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Dec. 15 2009 - 12:34 pm | 186 views | 8 recommendations | 55 comments

PhRMA Hack: Campaign Promises Are Just That

The dispute traps Obama between his campaign rhetoric and the political realities of health-care reform, which depends in large part on tacit support from drugmakers and other industry groups. Under the earlier agreement with the White House, the pharmaceutical industry agreed to contribute $80 billion toward reform over 10 years in exchange for protection from further cuts.

“It’s about being a candidate as opposed to being president,” said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “When you become president, you realize that the sound bites don’t always work in reality. . . . I think they’ve looked at the problems now and have concluded there’s no way to ensure the safety of medicines reimported into the United States right now.”

via Drugmakers fight plan to allow drug reimportation.

This is hilarious and doesn’t really need much in the way of commentary.

As a candidate, Barack Obama endorsed the idea of allowing consumers to import cheaper pharmaceuticals from other industrialized countries. In the Senate he co-sponsored a bill that pushed the idea.

But now that he’s president and is taking money from the pharmaceutical lobby (PhRMA) to help get his bullshit health care bill passed, his administration is backtracking. His FDA chief Margaret Hamburg is pulling out the old safety canard. The CBO has estimated that a bill sponsored by Byron Dorgan to allow drug re-importation would save the government $19 billion over 10 years, and save consumers $80 billion.

There’s no legitimate reason to bar re-importation, except one: to preserve a subsidy for the pharmaceutical industry and, by extension, preserve the flow of campaign contributions to the Democratic Party. That is why President Obama is now opposing the sensible measures he endorsed as a candidate. He is pursuing this year’s expedient goal of getting a campaign war chest now that he’s already achieved last year’s expedient goal of getting elected.

To have a PhRMA hack openly defending this flip-flip as justifiable shows how morally lost these people (and their defenders in the media) are. They really think that expediency is a defensible ideology and they are legitimately flabbergasted when people expect that a president follow through on his campaign promises. Apparently we are supposed to assume that a political candidate always lies and just accept that, and those of us who do not are “naive.” As my friend David Sirota put it:

There is no substantive reason why what a president cannot push what he promises on the campaign trail – especially when it comes to something like pharmaceutical reimportation, which every other industrialized country has legalized. I repeat – there is simply no substantive reason why a president cannot push what he has promised on the campaign trail. The platitudes from corporate lobbyists insisting that the alleged difference between “campaigning and governing” somehow absolves politicians from breaking their promise is deliberately designed to perpetuate the status quo.

There are a lot of people in DC who are drinking the same Kool-Aid this dingbat from PhRMA has been drinking. You know the disease has reached an advanced stage when they start saying this stuff out loud.


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  1. collapse expand

    I wonder what people in Canada or Mexico think when they read/hear the Big Pharma lies about “unsafe” drugs. Do their politicians take the “unsafe” drugs off the shelves? I think not.

    I suspect Big Pharma has to spend money saying, “Just kidding, folks. You don’t want Americans jacking up the price of your drugs, so we will tell them these lies.”

    Stupid Americans will believe any lie if it’s told to them by a billionaire.

  2. collapse expand

    This kind of stuff is totally infuriating, yet exactly what we should have expected.

    What blows my mind about health care reform is how badly the democrats pussy footed this entire thing. We’ve gone from the ultimate goal (nationalized system), to a public option, to lowering the medicare age, to….nothing. What exactly is the point now? A giant bill about pre-existing conditions that will leave giant loopholes for the insurance companies to get around it? If the Democrats had any semblance of balls, they’d make Lieberman an offer he couldn’t refuse….

  3. collapse expand

    I was thinking the same thing about “saying this stuff out loud.” We’re at a point now where many Americans will read or hear something like this and say, “Well, that figures,” and go back to watching porn or playing computer solitaire. So that emboldens the elites a little to a point where their contempt for the interests of the American people are very much out in the open, and Ken Johnson’s remarks are a nice illustration of this principle.

    Actually, the reason this stuff is now more out in the open may have to do with the Teabaggers, whose main complaint is that Obama is a socialist. Considering this, are industry shills going to be concerned that they’ll be viewed as being too cozy with Obama? No, because Obama’s a “Marxist,” and the image of Obama as a corporatist simply does not compute with that of a pinko. So you can this stuff aloud because of extreme mass ignorance about what’s really going on.

