Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Corruption in High Places = Treason [e.g. No public option in U.S. Health Care Reform]

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“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot coexist in the same man or in the same society" - Ayn Rand, 1961

"The chief business of America is business" - President Calvin Coolidge, 1925

"The glory of the United States is business" - Wendell L. Willkie, 1936


In Washington, Revolving Doors are Bad for Your Health

- Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
On Tuesday, October 13 (2009), the Senate Finance Committee finally is scheduled to vote on its version of health care insurance reform. And therein lies yet another story in the endless saga of money and politics.

In most polls, the majority of Americans favor a non-profit alternative -- such as Medicare -- that would give the private health industry some competition. So if so many of us, including President Obama himself, want that public option, how come we're not getting one?

Because the medicine that would cure our healthcare nightmare has been poisoned from Day One -- fatally adulterated, thanks to the infamous, Washington revolving door. Movers and shakers rotate between government and the private sector at a speed so dizzying they forget for whom they're supposed to be working.

If you've been watching the Senate Finance Committee's markup sessions, maybe you've noticed a woman sitting behind Committee Chairman Max Baucus. Her name is Liz Fowler.

Fowler used to work for WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the country. She was its vice president of public policy. Baucus' office failed to mention this in the press release announcing her appointment as senior counsel in February 2008, even though it went on at length about her expertise in "health care policy."

Now she's working for the very committee with the most power to give her old company and the entire industry exactly what they want -- higher profits -- and no competition from alternative non-profit coverage that could lower costs and premiums. A veteran of the revolving door, Fowler had a previous stint working for Senator Baucus -- before her time at WellPoint. But wait, there's more. The person who was Baucus top health advisor before he brought back Liz Fowler? Her name is Michelle Easton. And why did she leave the staff of the committee? To go to work -- surprise -- at a firm representing the same company for which Liz Fowler worked -- WellPoint. As a lobbyist.

You can't tell the players without a scorecard in the old Washington shell game. Lobbyist out, lobbyist in. It's why they always win. They've been plowing this ground for years, but with the broad legislative agenda of the Obama White House -- health care, energy, financial reform, the Employee Free Choice Act, and more -- the soil has never been so fertile. The health care industry alone has six lobbyists for every member of Congress and more than 500 of them are former Congressional staff members, according to the Public Accountability Initiative's LittleSis database.

Just to be certain Congress sticks with the program, the industry has been showering megabucks all over Capitol Hill. From the beginning, they wanted to make sure that whatever bill comes out of the Finance Committee puts for-profit insurance companies first -- by forcing the uninsured to buy medical policies from them. Money not only talks, it writes the prescriptions. In just the last few months, the health care industry has spent $380 million on lobbying, advertising and campaign contributions. And -- don't bother holding onto your socks -- a million and a half of it went to Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, the man who said he saw "a lot to like" in the two public option amendments proposed by Senators Rockefeller and Schumer, but voted no anyway.

The people in favor of a public alternative can't scrape up the millions of dollars Baucus has received from the health sector during his political career. In fact, over the last two decades, the current members of the entire finance committee have collected nearly $50 million from the health sector, a long-term investment that's now paying off like a busted slot machine.
Not that we should be surprised. A century ago, muckraking journalists reported that large corporations and other wealthy interests virtually owned the United States Senate -- using bribery, fraud, and sometimes blackmail to get their way. Jokes were made about "the Senator from Union Pacific" or "the Senator from Standard Oil." One reporter in particular was out to break their grip. His name was David Graham Phillips. One day in 1906, readers of Cosmopolitan Magazine opened its March issue to discover the first of nine articles by Phillips titled, "The Treason of the Senate." (see below article - Bert)

He wrote, "Treason is a strong word, but not too strong, rather too weak, to characterize the situation which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be, and vastly more dangerous: interests that manipulate the prosperity produced by all, so that it heaps up riches for the few; interests whose growth and power can only mean the degradation of the people, of the educated into sycophants, of the masses toward serfdom."

The public outrage provoked by Phillips and other muckrakers contributed to the ratification of the 17th amendment to the Constitution
, providing for the direct popular election of senators, who until then were elected by easily bought-off state legislators.
Of course, like water seeking its own level, big money finds its way around every obstacle, and was soon up to its old tricks, filling the pockets of sympathetic and grateful politicians.

