COLUMNIST

Get ready for roving bands of book-banners coming to your town

By Jim Hightower

Not so long ago, book burnings were considered a festive group activity by assorted right-wing zealots. Today, though, burning seems so old-fashioned and, well... crude.

Yet, the concept is burning hotter than ever among a gaggle of testosterone-driven Republican leaders eager to show voters that they will go to extremes to incinerate progressive ideas and people's personal liberties. Rather than lighting bonfires, though, the new fad for GOP politicians is simply to use government power to ban the offending books (thus saving the expense of matches and lighter fluid).

It might not surprise you to learn that our Lone Star State's extremist political operatives are leading today's book-banning frenzy.

One Jonathan Mitchell, for example, is going from town to town pushing Texas Republican officeholders to pass local ordinances he labels "Safe Library Patron Protection." Yes, patrons, censoring what you can read is necessary to "protect" you. The GOP ban prohibits libraries from having books, videos, etc. that contain "immoral content," which he defines as depictions of nudity, sexual behavior, mentions of masturbation, LGBTQ+ life, etc. It's also autocratically homophobic, making it illegal for librarians to display LGBTQ flags or even mention "LGBTQ Pride Month."

This repressive monomania stabs even deeper into our freedom of expression by concocting a "right" of right-wing vigilantes to enforce the ordinances. Yes, self-appointed bands of bounty hunters would be authorized to roam the countryside suing local libraries (and individual librarians) for having "banned" books on the shelves.

To spur this political malice, Mitchell's scheme provides a $10,000 reward for every violation a vigilante finds (or fabricates).

Well, you say, thank God I don't live in Texas! But -- Hello! -- repression doesn't recognize state borders, so the pernicious idea of paid library marauders is spreading across the country. To help defend your freedom from them, go to the American Library Association: ala.org.

HOW DESPICABLE ARE BIG PHARMA'S INSULIN PRICE GOUGERS?

Profiteering is always bad, but there are degrees of profiteer. Level 1 includes your everyday price gougers, like banks and airlines. At Level 2, you'll find the more demonic outfits like loan sharks and for-profit college hucksters. Then, top of the heap at Level 3, you'll find Eli Lilly.

This $288 billion drugmaking colossus is America's primary peddler of insulin, the diabetes drug that some seven million Americans must constantly take literally to stay alive.

By having both monopoly power over the market and such a huge base of captive customers, Lilly has gleefully jacked up its prices again and again over three decades, with insulin now costing each sufferer as much as $1,000 a month!

Finally, under intense political pressure to stop its extreme, life-threatening gouging, the giant recently announced it would soon cut its insulin price by a whopping 70%! In full-page ads, Lilly hailed its corporate generosity, magnanimously declaring that "everyone deserves affordable options."

But -- Hello! -- it has intentionally charged unaffordable rip-off prices for 30 years, wallowing in monopoly profits. And -- Hello! again -- if Lilly says it can keep profiting on its insulin product despite slashing the price by 70%, that means it has been overcharging patients by 70% all this time! Yet, its rich executives want us to thank them? No thank you.

Even with the price cut, they're still charging $66 for a single vial of insulin. Guess what? It costs Lilly less than $7 to produce that vial, and it could be sold profitably for under $9.

Meanwhile, note that the ballyhooed price cut is voluntary, meaning Lilly can raise the price again at any time. Indeed, David Ricks (who personally pockets $19 million a year from the profiteering) has refused to pledge that he'll keep the medicine affordable.

Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes "The Hightower Lowdown," a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.

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