Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Taibbi Exposes PhRMA's Big Bribe & How the GOP Pays Off its 'Base' of Elites (Existentialist Cowboy)

I think Matt Taibbi has become, in essence, the Ralph Nader of the 60's today. Yes, that public servant and -serving unbought and unpaid-for presence that Ralph represented as a consumer advocate and whom everybody trusted (except, of course, big preying-mantis businesses who were exposed for their nefarious practices) is on the move in Taibbi's works.

Taibbi's especially helpful as he describes how sometimes-but-not-often-Democratic Senator Max Baucus is rolling out the publicity wagon for Big PhRMA, which will soon obscure any type of clarity you may have thought existed on the need for health care reform, and extort Henry Waxman to accept changes made to the bill that increase the profits of Big PhRMA and decrease your chance of being covered decently in this bill at all.

It seems this always happens. Clear-eyed individuals define a public-service problem, find several solutions that would bring about some needed changes and then get derailed by the publicity emanating from Faux Snooze sources who ensure that most poorly-informed citizens believe the opposite about the issue and the solutions, ensuring that either no positive changes occur or that any changes occurring will bring further profits to the providers and the same or worse care for the needy population. (Emphasis marks and some (necessary but hopefully judicious) editing changes were added - Ed.)

PhRMA’s Big Bribe Comes In The drug industry’s trade group plans to roll out a series of television advertisements in coming weeks specifically to support Senator Max Baucus’s health care overhaul proposal, according to an industry official involved in the planning. via Drug Makers to Back Baucus Plan With Ad Dollars – Prescriptions Blog – NYTimes.com.

I’ve been completely out of the loop with the health care story these last week and half or so, out of touch actually with the entire earth (I’ve been on a deadline on another story), but upon returning to work today I began getting calls about some alarming maneuverings in congress. We’re apparently finally seeing delivery of the Big Bribe that President Obama and Rahm Emanuel extracted from that pharmaceutical industry in exchange for dropping drug-pricing reform in the health care bill.

To recap: PhRMA, the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry, earlier this year announced that it would be setting aside $150 million to pay for an ad campaign supporting the President’s health care bill. The deal was apparently struck in July, after former Louisiana congressman and current PhRMA chief Billy Tauzin (Rod Blagojevich’s underdog opponent in the upcoming semifinal match of the Corrupt Scumbag of the Century So Far tournament) met with Rahm and other Obama aides in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Also in attendance were representatives of the usual panoply of awful medical corporations, including Abbott laboratories, Merck, and Pfizer. It was in this meeting that the White House agreed to sell out health care reform in exchange for a few bucks to fund the next couple of election cycles.

Tauzin, who has never been one for subtlety or finesse (he took his $2 million-a-year PhRMA job about ten seconds after he finished pushing through the Prescription Drug Benefit bill), stupidly later revealed some of the contents of that shady meeting, saying that the White House had “blessed” a plan involving the $150 million. He disclosed to reporters that he had extracted a promise from the White House to drop two important reforms:

1. To allow the government to negotiate bulk rates for drugs in Medicare, and

2. To permit the importation of cheap drugs from Canada (which was once an Obama campaign saw).

The only problem with this plan, from the White House’s side, was that not all of the president’s fellow Democrats played along. Specifically, Energy and Commerce chair Henry Waxman put a provision in his health care bill that allowed the government to negotiate lower rates. If Waxman’s language were to be allowed to survive, it would queer the White House’s deal.

So here’s what started happening to kill Waxman’s language. First of all, PhRMA started paying its bribe.

The $150 million it committed to support Obama’s bill is now being rolled out in pro-reform ads, which are being aired mostly in the districts of freshman congressmen. The ads are cheesy, half-hearted tripe blandly supporting the weak-as-fuck remnants of Obama’s health care plan, an example being this “Eight Ways Health Reform Matters To You” ad that salutes the end of coverage denials for those with pre-existing conditions.

