We cannot give up, we must simply reach out

Yesterday I read an article in People magazine about heroes.  There was one woman who found out that her neighbor had to sell his house because the medication that he needed to stay alive cost $6000.00 a month, and they could not afford to keep up the house and keep him alive, and so she held a fundraiser to raise the money to give them time in their home.  Another story was about a man who learned that one of the students in his school could not complete an assignment describing her room – because she did not have a room.  Her father had lost his job and they were living in one room of a relative’s house.  This man invited the entire family, pets and all to live with them.  The last story was about a family that because, again, of loss of employment was losing their home.  They contacted their minister who had set up a program to buy the homes of those who were losing them and allow them to pay rent to stay in their homes until they could buy them back at a greatly reduced price.

These were stories of “Heroes”, however, things will not get better until these stories are no longer heroic but become commonplace.  Most families today must work two jobs in order to survive.  If, God forbid, a life threatening illness strikes and the only medication that will keep yourself, your partner, spouse or child alive costs $6000.00 a month, then the reality is that most of us have to begin making arrangements for the funerals of our loved-ones while they are still alive because paying for the medication for most of us is not even a matter of keep the house or die.  There is no either or.  And it will get worse before it gets better.

Why is the cost of living so high?  Why would life saving medication cost $6000.00 a month?  Here is the reason:

“A new report by the consumer health organization Families USA refutes the pharmaceutical industry’s claim that high and increasing drug prices are needed to sustain research and development. The report documents that drug companies are spending more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they do on research and development; that drug company profits, which are higher than all other industries, exceed research and development expenditures; and that drug companies provide lavish compensation packages for their top executives.

The report comes on the heels of a recent Families USA analysis that found prices rose more than twice the rate of inflation last year for the 50 most-prescribed drugs to seniors.

Among the nine pharmaceutical companies examined in the report (Merck, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia, Abbott Laboratories, American Home Products, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, and Allergan), all but one (Eli Lilly) spent more than twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration than they did on research and development, and Lilly spent more than one and one-half times as much. Six out of the nine companies made more money in net profits than they spent on research and development last year.

The report also documents profligate spending on compensation packages for top pharmaceutical executives. The executive with the highest compensation package in the year 2000, exclusive of unexercised stock options, was William C. Steere, Jr., Pfizer’s Chairman, who made $40.2 million. The executive with the highest amount of unexercised stock options was C.A. Heimbold, Jr., Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Chairman and CEO, who held $227.9 million in unexercised stock options.

“Pharmaceutical companies charging skyrocketing drug prices like to sugar coat the pain by saying those prices are needed for research and development,” said Ron Pollack, Families USA’s executive director. “The truth is high prices are much more associated with record-breaking profits and enormous compensation for top drug company executives.”

Pollack added, “Drug companies’ commitments to research and development are dwarfed by those companies’ expenditures for marketing, advertising, and administration.”

In 2000, the pharmaceutical industry was, once again, the most profitable U.S. industry, and profit margins in the industry were nearly four times the average of Fortune 500 companies. According to the
Families USA report, three companies (Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Abbott Laboratories) received twice as much in net profits than they spent on research and development. Three other companies (Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, and Allergan) received more money in net profits than they spent on research and development.

‘The pharmaceutical industry’s repetitious cry that research and development would be curtailed if drug prices are moderated is extraordinarily misleading,” said Pollack. “If meaningful steps are taken to ameliorate fast-growing drug prices, it is corporate profits, expenditures on marketing, and high executive compensation that are more likely to be affected, not research and development'”

We, the taxpayers, the consumers, the workforce of the country are the foundation upon which the wealthy have built, and maintained their mansions.  Things will not change until those who hoard the resources release them.  We have been reduced to a thing that is called a consumer.  Imagine that for every ten times more that the executive makes over that of the average worker, that executive rises one story above the people.  Back in 1980 when they made fifty times more than the workers the height was only five stories above us – we were still people and we still mattered as human beings.  Today they range from 30 stories above us to 1900 stories above us.  The only difference being what type of bug we look like to them, a beetle an ant or a gnat.  We have lost any resemblance to humanity in their eyes.

