Modernizing the U.S. safety net
Plus: Decarbonizing the U.S. with nuclear fusion; and why it took two decades to get low-cost alternatives to a popular and costly prescription drug
A proposal for a new U.S. social safety net: The Congressional Research Service reports that the government spends roughly $1 trillion on benefits and services for low-income households, with expenditures on programs from food stamps to health care growing over time. But the major welfare programs aren’t designed to work together, and many are difficult to access. The result? Wasted money and needy families left without help. To improve access to benefit programs and provide immediate assistance to those who need it most, FREOPP Visiting Fellow Aparna Mathur recommends creating one-stop shop online platforms across states and providing direct cash support of a fixed value for a limited time. This blended system would work as a true safety net in the immediate short run, while retaining incentives to work and train in the long run.
Nuclear fusion will not decarbonize the United States: A team of scientists at a federal research facility in Livermore, California, made history last year when they achieved fusion ignition: the first time a fusion experiment generated more energy than was used to initiate it. As the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory press release put it: “This first-of-its-kind feat … will provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy.” FREOPP Visiting Fellow Grant Dever cautions, however, that the U.S. has not yet entered the age of practical fusion power and that the quickest way to safely, reliably, and affordably decarbonize America’s grid is to increase our production and use of nuclear fission reactors. Nuclear fission, which splits hydrogen atoms to release energy as opposed to combining them, is safe and has long been ready to scale. But if the U.S. is to lead the world in nuclear-generated energy abundance, regulators need to stop stifling the industry.
→ For more on how countries like France and Canada provide practical examples of the way nuclear power plants can establish reliable, low-carbon energy grids—and how the U.S. should follow their example—check out Grant’s case for why rethinking U.S. nuclear energy regulation is essential to America’s future prosperity.
The end of Humira’s monopoly: For years, Humira, an arthritis and autoimmune drug made by AbbVie, has been the biggest-selling pharmaceutical in the country. This month, it got some competition in the form of a generic alternative produced by Amgen. As FREOPP Resident Fellow Gregg Girvan writes at The Dispatch, the two-decade wait for competition is the result of outdated and ineffective regulations, particularly those governing biologic drugs like Humira. Although AbbVie raised the list price of Humira by 600 percent since its launch, Gregg’s research indicates that customers got little product improvement in exchange for the skyrocketing cost. To ensure that more Americans have access to innovative and life-saving drugs at prices they can afford, Congress should allow biosimilar drugs to enter the market more quickly and prevent the kinds of patent manipulations large pharmaceutical companies routinely deploy to protect their blockbuster drugs.
Worried these reforms would discourage medical innovation? FREOPP’s research shows that these concerns are largely unfounded: Policies that lower research and development costs—not higher prices—fuel innovation. In fact, according to Gregg’s analysis, Humira’s price increases of $42 billion over a decade led to the production of a single new drug.
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