Which Fox Is Raiding the Hen House?
The New York Times has reminded us that Obama-Care was written by lobbyists behind closed doors. (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/06/09/us/politics/e-mails-reveal-extent-o...) Pres. Obama, in contrast to his campaign promises, did business the old fashioned way by guaranteeing a well-heeled lobby (Big Pharma) that they could have what they wanted (no re-importation of drugs) even if it cost the average American dearly. Of course, Republicans have criticized this Obama maneuver even though they themselves are as guilty of the same crime against the taxpayer. Excerpts:
After weeks of talks, drug industry lobbyists were growing nervous. To cut a deal with the White House on overhauling health care, they needed to be sure that President Obama would stop a proposal intended to bring down medicine prices.
On June 3, 2009, one of the lobbyists e-mailed Nancy-Ann DeParle, the president's health care adviser. Ms. DeParle reassured the lobbyist. Although Mr. Obama was overseas, she wrote, she and other top officials had "made decision, based on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation" on a different proposal.
Just like that, Mr. Obama's staff signaled a willingness to put aside support for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices and by doing so solidified a compact with an industry the president had vilified on the campaign trail. Central to Mr. Obama's drive to remake the nation's health care system was an unlikely collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry that forced unappealing trade-offs.
The e-mail exchange three years ago was among a cache of messages obtained from the industry and released in recent weeks by House Republicans - including a new batch put out Friday detailing the industry's advertising campaign supporting Mr. Obama's health care overhaul. The broad contours of his dealings with the industry were known in 2009, but the newly public e-mails open a window into the compromises underlying a health care law now awaiting the judgment of the Supreme Court.
Mr. Obama's deal-making in 2009 represented a pivotal moment in his young presidency, a juncture where the heady idealism of the campaign trail collided with the messy reality of Washington policy making. A president who had promised to negotiate on C-Span cut a closed-door deal with a powerful lobby, signifying to disillusioned liberal supporters a loss of innocence, or perhaps even the triumph of cynicism.
But the bargain was one that the president deemed necessary to forestall industry opposition that had thwarted efforts to cover the uninsured for generations. Without the deal, in which the industry agreed to provide $80 billion to expand coverage in exchange for protection from policies that would cost more, Mr. Obama calculated he might get nowhere.
"Throughout his campaign, President Obama was clear that he would bring every stakeholder to the table in order to pass health reform, even longtime opponents like the pharmaceutical industry," Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, said Friday. "He understood correctly that the unwillingness to work with people on both sides of the issue was one of the reasons why it took a century to pass health reform."
Republicans see the deal as hypocritical. "He said it was going to be the most open and honest and transparent administration ever and lobbyists won't be drafting the bills," said Representative Michael C. Burgess of Texas, a Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee examining the deal. "Then when it came time, the door closed, the lobbyists came in and the bills were written."
Some liberals bothered by the deal in 2009 now find the Republican criticism hard to take given the party's longstanding ties to the industry.
"Republicans trumpeting these e-mails is like a fox complaining someone else raided the chicken coop," said Robert Reich, who was labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. "Sad to say, it's called politics in an era when big corporations have an effective veto over major legislation affecting them and when the G.O.P. is usually the beneficiary."
In a statement, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry lobby known as PhRMA, called its interactions with the White House part of its mission to "ensure patient access" to high-quality medicine: "Before, during and since the health care debate, PhRMA engaged with Congress and the administration to advance these priorities," the lobby statement said.
If the negotiations resembled deal-making by past presidents, what distinguished them was that Mr. Obama had strongly rejected business as usual. During his campaign, he singled out the power of the pharmaceutical industry and its chief lobbyist, former Representative Billy Tauzin, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Louisiana.
"The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies," Mr. Obama said in a campaign advertisement, referring to 2003 legislation. "And you know what? The chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year."
Mr. Obama continued: "That's an example of the same old game playing in Washington. You know, I don't want to learn how to play the game better. I want to put an end to the game playing."
For those partisans who insist that Mr. Obama is the 'change and hope' president: get over it. And for partisans on the other side, who delight in finding Pres. Obama guilty of back room dealing, what about this have you not personally engaged in. For those of us who are always paying our taxes and living by the rules, let me say how disgusted I am about the whole charade of law making. Who ever looks out for the interests of real people in Washington DC? I do not believe that elected officials will ever act for my benefit. Thus, I advocate for removing health system reform from any legislative agenda. I demand that the people directly decide how we should reform our health care system. I invite my fellow citizens to join me in a ballot initiative effort.
Dr. Joe Jarvis