    • collapse expand

      We have reached a dangerous point in American politics. Slovoj Zizek wrote about this phenomenon in the London Book Review. It’s a long article and barely touches on American politics. However, there are frightening parallels between our democracy and Berlusconi’s where those in power “rule through cynical demoralisation.”

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      You all need to stop with the Teabaggers comments and realize you are fighting the same fight. If you want to use labels like right and left go ahead. Just realize that they are fighting corruption just and much as you want to.

      Divide and conquer is all you are perpetrating. And you are the ones being conquered. Stop the madness, fight the corruption.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        If the Teabaggers are “fighting corruption,” that is mere coincidence. They are simply a Madisonian faction. They say they’re fighting “Marxism,” an accusation that’s nowhere near the strike zone. It’s not even in the ballpark. If some Republican were sworn in as president tomorrow, most of the Teabaggers would disappear.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    We should reframe this as American workers just “Outsourcing” our drug purchases. As big business, they should embrace that concept.

  5. collapse expand

    There’s something inside me that wishes people hearing or reading comments like the one from Ken Johnson would pick up the nearest rock, pitch fork, club etc. and march on K street and reduce it to rubble.

  6. collapse expand

    “His FDA chief Margaret Hamburg is pulling out the old safety canard.”

    As someone who has spent nearly 4 years working in a pharmaceutical ‘quality’ unit, i can personally attest to that statement. The FDA and pharma have the perfect stranglehold argument to support their continued hegemony over the legal drug trade in the US. They have numerous examples of situations where lives were lost due to this or that bureaucratic control not being in place (and new-hires are indoctrinated with this stuff in the form of videos, week 1); so therefore it follows, if we can get drugs cheaper somewhere else, then FDA can’t oversee the manufacture of the active ingredients. Ergo, LIVES ARE AT RISK. FDA CONTROLS SAVE LIVES!!

    One wonders how Canadians, Europeans, Aussies and Japanese have survived this long without the US FDA and their inscrutable, life saving controls.

    (One also may wonder why, if being a watchdog that saves lives is of such paramount importance to the FDA, inspectors favorite career route after serving a few years in FDA is to get a Ludicrously high paying job in Pharma where their expertise can and will be used to dodge findings at any cost.)

    You really need boots and a shovel to live in this country.

  7. collapse expand

    Unfortunately drug re-importation is not a viable solution. Buying power in Canada stems from income taxes, and re-importation would introduce a large volume of buyers who did not contribute into the system. This would be punitive to Canadian health care and likely shut down by Ottawa.

    I agree with you that, by and large, safety is a red herring for most drugs save biologics.

  8. collapse expand

    “As a candidate, Barack Obama endorsed the idea of allowing consumers to import cheaper pharmaceuticals from other industrialized countries. In the Senate he co-sponsored a bill that pushed the idea.”

    So glad you brought that up Matt! It so illustrates the hypocritical machinations of Obama & Co. (and their dependence on his “charisma” to say one thing and mean another when it’s politically expedient).

    When they engineered the impeachment of Blagoyevich back in January (yeah I know, think what you like about the guy, he was doing what they were all doing. He just got caught – or set up), he put exactly what you said in the quote above out there. But the MSM and the rest of the Kool Aid Kids ignored it, choosing to blow up the business-as-usual, “pay-to-play” for the Changeling’s seat or the governor’s wife cussing on the tapes.

    I wrote a blog post about it because I just couldn’t belive how Rahm got a pass – and a seat in the Big House, while Blagoyevich got – impeached!

    At about the 3:09 click in this response to his impeachment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OVUtkyolxQ&feature=player_embedded

    He said: “So the House’s action today and the causes of the impeachment (emphasis his) are because I’ve done things to fight for families who are all with me here today. Now I’m gonna talk about some of the examples that I’d like you-to share with you and some of the counts that the House is actually choosing to impeach me on. For example, The “I- Save” Prescription Drug program is among the things the House said I should be removed from office for. That was a program we began, I believe it in late 2002, or early 2004. That was a program brought to me by then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel (emphasis his) who suggested that since the big pharmaceutical companies had a tremendous amount of sway with the FDA (emphasis his), that too many senior citizens were being forced to ration their medicine or couldn’t afford to buy their medicine…that maybe we should try somethin’ different and go to Canada. And Go to the place where ya’ make the exact same medicines, for the exact same companies only if you have free and open trade (emphasis his) and go to Canada you can help our senior citizens save up 30-40-50 percent on the cost of their medicines. We did that in Illinois, being the first state in America to defy (emphasis his) the FDA and the big drug companies. And I’m happy to say we were joined by the state of Wisconsin, the state of Kansas and the state of Vermont and a lot of senior citizens in Illinois have had the benefit of being able to afford their medicine at prices they can afford. The house is impeaching me for that. Is that an impeachable offense?”

