When you wake up in the morning and rub the sleep out of your eyes are you surprised to find a great shadowy figure in the room? We are past the Fourth and the “let’s celebrate America” holiday feeling only to find that the lobbyists continued to move forward while we were distracted by fireworks and speeches.
The Wapo points out this morning that a large number of former inner-office employees of Max Baucus and Charles Grassley and other active Congressional committee members are being snatched up by lobbying organizations:
The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.
This is quickly distorting the Health Care debate, and, instead of researching the values of the Single-Payer system, or finding a way to extend a public option of any sort to fulfill Obama’s campaign promise, we are finding the focus shifting to how much power the large corporate interests will retain and, indeed, expand into.
Public interest groups can scream all they like about how
the concentration of former government aides on K Street has distorted the health-care debate, and that it further illustrates the problem posed by the “revolving door” between government and private firms.
“The revolving door offers a short cut to a member of Congress to the highest bidder,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiled some of the data used in The Post’s analysis. “It’s a small cost of doing business relative to the profits they can garner.”
And what is the level of discussion that is aimed at the common taxpayer? We are targeted with phrases like “socialized medicine” (read “Communism triumphs over Freedom”) “government takeover” (making medicine the new GM.) It is clear that we are supposed to be kept riled up over the meaningless extremities of the argument, while the actual benefits of plans that the majority of countries in the civilized world use for lower cost and highly adequate health care for entire populations are totally ignored … unless, of course, you are a Senator or Congressperson yourself, in which case your government health program is damn near close to “socialized medicine.” (That brings up this gem from Iowa Republican Senator Grassley from Think Progress:
During a townhall in Waukon, IA Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was asked by a constituent of his: “Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and so better than my insurance?” When Grassley struggled to explain the details of his own health care plan, the elderly man followed up, “Okay, so how come I can’t have the same thing you have?” Grassley said, “You can. Just go work for the federal government.”
Well… I would submit that we DO all work for the Federal Government. Out of our incomes we generate the taxes that the government uses to operate. We follow its regulations and we select its highest ranking employees through elections. Why shouldn’t we have access to Grassley’s less expensive health care?
The next months will be a challenge to all of us. I would submit however that, during the summer while legislators take vacations and during which time they cannot resist making speeches, attending fundraisers, and keeping generally visible (there’s an election next year), we have the opportunity to be the PUBLIC LOBBYISTS and stay on them wherever they go.
Let’s carry out our First Amendment rights to address our grievances, especially when it comes to the need for Public Health care, from Martha’s Vineyard to the beaches of California!