If We Don't Fix the Senate's Miserable Health Bill, the Repercussions Could Last for Decades
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But that didn't stop David Axelrod from insisting in an interview with John King this weekend that "the president supports safe re-importation of drugs into this country. There's no reason why Americans should pay a premium for the pharmaceuticals that people in other countries pay less for."
No reason other than our broken system surrendering to the special interests.
From start to finish, the insurance and drug industries -- and their army of lobbyists -- had control over the process that resulted in a bill that is reform in name only. The postmortems of how they pulled it off have already begun. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune published an exhaustive front-page analysis by Northwestern University's Medill News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics of how it was done. The main culprit: "a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation."
The study found that 13 former congressmen and 166 congressional staffers were actively engaged in lobbying their former colleagues on the bill. The companies they were working for -- some 338 of them -- spent $635 million on lobbying. It was money extremely well spent -- delivering a bill that, by forcing people to buy a shoddy product in a market with no real competition, enshrines into law the public subsidy of private profit.
As we approach the end of Obama's first year in office, this public subsidizing of private profit is becoming something of a habit. It is, after all, exactly what the White House did with the banks. Just as he did with insurance companies, Obama talked tough to the bankers in public but, when push came to shove, he ended up shoving public money onto their privately-held balance sheets.
This is not just bad policy, it's bad politics.
Sharp-eyed opponents are already seizing on the opportunity to rebrand Obama and the Democrats as the party beholden to special interests.
Sunday night, just before the post-midnight vote was taken, John McCain took to the Senate floor and, hearkening back to his days as a crusader for campaign finance reform, lambasted Obama and the Democrats' "negotiations with the special interests," adding: "We should have set up a tent out in front and put Persian rugs in front of it. That's the way that this has been conducted. So the special interests were taken care of, then we had to take care of special senators."
This kind of populist rhetoric resonates with voters across the board, including independents. If Democrats cede this turf by celebrating a bill that is a victory for special interests and special senators, look for a lot more of this kind of rhetoric in the run-up to 2010.
President Bush brought us preemptive war. President Obama's specialty seems to be preemptive compromise. He gave the farm away to Pharma, and then had to keep on giving when Lieberman, Nelson, and the other industry-backed Senators came calling.
There are many reasons for hoping the current Senate bill doesn't become law. But the biggest reason of all is the desperate need for a DC pattern interrupt. The desperate need to draw a line in the sand against the continued domination of our democracy -- and the continued undermining of the public interest -- by special interests.