Today, none dare call it treason. So why not call it what it is -- a friendly takeover of government, a leveraged buyout of democracy.

Outrageous? You bet. But don't just get mad. Get busy.
Source: http://blog.buzzflash.com/contributors/2088

"The Treason of the Senate" (1906), David Graham Phillips
Rhode Island is the smallest of our states in area and thirty-fourth in population—twelve hundred and fifty square miles, less than half a million people, barely seventy thousand voters with the rolls padded by the Aldrich machine. But size and numbers are nothing; it contains as many sturdy Americans proportionately as any other state. Its bad distinction of supplying the enemy with a bold leader is due to its ancient and aristocratic constitution, changed once, away back before the middle of the last century, but still an archaic document for class rule.

The apportionment of legislators is such that one-eleventh of the population, and they the most ignorant and most venal, elect a majority of the legislature—which means that they elect the two United States senators. Each city and township counts as a political unit; thus, the five cities that together have two-thirds of the population are in an overwhelming minority before twenty almost vacant rural townships—their total population is not thirty-seven thousand—where the ignorance is even illiterate, where the superstition is mediaeval, where tradition and custom have made the vote an article of legitimate merchandising.

The combination of bribery and party prejudice is potent everywhere; but there come crises when these fail "the interests" for the moment. No storm of popular rage, however, could unseat the senators from Rhode Island. The people of Rhode Island might, as a people and voting almost unanimously, elect a governor; but not a legislature. Bribery is a weapon forbidden those who stand for right and justice—who "fights the devil with fire" gives him choice of weapons, and must lose to him, though seeming to win. A few thousand dollars put in the experienced hands of the heelers, and the senatorial general agent of "the interests" is secure for another six years.

The Aldrich machine controls the legislature, the election boards, the courts—the entire machinery of the "republican form of government." In 1904, when Aldrich needed a legislature to reelect him for his fifth consecutive term, it is estimated that carrying the state cost about two hundred thousand dollars—a small sum, easily to be got back by a few minutes of industrious pocket-picking in Wall Street. . . .

And the leader, the boss of the Senate for the past twenty years has been—Aldrich! . . .
The greatest single hold of "the interests" is the fact that they are the "campaign contributors"—the men who supply the money for "keeping the party together," and for "getting out the vote." Did you ever think where the millions for watchers, spellbinders, halls, processions, posters, pamphlets, that are spent in national, state and local campaigns come from?

Who pays the big election expenses of your congressman, of the men you send to the legislature to elect senators? Do you imagine those who foot those huge bills are fools? Don't you know that they make sure of getting their money back, with interest, compound upon compound? Your candidates get most of the money for their campaigns from the party committees; and the central party committee is the national committee with which congressional and state and local committees are affiliated. The bulk of the money for the "political trust" comes from "the interests." "The interests" will give only to the "political trust."

And that means Aldrich and his Democratic (!) lieutenant, Gorman of Maryland, leader of the minority in the Senate. Aldrich, then, is the head of the "political trust" and Gorman is his right-hand man. When you speak of the Republican party, of the Democratic party, of the "good of the party," of the "best interests of the party;" of "wise party policy," you mean what Aldrich and Gorman, acting for their clients, deem wise and proper and "Republican" or "Democratic." . . .

No railway legislation that was not either helpful to or harmless against "the interests"; no legislation on the subject of corporations that would interfere with "the interests," which use the corporate form to simplify and systematize their stealing; no legislation on the tariff question unless it secured to "the interests" full and free license to loot; no investigations of wholesale robbery or of any of the evils resulting from it—there you have in a few words the whole story of the Senate's treason under Aldrich's leadership, and of why property is concentrating in the hands of the few and the little children of the masses are being sent to toil in the darkness of mines, in the dreariness and unhealthfulness of factories instead of being sent to school; and why the great middle class "the old-fashioned Americans, the people with the incomes of from two thousand to fifteen thousand a year—is being swiftly crushed into dependence and the repulsive miseries of "genteel poverty."

Source: [From David Graham Phillips, "The Treason of the Senate," Cosmopolitan, April 1906, pp. 628–38.]

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