  9. collapse expand

    This willingness to be flexible in policy as capital is threatened to be withheld is a fundamental component of capitalism. When the board of directors demand a change from the CEO, the CEO obeys their command or loses his access to the gravy train. As we can see here, the board has requested that Obama preserve their lucrative government sanctioned monopolies at the expense of the populace. It is disturbing to see our democratic process be purchased by capital forces so easily.

    Why even have elections at this point? Just do away with the charade and turn the government into a corporation with shares for purchase by the capital holders. Even a hint of capital flight and our president will drop campaign promises like hot potato. Once the great pendulum swings back to republicans, industry won’t even have to threaten capital flight anymore, the true ideologues in the senate will preserve their industry subsidies without even having to be threatened.

  10. collapse expand

    It sounds to this Obama voter like he is going to reform me right out of health insurance. I have a catastrophic plan which costs me $2000/year. He’s going to force me to buy an expensive plan which, quite frankly, is not health insurance but something more like an expensive health care club. My best option will be to drop my plan to pay the $750 — and pray I don’t get hit by a drunk driver while I’m crossing the street.

    In addition to Obama’s reversal on drug reimportation, he reversed his stance on forcing us to buy health insurance.

    Here’s Obama in the January 5, 2008 debate, speaking to Hillary Clinton: “We do have a philosophical difference. John [Edwards] and yourself believe that, if we do not mandate care, if we don’t force the government to get to — if the government does not force taxpayers to buy health care, that we will penalize them in some fashion.

    “I disagree with that because, as I go around town hall meetings, I don’t meet people who are trying to avoid getting health care.”

    In a January 28 debate, Obama said: “I don’t see those folks. And I think that it is important for us to recognize that if, in fact, you are going to mandate the purchase of insurance and it’s not affordable, then there’s going to have to be some enforcement mechanism that the government uses. And they may charge people who already don’t have health care fines, or have to take it out of their paychecks. And that, I don’t think, is helping those without health insurance. That is a genuine difference.”

    Now, remember, at the time of these debates Hillary was the favorite to win the nomination. Obama was still a long shot. But primary voters connected with what Obama was saying. We did not want another Clinton administration — faux Democrats who rolled over for Big Business at every opportunity.

    Regarding drug reimportation, it was something both Obama and McCain supported. Perhaps McCain would have stood up for what he promised. We know Obama hasn’t.

  11. collapse expand

    For the guy who wondered how Canadians feel about the unkind implications of questioning the safety of our prescription drugs: We feel the same way we do about all the other insults heaped upon our health insurance and health care systems in general every time reform of the American system is contemplated.

    That is, we shrug and shake our heads, but the “insult” bounces off because WE AREN’T THE ONES DOING THE DYING. You are.

    These issues may come out as “controversies” in the American media, but up here, there’s very little debate. Virtually all Canadians travel to the States frequently, so we know your system pretty well. We know it delivers good care, but on the whole no better than ours unless you have some very rare problem only the Mayo clinic can tackle.

    We also know it can cost you your house and life savings. 86% of Canadians believe our system is very good and needs only small tweaks; 90% believe we are better off than with the American system.

    That leaves not much to talk about. We have news items about wait times for various operations, we have news about new cost-control attempts, but we have zero news about the dangers of our prescription drug supplies or the horrors of our treatment services that Sean Hannity has revealed unto us.

    We had a few news fillers about the more ludicrous charges made against our system and the mild (eye-rolling) rebuttals from some of our doctors or politicians back when they started last summer. But I haven’t seen one in months; certainly nothing about these latest drug-supply allegations. Or, to repeat: Shrug.

    To the guy who thought our drugs were cheap because of “taxpayer dollars”, implying some kind of subsidy: cite your source. Or admit you have none. That’s just silly. Drugs are what the Canadian health insurance does NOT cover (unless you’re in hospital). Maybe you’re thinking of Britain, where “Sicko” showed that all prescriptions are 5 pounds.

