eighty dollars. But in Thailand it’s six dollars! So, the case that I’m trying to make is it’s bribery because the drug companies are giving these politicians millions of dollars, and in return they get to write the laws. They don’t have to cut their prices. And they will say to the Republicans, and to these corrupt Democrats, we don’t want imported drugs coming into this country from Canada. And then they’ll go write laws to make sure that imported drugs are not allowed from Canada coming into the United States. How could it be anything but bribery?
DAVID: Okay. When you think of Tip O’Neill, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor. These are the people who were in the top echelon of Congress. Do any of them rise to the top without spreading money around?
DAVID: The only way you can become speaker is if you take money and pass it around, and that gives you the power.
HOWIE: Yes. Now Nancy Pelosi is not getting it from dirty industries. She manages to get money from other sources, but she gets a humongous amount of money. No one is gonna accuse her of taking money from Wall Street or taking money from Big Pharma. She has other sources of money. I think her money comes from people who are looking for someone to promote progressive values. You know, I hate to be an apologist for her. And I’m not meaning to be. Nancy Pelosi talks about HR 1 and reform in Congress, but she’s not really getting to the heart of the matter. She’s trying to make some headway, and she’s being realistic about what she can accomplish. But the real way to reform Congress and to make it less corrupt is to get all this campaign money out of the system. That is the only way it’s going to ever happen. Money is the root of every single problem we have in this country.
Money is the root of every single problem we have in this country