Sunday, February 28, 2010

Made-To-Order Sausage

My weekly visit to Watching America was rather enlightening. There were far fewer articles which dwelt exclusively on President Obama. Most of the articles dealt with matters of current US policy, domestic and international. The article that drew my attention, however, was one that explored how our Congress operates.

From France's Liberation:

Just in time for this Thursday’s “health summit,” called by Barack Obama in an effort to save his health care reform plans, comes a new study from the Center for Public Integrity: There are currently no less than 4,525 lobbyists trying to influence health care reform legislation, meaning that for each elected representative in the American Congress, there are eight lobbyists.

Businesses and organizations (hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical labs, doctor’s associations, etc.) trying to affect health care legislation spent over $1.2 billion on lobbying last year. “It was money well spent” notes the Center for Public Integrity, whose report presents several examples of the lobbyists’ successful campaigns, including the elimination of a provision for a new public health care plan as well as numerous propositions to save money. The American Medical Association (AMA) spent $20 million last year to lobby congress on behalf of doctors. The association successfully struck from the bill a $300 annual tax that would be paid by doctors who care for those insured by Medicare or Medicaid (public insurance programs for the elderly and the indigent) and a provision to tax plastic surgery.
[Emphasis added]

I was intrigued by the article for several reasons. First of all, I was unaware that the report had been released. I did a quick Google check just to make certain I hadn't slept through a couple of days of reporting by the traditional US media. The release of the report didn't show up in the first 20 articles (although a few bloggers mentioned it). Apparently our vaunted free press didn't consider the report newsworthy, even though it was released just before the White House Summit on health care reform. I had to find out about the report from a French newspaper.

Second, even though the US MSM didn't consider it newsworthy, a French newspaper surely did. Not only that, but Liberation also showed a sophisticated knowledge on just how our Congress operates, including the fact that special interests were willing to spend enough money to ensure that the reform bill would suit them, even enrich them. The French, who have universal access to health care, must be laughing themselves silly over their ally's penchant to pass laws favoring the highest bidder.

Third, and most important, was the report itself, which can be found here. We all know that K Street has an inordinate amount of power over Congress, but this report shows just how that power has been purchased, right down to the last dollar. During his campaign, President Obama promised to limit the influence of lobbyists, but it was to K Street he turned when he issued the invitation to discuss reform at a White House meeting which initiated the health care reform proposals. That isn't change; it's going along to get along, which appears to be his modus operandi for leading this nation.

The sad part is that even if congressional Democrats are able to get this bill passed, the public which elected them are going to be purchasing the sausage that was made to order for someone else, and it will cost us dearly.

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