    Try the google term ‘ “drug prices” canada ‘ and skip the ad-links down to the “Seniors and drug prices in Canada and the United States” article from our arch-conservative Fraser Institute. It picks on our government for sheltering retail drug supplies and making our generics MORE expensive than those in America. Our retail prices are cheaper, but not because of subsidy, Fraser would have called that out instantly.

    Then go two links down the google page to “How PMPRB Contributes to Controlling Drug Prices in Canada” to see how it’s done. (You could do it too, and eliminate the need for imports. With your economies of scale, we would be importing from YOU.)

    I suppose we do feel a little more than just a “shrug” about all this: we feel sorry for you. That makes it hard to get mad.

    • collapse expand

      To rbrander:

      As a Canadian working in the US, I share your frustration about the constant belittling of the Canadian system.

      A few comments about drug prices:

      >Drugs are what the Canadian health insurance does NOT cover (unless you’re in hospital).It picks on our government for sheltering retail drug supplies and making our generics MORE expensive than those in America.<

      Generic drug prices are a drop in the bucket, especially for outpatient services. Generics are about ~10% of the expenditures (PMPRB 1999, 2000).

      * Similar to your line of comments, this is a big gap in the US system wherein the largest purchaser, the government, is forbidden from negotiating drug prices.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        sorry, part of my reply got hacked up.

        The first point was going to note that I completely agree with you in regards to the impact of the PMPRB. However, do note that it is largely inpatient services that are cratering the US system, so these prices are very relevant to health care costs.

        With regards to the actual prices for drugs, the Canadian set up is a little different. Regardless of PMPRB action, each province controls what is on their formulary. Provinces then use this as leverage, along with their bargaining power (gained through taxes), to set prices*.

        * This bargaining is outlawed in the US.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Thanks for the corrections. My comment was already very long and I didn’t want to get into the details. The main point is that our prices are the result of regulation, oversight, and market negotiations, not tax-based subsidies. We could probably make a tidy profit selling to a market 10X our size. But we shouldn’t be needed! The Americans could do the same. Probably better.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Thanks for the feedback, rbrander. We in the U.S. don’t get too many unmediated looks at what Canadians think unless we live near the border (which I don’t).

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  12. collapse expand

    If we accept that campaign promises are meaningless, and that elections allow us to choose faces but not policies, then we have no reason to give a damn about politics at all. Elections become a particularly tedious sporting event, and democracy a morbid joke.

    • collapse expand

      @jaycm The deeper we get into “the health care reform debate” the more I’m convinced that the average working American is pretty much irrelevant at the highest levels of government. The Washington DC levels of Executive and Legislative branches are defacto branches of multinational corporations.

      Naming names is irrelevant since we see both branches, Democrats and Republicans, actively moving to protect the interests of corporations to the detriment of human beings. The few government representatives who do stand up and try to do the right thing are quickly marginalized and made to seem like a fool or buffoon.

      At this point, elections only decide whether politicians openly and obediently serve their corporate masters, Republican. Or pretend to care about people, then whittle away any gains on their behalf or weakly pretend to work for people’s benefit, Democrats.

      Since the multinational corporations own most channels of mass communication either directly or indirectly through government puppets, I don’t see how a viable 3rd party can exist.

      The Teabagger movement is tainted by racism, anti-Semitism and extremely short sighted selfishness, so that’s not going to be it.

      Perhaps if the smart, progressive folks who got Obama elected break off to our own party, we could make a go of it?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Couldn’t have said it better myself. This country is in dire need of a viable, rational third party. Maybe even a fourth or a fifth. How that will happen remains anybody’s guess. But I think the time is more than ripe, and I think people would be on board so fucking fast, because this impasse on party lines between the Democrats and Republicans is downright embarrassing, and simply proves how impotent and corrupt the two party system has become. It’s a vicious cycle that just repeats itself with each election, with nothing getting done, and the American people left holding the short end of the stick.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  13. collapse expand

    So it’s okay to outsource jobs to other countries to reduce the cost of doing business, but we can’t “insource” drugs to keep those costs down to the consumer? Talk about the little guy get screwed on both ends…

  14. collapse expand

    There’s a very real possibility that the whole health care bill is dead at this point. There are two camps at the moment in the Democratic world: those saying that it’s still well worth passing and will contain lots of needed reform, and an increasing number saying no, just kill it, it’s going to be a monster now that forces you to buy private insurance with virtually no checks on the prices they charge you.