So, they do with us what they must in order to maintain their elevated living.  If it means laying off some and overworking others for less pay, it doesn’t matter.  If it means pricing a drug out of reach of most of the people who will need it, it doesn’t matter. If it means selling us drugs or products that are known to cause injury or fatality – who cares, it just means a few less bugs.  No one with a lingering sense of humanity can take home tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation at the expense of hundreds or thousands of families, if they considered these families human.  But they have risen too high to see, that we have not become less human, even under the labels of workers, consumers, or collateral damage – they have.  Below is information from Fair Economy.org.  It is a Washington based organization that keeps track of these things.  This is greed, not Democracy that we seem desperate to maintain.  Corporations today are no longer crops that nurture the people, build communities through jobs and the services that they bring to our towns, requiring protection to maintain their growth.  No, left to their own devices they have become weeds, which left unchecked strangle the roots of the good plants until everything else is dead.

We may talk about the needs of small business, but the greatest need of small business is a level field in which to grow, the small plumbing supply company that services the community and knows and cares for every employee is pushed out of business by Home Depot.

Small business is connected with the land on which it stands, the people that it serves, and the employees that it hires.  Small business in a part of the community in which it exists and because of that there is mutual support and respect.  Large corporations are like weeds, there is no land that it is native to, no particular field in which it must grow, no need to personally connect with the people that it employs or serves because it is impersonal.

As things continue to spiral down, many people talk about this as a cycle, one of many, and they throw out different timeframes for its completion.  That is nice.  But the truth is that this is a cycle – it is a material cycle that is coming to an end.  At the same time we are entering a spiritual cycle.  This is one where we value spiritual principals over material gain, principals like brotherhood, compassion, equality, sharing, and love.

We can’t jump on a new wheel until we either jump off of the old one, or the old one just breaks.  Over the next couple of years many, many people will be jumping onto the new.  Those who do make the change by becoming members of the family of humanity and assume a responsibility to that greater family, understanding that it is all for one and one for all, will escape the very worst of what is coming.  Clearly, the higher you are the harder you will fall.  So, everyone who is already on the ground floor has experienced the worst.  From here, we must learn to come together and help each other.  It is clearly a time to reinvent ourselves and re-create our goals to be spiritual ones, re-invent the family unit to include a greater family, and most of all – return to community, a life that once supported our ancestors through the hardest of times.  And learn, learn from where we are, know that God gave us this lesson for us to grow.  Never give up, just begin a new and better life with the rewards of love, family and friendship instead of money, power and fame.

Would Jesus Call A Dead Child Collateral Damage?

I just finished reading a story about a little six-year-old girl, Sara, living in Baghdad, who was sitting in her living room singing and playing with her baby brother while her mother listened lovingly from the kitchen as she prepared lunch. Suddenly a bomb blast ripped through the apartment where they lived and killed both children. We are told that we entered Iraq to make a difference and givea better life to the Iraqis, but to Sara it won’t make a difference. It was Sara’s freedom we went there to ensure, but we killed her.

Her mother doesn’t see her child as a worthy price to pay for freedom; her child was the only reason freedom would have mattered.

We must remember that there is no such thing as victory in war. The only valid response to war, regardless of the outcome, – is mourning. There are no victors, only victims to a greater or lesser degree. Life, for many Iraqis, may not have been a life that we would consider good, but the choice of death should have been left up to them. Yet, many supported this war and the reasons we have been given for it. We must not fight against those who believe in war. Einstein said that we cannot find a solution at the level of the problem. We cannot fight aggression with aggression. The people of India had no weapons to rid their country of British occupation.

They did not have the arms to fight, but Gandhi realized they had the power. Peace is power. Love is power. Aggression will win some battles, but peace, when firmly believed in and held to fast, will always win the war. So we must stand for peace.

Women are gifted with a natural talent for peacemaking. That is what we must do: we must reach other woman. Because we can, we must reach the love within each woman, the mother, the daughter and the sister within each woman. It is easy to kill children when we do not see their faces; it is easy to say it is worth the cost, when we do not have to know the cost. This is what we can do. We can march — not against war, but in mourning for the children killed in the name of freedom. We must mourn, not fight. We must mourn, not demonstrate. We must feel our hearts and show our hearts to the world and to our children. We must teach the next generation that life has value. No one can teach these lessons except women. We as women must put an end to mass graves. We must use love to put an end to the only real weapon of mass destruction: hate.