Now we’re also seeing pressure from a group of freshmen and Blue Dogs, who have composed a letter to a quartet of House Committee chairs requesting that the Waxman language be removed from the health care bill and replaced with the PhRMA language, which happens to be the language the White House is pushing and which will appear in the Baucus bill in the Senate. The pro-PhRMA language retains the preposterous government subsidy to the pharmaceutical industry in the form of laws banning Medicare from negotiating market rates. It is completely useless and of no possible social benefit to anyone except pharmaceutical companies, but this group still managed to get 60 people to sign this letter.

What does this letter say? Does it argue that the PhRMA language is better for America than the Waxman language? Does it say it will cost taxpayers less and provide cheaper drugs to more people? Hilariously, no. What it says is that this PhRMA language, while worse than the Waxman language, is not quite so bad as you think (it doesn’t save as much as the Waxman language, but it still has a 50 percent price reduction, which isn’t terrible!). Moreover, the letter says, substituting this language will help the bill get passed!

Here’s the actual language, addressed primarily to Waxman:

“Your efforts to remove this onerous burden on Medicare beneficiaries . . . are to be greatly commended. However the commitment by President Obama and the AARP to support legislation that would provide a 50 percent reduction is a dramatic step forward in helping fill the doughnut hole. Equally important, it moves us toward our goal of health care legislation.”

In other words, your attempt to put in a real reform is cool and all, but PhRMA has us by the balls, so help us out.

Interestingly, the congressmen who wrote the bill — former NFL bust Heath Shuler and Illinois Democrat Debbie Halvorson — did not post the letter on their web sites, which is very unusual. One guesses that they are not particularly proud of this particular bit of shameless whoring.

Progressives this week are fighting to accumulate the votes needed to stop any health care bill that doesn’t have a public option. Hopefull they can stop this PhRMA payoff as well. If you’ve got a phone, call your congressman and give him/her hell about this. . . .

Another great source of public information, Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy, has documented for our edification (as if we needed it) the not-so-inside information anymore about How the GOP Pays Off its 'Base' of Elites and why the ill-informed and just plain not-paying-attention populace is unaware of this truth about how tax cuts depress the economy for everyone except the ones getting them.

When more and more have less and less to spend, what is an economy to do but shrink? Economists call it 'contraction' but by any term, it results in recession/depression.

When workers are not FAIRLY compensated for their labor and productivity, the income and wealth inequalities that result lower GDP and official INDICES measuring the national standard of living. This has been the case following every GOP tax cut.

GOP tax cuts either bribe or pay off the shrinking class of ruling elites that currently make up just one percent of the US population. This class of ruling oligarchs owes its existence to Ronald Reagan's infamous tax cut of 1982 which initially benefited the upper quintile. Subsequent tax cuts have enriched this class even as the percentage benefiting has shrunk - from 20 percent to just one percent. Every member of this class should be asking themselves: when do I fall off the bottom rung? As a result of GOP largesse, this 'ruling' elite of just one percent owns more than 95 percent of the rest of us combined. Clearly - everyone not a member of this class amounts for very, very little among the leadership of the GOP. The US 'ruling elite' have become oligarchs.

Bush Jr said: 'You are either for us or you are agin' us'. Surely, he had his base in mind. He waged war on their behalf just as Rome waged war to benefit the nobles, as Rome had invaded Dacia for the gold! If you are not 'elite', you are, like most of us, among the ass-kissin' paupers. Revolutions have begun upon less cause! GOP inequities depress the economy.

Deficits Caused by Tax Cuts Negate Any Potential Economic Benefits

Studies by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JTC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirm the common sense conclusion that GOP deficits undermine the alleged economic benefits of GOP tax cuts.

The so-called Laffer Curve is crap! Arthur Laffer drew a hypothetical curve in which additional revenues would be derived by cutting taxes for the 'investor' class. The curve is said to have shown how by cutting taxes for an 'investor' class, the increased investment thus stimulated would increase both employement and GDP while reducing federal deficits in the bargain.