    One think I wish those arguing for passing it would stop saying is that we have to pass it no matter how crappy “so that Obama can have something to sign”. Barack Obama “winning” or not is not the point of health care reform, I want to remind them.

    I was talking to some friends from the UK (I live in Europe) who asked me how I felt about Obama and I said “disappointed”, as the first thought that occurred to me. “Yeah” they shrugged, “sort of like Tony Blair, except we knew right from the start that he was selling us out.”

    It was profoundly depressing.

    • collapse expand

      At least you have the advantage of viewing what is going on here from a distance. It is unbelievably difficult to be living in the US as an Obama supporter that is now disappointed. If you hold the progressive belief that all politicians should be held accountable for the promises made on the campaign trail then you cannot endorse the actions of the President and our Congress. Our corporate political system has became an insane episode of the Twilight Zone.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  15. collapse expand

    Dorgan’s amendment may be one of the best pieces of legislation for progressives to fight for. It has twenty co-sponsors, Democrats and Republicans. Its appeal crosses party lines and ideological perspectives.

    The full text of SA 2793, “To provide for the importation of prescription drugs” and its co-sponsors are here:

    http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SP02793:

    I have telephoned my Senators Bennet and Udall of Colorado to voice support. Phone numbers for all Senators are here:

    http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

  16. collapse expand

    Life got easier when I accepted that this country is owned by Big Business and everyone else is on borrowed play-time in their sand box. That includes working people and presidents.

  17. collapse expand

    There might be no legitimate reason to bar the re-importation of drugs from other industrialized countries, but then again, there is no legitimate reason why it would pay to re-import drugs from other countries. The drugs are cheaper in other countries because of government-imposed price controls. It still amazes me that the most die-hard supporters of re-importation are the most vociferous opponents of “socialized medicine” and “government takeover of health care”.

  18. collapse expand

    Wow, Zaid. I’m not sure what True/Slant’s etiquette is on stuff like this, but I think it’s extremely presumptuous to link to an article of yours on another contributor’s thread. Not to mention just plain tacky.

  19. collapse expand

    One angle of perception regarding this abandonment of a campaign promise by Obama is not mentioned in this article.

    The $80 billion to be saved via drug re-importation by consumers if indeed matched by a firm offer to pony up $80 billion toward reform, is offset. The only net money to be saved if these estimates are true and the offer from PhRMA is made good on, is the other $19 billion in estimated government savings. That $19 billion, flowing to the Drug industry to do as they wish with, cuts their losses to what, $61 billion?

    So the whole enchilada would have been $99 billion in lost revenue to PhRMA but Obama caved for a measly $61 billion, bird in hand (your numbers, not mine). What if he lost the fight for the change on the hill? We’d have zip – nada – squat, right? Good thing he didn’t make a deal with AARP for a medicare buy in.

    That doesn’t even consider the many, many other cards the drug lords may have tried to play to stem their losses, or the fact that ALL the $80 billion that would have been saved by “consumers” would have been saved by…err- drug consumers. Tens of billions being saved by folks who see the commercials and have absolutely no problem shelling out the American prices. The money PhRMA puts toward reform will hopefully assist those with more pressing needs than an extra woodie every month. Drug plants pay their workaday researchers and shop floor workers pretty decent right now too, a $61 billion planned hit might avoid even more consolidation and lay offs than are already hemmorraging through the industry to widespread pain.

    And what’s to prevent the PhRMA companies from doing broad small incremental worlwide price increases to make up some of the difference and drive up healthcare costs globally at great harm to many?

    Not saying I don’t hate a flip flop, I’m saying $61 billion ain’t no frickin’ chump change campaign contribution bribe, it represents more than 60% of the potential goal neatly in the bag, with more progressive distribution of benefit and possibly a lot less negative blowback.

  20. collapse expand

    Another great article, Matt. These lobbyists and politicos are “talking their book.” They have huge sums of money to make, that are riding on continuing “business as usual” in D.C. So they try to propagandize (Is that a word?) everyone else into believing that “business as usual” is healthy, normal, and the only way things can be. But in reality. this is no more normal or healthy than any other crime against the public.

