NTMD

It would appear that Virginia’s Medicaid program, for one, has nixed reimbursement for BiDil, adding it to its ‘nonformulary’ list and suggesting the generic alternative. Meanwhile, the 7-day rolling average UBS reported for the week ending September 5 dropped from 88.4 prescriptions a day to 42 the day before. (In fairness, this week did include Labor Day, when only 7 prescriptions were reported.)

Meanwhile, the stock topped $20 again on rumors of a takeover by Merck at 32. Anything is possible, of course – perhaps Nitromed will make a bid to take over Merck at 32 – but why Merck would want to pay a billion dollars for a single drug that is merely the combination of two widely prescribed generics . . . well, don’t sell your puts. And if the stock runs up some more, as it may, those of you who have not yet stuck your toe in these waters might want to – but only with money you truly can afford to lose.

THE ESTATE TAX

Mike Wallin: ‘You often put down my President for wanting to eliminate the estate tax. While it doesn’t yet affect me personally, it seems wrong to tax people twice. You paid tax when you made the money the first time; why should the government be able to tax you again just because you died? Shouldn’t you and not the government be able to decide who you want to leave YOUR money to? Also, is it true we are still paying off debt from the Spanish American War?’

☞ I’m with you. A guy makes $200 million by the sweat of his brow, he shouldn’t have to pay tax on the $20 million a year it throws off . . . and his heirs should be able to inherit the full sum without having to split it with America. What the heck did America ever do for them? Much fairer to cut the FEMA budget, raise someone else’s taxes – or just sink deeper into debt.

And, speaking of debt, yes, we are still paying interest on our accumulated National Debt, which does include whatever we may have borrowed for the Spanish American War. (Actually, we may not have borrowed for that war at all – the National Debt fell in the year from July 1, 1897, to June 30, 1898, by which time we had all but won.) The National Debt then was $2 billion – roughly $25 for every man woman and child (about $600 adjusted for inflation). Today, at $8 trillion, it’s $26,750 a head.

It’s fine to have a national debt, just as it’s fine to have a home mortgage. But ours is getting a little out of hand.

However much or little we borrowed to wage the Spanish American War (and however just or unjust that war may have been), at least we got Hawaii out of it. By contrast, the hundreds of billions we’re borrowing for Iraq has been phenomenal for the Texas oil interests, Halliburton, and the Saudi Royal Family – beyond phenomenal, really. But the benefits to the rest of us are thus far less clear.

PATTERNS

Over and over again, the Republican priority is cutting taxes for the rich and toughening bankruptcy laws for the poor – even hurricane victims. Cutting taxes for the rich and rejecting cost-of-living adjustments to the minimum wage. Cutting taxes for the rich and slashing the budget for New Orleans levee repair. I know a lot of you disagree, but to my mind it is shameful.

And speaking of shameful . . . here’s another chance to read yesterday’s transcript with Jeff Sachs.

 

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