Nicki e-mails:

I’m a 14 y.o. girl whose mother listens to your show when picking me up from school. She’s a big fan. But I don’t understand your position on Oil Companies and drug companies lowering their prices, if they can get the prices that the market will bear. It seems that would be communism/socialism which is not what our country is founded on. I’m just confused because we study this in social studies, and it is so clear to my friends and me. So why are you so in favor of price controls on honest businesses? Markets will remain competitive and innovative as long as the profit motive is there.

My reply:

I have never said that I want price controls on gasoline or pharmaceuticals. Price controls do not work, as we should have learned from the mistakes made during the oil crisis in the Carter years.

I have said that the only way to spend less on gasoline is to, well, spend less on gasoline. That means increasing fuel economy standards on vehicles, and the public has to embrace conservation of energy on every level. I am also opposed to subsidies for those big oil companies, particularly when they are raking in bigger profits than ever before.

When it comes to Big Pharma, the problem is that they have so many lobbyists in Washington that they end up getting the laws written to artificially support their profits, instead of the public’s concern. For instance, it’s ludicrous that the Medicare system, the largest buyer of prescription drugs, is barred by federal law from negotiating for lower prices when it buys in bulk, as any other business can and does. Those same legislators have kept drugs from being imported from Canada and Europe — the same pills, made by the same manufacturers — at lower prices, thus propping up domestic prices and helping the pharmaceutical companies even more.

I favor an open marketplace that allows supply and demand to help set prices, but that’s not what we have. We have a system that is tilted towards the corporations at the expense of the consumers because of biased legislation crafted by industries wielding their influence in Washington. That’s not capitalism, that’s corruption.

Thanks for writing, Nicki, and thanks to your mom for listening (and keeping my show on while you’re in the car!).