    I hope that one day we will get campaign finance reform, and that we will all search out and support candidates for Congress and the presidency who will accept NO Special Interest Group contributions, candidates who have a solid record of honesty and true public service. Until that day, we will continue stupidly voting in a way that gives us only one choice: Who will be the president or Congress person who will take the money out of our wallets and give it to the Special Interest Groups who financed their campaigns? That is so dumb. What difference does it make what their name is, or what party they say they are from, when they are just going to ignore the will of the people? When we vote for anyone who accepts Special Interest Group donations, we are voting to keep being
    robbed as taxpayers, voters, and consumers.

  21. collapse expand

    candidates who have a solid record of honesty and true public service

    Uh, I’m sorry, this is the United States of America — not Fantasy Island.

    If politicians started out with a record of honesty and public service they were forced to lose it just to get anything accomplished in DC.

  22. collapse expand

    So, re-importation of drugs is just too dangerous, eh? Well, I guess no one noticed that just about ALL of the H1N1 vaccines were imported to the US! LOL! Those are perfectly safe, even though some of those are manufactured in third world countries (Indonesia) but, drugs made in the USA, sent to Canada, then sent back to the USA… those are bad, Bad, BAD!
    What a joke. What’s even more pathetic is that we supposedly tough-ass Americans haven’t stormed the Capitol yet!
    Sad. Truely sad. Personally, I hope the economy gets worse. I hope health care ‘reform’ fails and Medicaid & Medicare go down in flames. I hope employer provided health insurance becomes a thing of the past. Let’s just get this slow slide into Thrid World Banana Republic status over with already. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time. And, as Americans, we deserve no less because we’ve too freakin stooooopid to deserve anything better.

    • collapse expand

      Actually, fattkid, most drugs are manufatured in another country – as are nearly all products we use. And most drug companies are Swiss-based. Not all, but most.

      So why do they perpetuate the fiction that Americans should only buy drugs in America? Because we are charged FAR more than any other country for our drugs. We are expected to pay a surcharge for drugs because (they claim) the money is needed to send new drugs through the R&D process.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  23. collapse expand

    TIMELY reminders from Robert Parry (JUNE 2009)

    TWO KEY HEALTHCARE NUMBERS

    “To understand the financial stakes involved in the battle over U.S. health-care reform, it’s useful to keep two numbers in mind: 50 million and 119 million.

    The first number is the approximate total of Americans without health insurance, a new market that the private health insurance industry is salivating to get its hands on. The industry’s hope is that the government will mandate that those Americans sign up for private insurance and offer subsidies for those who can’t afford to pay the premiums.

    Fifty million new customers and government largesse to help pay the bills would be a huge windfall for the insurance industry, which otherwise faces a decline in its market because Baby Boomers are reaching the age to qualify for Medicare and because rising unemployment is draining the pool of Americans who have insurance through their employers….

    …The big question now is: how far will Obama and the Democrats go in demanding that the final legislation have in it what tens of millions of Americans want – a public option and a chance to escape the clutches of the private medical insurance industry – when that same powerful industry is deathly afraid of just that possibility. …”

    - continues in full at http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/061109.html

    See also, Parry continues:

    “119 Million Americans Must Be Wrong

    As the health insurance industry and its defenders in Congress lay out their case against permitting a public option in a reform bill, perhaps their most curious argument is that some 119 million Americans are ready to dump their private plans and jump to something more like Medicare – and that’s why the choice can’t be permitted.

    In other words, the industry and its backers are acknowledging that more than one-third of the American people are so dissatisfied with their private health insurance that they trust the U.S. government to give them a fairer shake on health care. The industry says its allies in Congress must prevent that.

    The peculiar argument that 119 million Americans must be denied the public option that they prefer has been made most notably by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which is one of two panels that has jurisdiction over the health insurance bill.

    ‘As many as 119 million Americans would shift from private coverage to the government plan,’ Grassley wrote in a column for Politico.com. That migration, Grassley said, would ‘put America on the path toward a completely government-run health care system. … Eventually, the government plan would overtake the entire market.’

    Grassley’s logic is that so many Americans would prefer a government-run plan that the private health insurance industry would collapse or become a shadow of its current self. That, in turn, would lead even more Americans entering the government plan, making private insurance even less viable.

    Rarely has an argument more dramatically highlighted the philosophical question of whether in a democracy, the government should represent the people’s interests or an industry’s….

