Insulin prices are rising, so the state has announced a plan to “explore ways to contract and manufacture our own insulin to reduce costs,” according to a tweet in January from Gov. Gavin Newsom. “Insulin should not drain your bank account.” Maybe not, but has anyone ever stopped and said, “Our problems will be solved now that California bureaucrats are involved”? I’m guessing not.
In the ensuing months, Newsom’s tweet has turned into a full-fledged plan. “[T]he administration wants to spend $100 million in this year’s budget,” CalMatters reported. “Of that, $50 million to develop low-cost insulin with the help of a drug manufacturer. The other half would be used to set up an in-state insulin manufacturing facility” run by state health officials.
No government is good at very much, but California’s government destroys everything it touches.
Insulin prices have been soaring, but that’s the result of government policies. “Government has created an oligopolistic market for insulin where manufacturers raise prices far higher than they could in a free market,” the libertarian Cato Institute explains. That includes FDA barriers to entry for new insulins and federal regulations that require prescriptions and ban purchases from other countries.
Instead of creating a more competitive market, state officials want to come up with their own taxpayer-funded manufacturing system, yet one shouldn’t need to remind the state’s leaders about the failure of governments to provide basic products and services. In fact, the state could even take a look at how its own bureaucracies have been operating. I know that’s a radical concept.
The most notable recent scandal involves California’s Employment Development Department. The department has paid out around $20 billion — yes, with a “b” — in fraudulent claims. That included “at least $810 million in benefits in the names of people who were in prison, including dozens of infamous killers on death row,” according to the Associated Press.
The Biden administration promoted the person in charge of the agency, Julie Su, to a top U.S. Department of Labor position in case you believe that anyone holds government officials accountable when they screw up. (Newsom paid no price for it during the recall.) For perspective, the amount of money California lost from this one agency would cover the entire state budget of New Mexico.
Here’s the overlooked part of the scandal: Even as death-row killers received payments, Californians who were legitimately entitled to their unemployment benefits were waiting many months to receive them. The agency answered only about 1 percent of calls from the public and — get this — responded by eventually reducing its call-center hours.
Government cannot provide services and products to the public like the private sector because the government has no profit motive or customers (only subjects), can’t fire bad employees and those employees get paid the same no matter what. If the books don’t balance, agencies just tap more taxpayer cash. There never is a day of reckoning. The state still refuses to pass meaningful reforms of EDD.
That agency was of course the year’s most newsworthy scandal, but many smaller scandals barely merit a mention. The Southern California News Group recently opined about a new $159 million state program designed to pay low-income students to volunteer in social-justice endeavors. That premise is bad enough, but two-thirds of the money is going to salaries and overhead.
Its conclusion about the California Volunteers College Corps applies broadly: “It’s become a sadly typical story. California lawmakers announce some new first-in-the-nation program that’s designed to achieve highfalutin goals, but the end result is little more than an expansion of government spending.” Any chance the insulin program will end up better?
Then there was the financial scandal at the Office of AIDS, the overtime scandal at California Highway Patrol, and on and on. On a deeper level, California officials still can’t figure out how to provide enough water to our drought-plagued cities and farms even though they’ve had years since the last drought ended to permit desalination plants and begin construction of more off-stream storage. The state, however, refused to do so.
I haven’t even touched on the urban crime epidemic, homelessness crisis, mounting pension debt, failing education system, and increasingly congested transportation system, which helps explain the latest data about people fleeing the state. No government is good at very much, but California’s government destroys everything it touches.
So if you think you’ll soon be getting cheaper insulin from the state, I’d suggest that you instead head to Calgary or Ensenada, where at least you can buy it without a prescription.
Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at email@example.com.
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