President Donald Trump on Monday said “massive” political contributions by the drug industry are responsible for sky-high prescription drug costs.
In decrying the influence of political money, Trump was returning to a favorite theme from last year’s presidential campaign. But as president, he’s offered no plan to address the issue, and on Monday he offered no suggestion that he’d do so.
At a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump said of drugmakers: “They contribute massive amounts of money to political people — I don’t know Mitch, maybe even to you.”
The issue of drugmakers’ influence has been in the headlines since a recent 60 Minutes/Washington Post report found that Rep. Tom Marino, Trump’s pick to run the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), took nearly $100,000 from Big Pharma while pushing a bill that made it easier for drugmakers to sell opioids. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that Marino had withdrawn from consideration for the DEA post, calling him a “fine man.”
During the campaign, Trump’s willingness to criticize the outsized influence of lobbyists and other big donors helped him portray himself as an outsider who would shake up the system. But his proposed solution was simply to elect Donald Trump, since he was rich enough, he said, not to need special interest dollars. Even if true, of course, that would do nothing to curb the influence of corporate money on Congress.
Again Monday, Trump personalized the issue, rather than offering any systemic solution.
“I have to tell you,” he went on. “Me? I’m not interested in their money. I don’t need their money.”
Since taking office, Trump has appointed a slew of lobbyists and Wall Street execs to top posts in the administration, and has focused on rolling back regulations that the financial industry doesn’t like. And his Supreme Court pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch, appears more passionate about further dismantling campaign finance laws that perhaps any other issue.
In other words, Trump still wants to burnish his populist credentials by decrying high drug prices and saying special interests have too much sway in Washington. But it means nothing until he proposes doing anything about it.
Photo: Donald Trump campaigns in Iowa, December 2015. (Creative Commons)