    The counter-argument, of course, might be that if the health insurance industry hadn’t dissatisfied so many customers – indeed forcing many sick people into bankruptcy because of excessive fees, denial of coverage and gaps in permitted medical treatments – there wouldn’t be so many Americans eager for a public option.

    So, now to protect the health insurance industry, Congress must stop 119 million Americans from leaping into the arms of a government plan….

    If the health insurance industry had its way, Congress would produce a bill that simply required Americans (or their employers) to buy health insurance from private industry. That way, the government would compel citizens to become customers while denying them a choice of the public plan.

    To avoid such an outcome, proponents of the public option – including those 119 million Americans who are ready to sign up – will have to overcome opposition from Republicans and some Democrats who are determined to protect the interests of the private health insurance industry.”

    - continues in full at http://www.consortiumnews.com/2009/060509.html

    and THAT’S how the health industrial complex played the scam outside – with their industry financed “teaparty” sham resisters and inside… while they were writing the bill from the inside and compromising all progressive reform away via their bought and paid for elected officials therein.

  24. collapse expand

    A few more months of this and the Repugs could run Palin and the corpse of Theodore Bilbo and win in a landslide.

    Rahm and Obama haven’t yet figured out that they can’t piss on progressives’ heads and make them all believe it’s raining. Rahm doesn’t care, but, Obama should–he’s the one who’s going to have to run on his record in 2012….

  25. collapse expand

    In response to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs who asks today, disingenuously:

    “If this is an insurance company’s dream, I think the insurance companies have yet to get the memo…Insurance companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation… If this is such a good deal for them, I’m not entirely sure why they’re fighting it,”

    THIS WRITER says, “Well, hello, DUH!

    Let’s take a little closer and more rational look, Bob – both inside and outside. Consider the “situation,” how shall we say it, an “insider-outsider” job surrounding TWO KEY HEALTHCARE NUMBERS*, 50 million and 119 million. (*See Robert Parry below).

    Behind the dog and pony show(s) with smoke and mirrors we’ve witnessed via the corporate media this past year – complicit with the DLC Obama Inc. White House and the sham “town hall” talks, along with the entire Republican Party to play the heels in what was and is a “Wresting” sham, the health insurance industrial complex stood to gain a huge bailout boon if their sham of a Neoliberal healthcare bill passed – which they, indeed, helped to write all along.

    So the industry created the corporate funded “Right Wing” facade of “resistance” from “teabaggers” from the outside, all the while the industry was writing the bill behind closed doorsthat they wanted from the DLC inside – and from the very beginning when single payer was initially axed and closed-door pharm/health industry “deals” *wink wink* – i.e. demands – were made. Very limited “options” on the table from the beginning.

    So why finance the public sham? Well, to frame, and limit, the public debate into oversimplistic dichotomous camps that would serve to silence the needed public discussions we should have been having that would have exposed the health insurance industry bailout scam for what it was all along.

    The insurance-bought off “elected officials” across both parties played their “centrist” and “independent” sham roles out further to “insure” that any and all progressive changes needed and supported by the American public would get “compromised away” all along. Courtesy of the “Snowe” job(s).

    So, in the end, the insurance industrial complex would get the “deals” they intended to get – and demanded to get – and PAID TO GET – all along and all behind the facade of any real change or reform.

    Such deals are a boon worth far more than the meager peanuts of “hundreds of millions” in what amounts to “chump change” spent financing the public sham of “resistance” to keep the public distracted from what was really happening with the complicity of the DLC White House in general – and Rahm Emanuel in particular. (Not including the hundreds of millions thrown at the Corporate Democratic Party for its complicity in what amounts to a Neoliberal bi-partisan scam.)

    Not much difference between this and the Neoliberal Wall Street bankster scams being played out in the financial industry alongside – with the Energy industry scams – from New York to Copenhagen.

    Same people, same interests, same sham game(s).

    Same NEOLIBERALISM.

  26. collapse expand

    “…the political realities of health-care reform, which depends in large part on tacit support from drugmakers and other industry groups.”

    And why does it depend on their tacit support? Because they can flood the airwaves and the public consciousness with bogus bullshit for an unthinking/uncomprehending electorate to drown in. That is what campaign fund raising is all about also.

    They belive that, with enough money, the public mind can be shaped like SillyPuddy to support/oppose anything. Apparently, they are right. We don’t need to write our legislators, make calls or canvass neighborhoods (maybe that’s why Obama hasn’t used his database of 13 million supporters) or advocate for anything. We need a George Soros to bankroll a billion dollar ad campaign promoting single payer plan as “Good! Not bad, good!” And a billion from Buffet for ads saying “Too big to fail is bad! Bad!”

