Selling the White House to the Top Bidder

Last week Dick Cheney claimed that unemployment numbers and consumer spending figures weren't an accurate reflection on how well the economy was doing because they didn't account for... eBay?!?

"That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago: 400,000 people make some money trading on eBay," said the Vice President in Cincinnati.

In fact, if anyone has profited off the eBay phenomenon, it's the Bush administration. While a few hundred thousand people may have made "some money" from selling things like their vintage Star Wars action figures on the online auction site, the Bush/Cheney White House has auctioned off policy left and right to the highest-bidding special interest contributors.

Here's a quick run down of three areas:

Medicare. For his two presidential campaigns, President George W. Bush received at least $5.2 million from insurance/HMO industry and $1.4 million from pharmaceutical industry. HMOs got $12 billion in subsidies to lure people out of Medicare, and $6.8 billion for privatized "health savings accounts." Pharmaceutical drug corporations got $139 billion in projected profits, and prohibitions on the re-importation or federal bulk purchasing of prescription drugs, both of which would lead to lower prices.

What did seniors get? Higher prescription drug prices, and managed care through the shifting of Medicare service to HMOs, and the highest Medicare premium hike in history.

Air Quality. Bush received $1.3 million from electric utilities industry in 2000 and 2004. Electric utilities got a rollback in the Clean Air Act, allowing coal-fired plants to expand production without updating the pollution controls. Along with it, utilities might possibly get a "get out of jail free card" from pending lawsuits brought under the provisions that Bush's EPA just gutted.

What did we get? With more pollution from these plants children and seniors – the most vulnerable among us – are likely to experience an increase in asthma attacks among children and seniors.

Tax Policies. President Bush raked in $18.4 million from those associated with commercial banks and securities and accounting firms. What did they get? For starters, Bush hasn't cracked down on offshore tax shelters. During his term there has been a sharp decline in audits of corporations. And let's not forget that capital gains, dividend and personal taxes were cut so much that investors pay a lower rate than workers.

What did middle class families get? A bigger share of tax burden to be sure. Here's just one example: the government loses $85 billion a year in lost revenue from the off-shore tax loophole alone.

Examples of special interest influence over the policies of this Administration are everywhere. The debate in this election should not be about who did what 30 years ago. It should be about who gave away the store as payback for campaign contributions, and who put the needs of wealthy contributors before the public interest.

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