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BETSY MCCAUGHEY: Business Owners Beware — Price Controls Are Coming If Leftists Get Their Way

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Betsy McCaughey Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of “Beating Obamacare.”
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If you own a business, the leftists in Congress are coming after you. The only thing standing in their way is the U.S. Constitution.

Whether you own a mom-and-pop diner, an auto repair shop or shares in a multinational corporation, your property is at risk.

The Constitution’s takings clause was designed to protect us from the government grabbing our property without paying fairly for it. But last year, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, they rammed through the Inflation Reduction Act, boasting that it would enable Medicare to “negotiate” lower prices for medications for seniors.

“Negotiate” is a lie. Under the new law, the government can strong-arm companies to sell their most popular medications at a price Uncle Sam dictates, or be taxed out of existence in a matter of weeks. On June 6, the pharmaceutical giant Merck sued, claiming the law violates its constitutional rights.

Amen. This lawsuit is a red flag for everyone in America who owns anything or hopes to. (RELATED: ALEXANDER GRAY: Chinese Drugs Are America’s Most Dangerous Addiction)

The actual language of the law is breathtakingly coercive, but let’s face it, most members of Congress don’t bother to read bills before voting on them.

The law says that any company that refuses to sell at the government’s price will be hit with a tax that starts at 186% of the drug’s revenues on Day 1 and is hiked daily until it reaches a ruinous 1,900% of revenues — not just from government sales but all sales. That would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes per day.

The company has no escape. Contrast this coercion with price controls in socialist-leaning European countries, where drug companies can decline to sell at the government price.

Merck explains that it “will be legally compelled to sell its most valuable products for a fraction of their value, on pain of yet more draconian penalties. This is not ‘negotiation.’ It is tantamount to extortion.”

The law also gags the company from disclosing what Medicare officials say about price “negotiations” behind closed doors. Worse, the law requires the company to publicly call the price rammed down its throat “fair.” 

Is this even America? Congress limits free speech and requires companies to state things they don’t believe. 

Merck’s lawsuit objects, “Our Constitution does not countenance compelled speech in service of state propaganda.” (RELATED: BROOKLYN ROBERTS: Let’s Ditch The Masks And Make These Common-Sense COVID Changes Permanent, Instead)

Congress needs a refresher course on the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment bars the government from taking your property without just compensation. And the First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing you to say something against your will. These are the bases of Merck’s lawsuit.

The law being challenged is exactly what you’d find in George Orwell’s “1984,” a novel depicting socialist despotism. The government dictates the price for your product but calls it a “negotiation.” If you refuse, your business is taxed to death overnight. You are gagged from disclosing what is happening and forced to declare the price “fair.”

If Merck’s lawsuit fails, who are the next victims? Auto makers could be forced to sell cars for the federal fleet for $10,000 a piece instead of a fair price. What about bed sheets for the Army, airplane parts for the Air Force or restaurant meals for government employees?

Merck’s lawsuit raises only constitutional issues, but Americans also need to know that price controls on pharmaceuticals could be dangerous to their health. In countries that cap prices, patients have reduced access to new drugs. Patients in France get only half the new treatments that U.S. patients get, according to University of Chicago economist Tomas Philipson.

Last week, the American Society of Clinical Oncology announced a treatment — osimertinib — that improves survival by 51% for lung cancer patients who have had surgery and face a recurrence. As a survivor myself, I cut out the article and put it in my desk drawer, hoping I won’t need it but glad it’s a possibility.

Many politicians think vilifying drug companies is good politics. They ignore the devastating impact of price controls on the pipeline for future cures.

This is a legitimate policy debate. But obeying the Constitution is not optional. Congress members swear an oath to it. 

Merck’s lawsuit is headed to the Supreme Court.

Tell Biden and leftist lawmakers to read the 4,543 words in the Constitution and honor them. 

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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