    Jefferson’s “marketplace of ideas” has devolved into “who has the most air time with the best ads.” It’s not about the money, it’s about gullibility. With enough cash and spin, anyone can convince anyone of anything. No wonder commece controll.

    It’s the electorate, stupid

  27. collapse expand

    I started reading your articles in Rolling Stone and will continue to do so; just wanted to say thanks for your insight, Matt – please keep up the good work!

  28. collapse expand

    Now that Obama on this as so very much else has shat on his supporters its time to turn the tables. Cut the bugger off at the knees and petition against the bill.
    Better no bill at all than to later find even more horrors in it after its passed and that peole were suckered into supporting it.

  29. collapse expand

    It reminds me of the Mad Magazine “Spy vs. Spy” only this time it is “Candidate vs. President”. With each passing day O disappoints more and more. Last week his argument to create “non-persons” was accepted by the Supreme Court. It was a Dred Scott moment for O an abandonment of the basic principle of “person”. As people are labeled so will they be treated and now these people in United States custody will be “non-persons” and “non-persons have no rights. Every right has a corresponding. If there is no right against torture there is no duty to not torture. Washington, yes George, would cry at O’s arguments.

  30. collapse expand

    @stevelaudig…

    It was a Dred Scott moment for O an abandonment of the basic principle of “person.”

    His abandonment of the basic principle of “person” is neither new, or surprising. He did it in IL with his machinations to become senator, and he did it in FL, when he and his handlers decided my vote, and that of 1.7 million other Floridians did not count.

    Since you mentioned Dred Scott – Blacks, having been considered “three-fifths persons” constitutionally upon the birth of this nation and beyond, had their voices further devalued by an America-identified-Black, constitutional law professor!

    As a Black woman with plenty – “As people are labeled so will they be treated…” experience in these United States – THAT moment of his, was more than enough confirmation for me that my, NEVER-WILL-SUPPORT-HIM decision was the right one.

  31. collapse expand

    Okay, I voted for Obama. Let me just get that out there. I liked the man, I liked what he stood for, I liked the potential of what his presidency could mean. I especially liked the idea of having someone who WASN’T another rich old white guy as my President.
    Okay, so I voted for this man – rather young (for a President), refreshingly honest (it seemed), a family man, etc. The list is long. And now… that same old bad taste in my mouth is coming back. You know the one, where your gorge rises just a little and you think for a moment that you might just vomit? THAT feeling. To my shock and horror – it’s when I hear the latest “compromise” or “amended bill” or “escalation” I hear the newest administration is engaging in. It’s making me crazy! Sadly, it’s looking more and more like Obama is nothing more than all the other greedy, grasping politicans our country is plagued with and it really breaks my heart. You see, I’ve never bothered to vote before the last election – I’ve always been a fan of the old cynical adage that ALL politicans are crooked, evil, soulless bastards. And, hell, if I didn’t like the guy, I didn’t vote for him. And if I didn’t like ANYONE, I didn’t vote at all! And then came Obama – he spoke of things I’ve long held to be true, of fairness, of wisdom, of compassion. And now he’s showing himself to be nothing more than another big windbag whom I should’ve ignored. They’ve compromised this “universal health care” issue into something useless and utterly flawed, and for what?! Cold hard cash? A couple of votes on some special project down the road? Just to “be nice”? That’s what I want to know. Why is this administration now abandoning all they proclaimed to work for? What good can possibly come of it?
    And – why am I such a fool for yearning for that “more perfect union”, for that better future, for truth from my politicans and justice from my government?

  32. collapse expand

    Twas the day before Christmas

    and all through the senate and the house

    Liberals and Progressives were selling us out

    You see the companies making contributions to conservatives really have the legislative clout

    Unfortunately, most progressive and liberal outsiders haven’t figured this out

    To leave these companies alone will just seal our fate

    where we progressives and liberals do not carry much political weight

    but if we join together and boycott conservative funders asses

    We’ll get real progressive legislation that passes.

    If you want to solve the problem of too much company influence over legislation

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    I'm a political reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, a sports columnist for Men's Journal, and I also write books for a Random House imprint called Spiegel and Grau.

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