Wednesday, July 25, 2007



Michael Moore's newest film, SiCKO, was very compelling and also very startling in an emotional sense. One scene that has stuck with me involved corrupt Republican congressman-turned-lobbyist Billy Tauzin. (Even earlier than that he was a Democrat and one of the founders of the reactionary Blue Dog Coalition.) Tauzin played a key role in shepherding the pro-Corporate/anti-patient Medicare Prescription Drug Bill through Congress in 2004 and then immediately left Congress and went to work as the head of PhRMA, the industry lobbyist organization for the American drug industry. One of the most blatantly unethical men to ever hold public office, Tauzin's bribe from the drug companies for their bonanza is $2.5 million per year. The scene I was talking about was described by Alison Levy in Huff Po last week.
One of Sicko's most telling sequences captures the lobbying campaign mounted for the Medicare Prescription Drug bill. Though promoted as a boon to seniors it raised drug prices to benefit drug companies, according to Public Citizen. In one telling moment, Moore showed multiple clips of the Congressional spearhead, one time Congressman (R-LA) W.J. "Billy" Tauzin who aggressively promoted the bill, by shifting the discussion away from the real merits and beneficiaries of the bill to, of all people, his mother.

At countless gatherings, Moore shows Tauzin selling the bill because "I love my mother." In an act of marketing genius, playing the loyalty card totally obscured the relevant issues.
But as Moore wryly observes, the real question wasn't whether or not Tauzin and his camp cared for their own mothers, but whether as legislators they were loyal to their obligation to serve our mothers, fathers, grandparents, elderly relatives and senior selves.

No doubt Tauzin's Mom felt proud that her son got a hefty paycheck when he left Congress to head up to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which the L.A. Times called "one of the biggest beneficiaries of the bill Tauzin helped write."

But we and our mothers can now recognize that under the guise of mother love, Tauzin and other legislators' highest loyalty was to the lobbyists, financial backers, and future employers, not to us.
The fundamental question is whether anyone (government officials, legislators, health care systems, or media) can act in the public interest when they are beholden and loyal to their paymasters, their industry, their advertisers, or dancing back and forth between government and corporate bosses?

Yeah, that is the point-- which is why the scene struck me and stuck with me. And yet... I am still shocked by the response of Republicans to the plans to increase health insurance coverage for indigent children. They hate our mothers and they hate our children-- and they do it with a reassuring smile-- a reassuring smile that almost a third of Americans are taken in by. Who are these inhuman people?

For a minute it looked like the bill would pass and in a bipartisan manner with enough votes to override the expected veto from the monster in the White House. A compromise was worked out in the Senate Finance Committee-- this year's most only bipartisan agreement. It co-sponsored by conservative Republicans Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley and passed 17-4 with 6 Republicans joining all the Democrats to approve a $35 billion reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. But today it became clear that political hay can be made and the GOP leaders have decided to forget the compromise, go for the hay and let the kiddies... die. The Republicans on the Finance Committee opposing the bill were Jim Bunning (KY), John Ensign (NV), Jon Kyl (AZ) and Trent Lott (MS), each a die-hard arch-reactionary.

Earlier in the week passage was looking very optimistic-- between a small handful of Republicans with consciences and blind fear from the habitual rubber stamps knowing that voting against children's health care could look bad-- even to Republican voters. Democratic and Republican governors have been loudly campaigning for this bill. This morning's NY Times tamps down the optimism considerably.

The man who once handed out bribes in the form of campaign contribution checks from the tobacco lobby on the floor of Denny Hastert's House is now the Minority Leader-- and he's digging in his heels.
Republican leaders of the House and Senate on Tuesday attacked proposals that call for a major expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to be financed with higher tobacco taxes.

“Republicans will fight these proposals,” said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.

In an unexpected turn of events, the top two Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Trent Lott of Mississippi, said they opposed a bipartisan bill that the Senate Finance Committee approved last week and would offer an alternative on the Senate floor...

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, a leading proponent of the House bill, said: “For the longest time, I was mystified why Republicans would oppose expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to kids who are eligible but not enrolled. Now I realize. They are trying to deny us a political victory. They want to be able to say that Democrats can’t get anything done.

“Unfortunately,” Ms. DeGette said, “Republicans are pursuing this strategy on the backs of poor children.”

A new poll found that the bill is supported by 91% of Americans. Will that stop Bush and the obstructionists in Congress? Of course not.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home