Reagan's tax cut of 1982 put Laffer to the test and his curve failed miserably. GDP did not increase; rather, a depression of some two years - the longest and most severe since the Great Depression - resulted! It was accompanied by massive job losses and homelessness. Tent cities sprang up in boomtowns like Houston.

GOP Tax Cuts For Cronies Cause Recessions

Recessions and depressions have followed every GOP tax cut.

In 1978, capital gains tax was cut - 39% to 28%, GDP growth % fell from 5% to 2.9% in one year.

1981, capital gains tax was cut from 28% to 20% and GDP growth % fell from 2.5 to -2.1% in 1982.

In 1997, when capital gains taxes were cut from 28% back to 20%, GDP GROWTH FELL about 0.2% from 1997 to 1998.

It has been said that if you charge too much for something you will make $0 and if you charge too little - same thing. That thought process may apply to a small manufacturer; it does not describe or predict the effects of US tax policy. It is, rather, a simplistic demand curve - not the Laffer Curve which presumed to predict the effect of tax cuts. It was - in fact - a baseless rationalization for making the rich even richer.

Politicians saw in it the perfect cover, a way to 'launder' a pay off to the base!

Aside from inflicting upon the US economy what may yet prove to be a mortal blow, Unca Ronnie sold arms to Iran, an avowed enemy of the US. Alone, that is treason as defined by US Codes. But Reagan was not done. He funneled the proceeds to a right wing insurgency in Nicaraugua. All 'off the books'. Reagan arranged billions of dollars in unreported loans to Saddam Hussein for the purchase of military tech. [See: Lawrence Walsh, Iran-Contra Report, Concluding Observations]

Later, Bush would accuse Saddam of having WMD! Who but Reagan, the US in general, could have have armed Saddam? If WMD had been found, what are the chances that they would have come from any other nation BUT the nation that has sought to arm insurgencies all over the world - not in defense of Democracy but in defense of a US ruling elite of just one percent of the total population!

Weapons for his oil was surely a part of the 'sweet deal' GOP regimes cooked up with Saddam Hussein.

Reagan removed Iraq from the list of known terrorist nations in 1982 despite objections from Congress. A bargain had been struck!

Defense contractors, the de facto enforcement arm of the GOP, shipped helicopters and howitzers to Baghdad in the 1980s, even as the U.S. Dept. of Commerce gave its stamp of approval to the shipment of weapons-grade botulin poison, anthrax, nerve agents and chemicals needed for mustard gas. If WMD had been found in Iraq (they were not), chances are, they would have been traceable to either the Senior Bush or Unca Ronnie Ray-guns, terrorists of the GOP brand!

Until Bush Jr, Reagan had been the very worst President in US history.

Bush Jr was not to be outdone. Both idiot-criminals enriched just just one percent of the US population - robber barons, insiders and arms merchants who were already rich. Under both so-called 'Presidents', every one but the very, very rich got poor! The middle class was left behind and falling off the bottom rung.

Surely, you figured that out when you tried to re-finance your big house recently. OFFICIAL STATS from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Commerce Dept et al., prove conclusively that the age of US egalitarianism ended with the rise of Reagan Republicanism. It's all been downhill for America since then. You can thank the GOP.

Take action against the forces of darkness, Luke!

Arise and resist! (And contact your Congress members!)

Now may be your generation's last chance.

Suzan ____________________


Dave Dubya said...

Obama the corporatist told us all we needed to know when he said everyone would be "at the tabel" for health care. Right. Everyone but single payer advocates.

"Take action against the forces of darkness, Luke!"

At last! The Evil Force has a name. (Shameless blog plug)

"What shall we say, shall we call it by a name?"

Somebody had to do it.

Suzan said...

And no one better than you, baby!

No one.

Thanks for commenting.

Love ya!