Monday, August 24, 2009

NY Mayor: Pharmaceutical Executives "Don't Make a Lot of Money"

We just posted about the onrush of people into health care management, including many with little knowledge of or experience in health care. According to the Associated Press, one prominent politician defended at least pharmaceutical company managers who "don't make a lot of money." [Warning, irony and sarcasm ahead.]

Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and their chief executives on Friday, declaring that they 'don't make a lot of money' and shouldn't be scapegoats in the health care debate.

The mayor — and wealthiest person in New York City with a fortune estimated at $16.5 billion — made the comments on his radio show Friday during a discussion about health care.

"You know, last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don't make a lot of money, their executives don't make a lot of money — not that they couldn't be better," Bloomberg said.

The mayor, a Republican-turned-independent who already has spent more than $36 million on his re-election campaign this year, often battles criticism that he is out of touch with regular people. He built his fortune after founding the financial information company that bears his name.

Earlier this year he declared "we love the rich people" while arguing against raising taxes on the wealthy, and said recently that President Barack Obama, who earns $400,000 a year and has made millions from book sales, "doesn't get paid that much" and is "on a budget" like millions of Americans.

In its article on the Mayor's health care wisdom, the NY Daily News noted,

The highest-paid drug executive last year, Johnson & Johnson CEO Bill Weldon, took home a reported $29.4 million after his company raked in $63.7 billion.

The Associated Press article also commented,

Pharmaceutical CEOs are known to make millions, with generous salaries, stock options and other perks.

Abbott Laboratories Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Miles White's compensation was $25.3 million in 2008. The North Chicago, Ill.-based company saw profit rising 35 percent to $4.88 billion.

Merck & Co.'s chief executive, Richard T. Clark, received a $17.3 million compensation package for 2008. The company's profit more than doubled to $7.8 billion.


It was clear that Bloomberg or one of his aides realized his gaffe while he was still on the air Friday.

The mayor, who has sought to cast himself as a financial and business expert, came back from a break and said he had looked up the pay of some pharmaceutical executives.

'Some of them are making a decent amount, more than a decent amount of money,' he said.

Either way, Bloomberg said, it doesn't solve anything to beat up on pharmaceutical companies while trying to come up with health care solutions.

We have previously posted about the notion that the US and the rest of the world is increasingly run by members of the "superclass," whose disconnection from the realities of daily life, including the US dysfunctional health care is likely to translate into little real support by the powers that be for meaningful health care reform. Mayor Bloomberg's wealth and political power would qualify him for superclass membership. His notion that multi-million dollar a year pharmaceutical imperial CEOs ought to be pitied for their paltry incomes suggests not only that the very rich are unlike you and me, but that meaningful health care reform is unlikely as long as we allow ourselves to be lead by people so insulated from the vicissitudes of daily life.

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