The Mountain Labored and Brought Forth a Mouse

It’s such an old saying that Martin Luther quoted it back in the early fifteen hundreds:

The poets have it, that once upon a time the great mountains were with child, and when everyone expected a child large as a mountain, it proved to be a mouse, which made everybody laugh.

I am sure that when mountains give birth to mice people have a right to be shocked, but when a pack of rats produce a mouse we should have seen it coming. And we’re not laughing. We’re mad as hell. (Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I am.)

Of course I’m talking about the health care reform bill that finally emerged yesterday from the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee. There’s no way to describe it without using four-letter words that are inadmissible in a family blog. To sum it up kindly, it’s a license for the health insurance industry to print money. If it becomes law, everyone will be required to buy insurance or pay a fine, and there will be no limit on the premiums insurance companies can charge. As for those who can’t afford the premiums, why Uncle Sam will pick up the tab. Good old Uncle Sam, always ready with a handout for those corporate welfare queens.

The rats that American voters naively elected are saying not to worry, this is just a start. They’ll keep gnawing at this aberration until it magically becomes a decent piece of legislation. I’m sure you’ve heard about the “public option” everyone has been talking about? Well, no problem. This bill will have a public option by the time they get through (if such a time ever comes). So what if it’s an option to stand aside and cheer the greedy insurance companies on to commit further abuses? The rats are talking about leaving it up to individual states to decide whether the private insurers need public competition (what a circus that would be!). They’re talking about enabling “co-ops” (and what a sham that would be). They’re talking about “triggers” (hah!). They’re talking and talking and talking…

baucusNow, it’s up to a triumvirate consisting of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (both pictured at right) and Health Committee Chairman Chris Dodd to cobble this piece of … work … together. God help us all!

You would think that reforming the U.S. health care system would be simple. There’s no doubt about the public’s wishes. Poll after poll shows Americans want a decent health care plan with a government run alternative to the highway robbery that passes for private health insurance in America. But if you thought reform would be simple you would be forgetting about the millions of dollars the industry has contributed to the country’s politicians.

To give you an idea of the extent of the prevailing corruption, here’s an excerpt from a recent Boston Globe article:

The health industry has more than enough PAC and campaign contribution cash to shower Democrats of all stripes. At this moment, the top nine recipients of campaign cash from the health sector in the 2010 election cycle are all Democrats, led by the $467,000 for Reid and including $126,000 for House majority leader Steny Hoyer and $125,000 for (House speaker) Pelosi. Reid and Pelosi are also the top PAC recipients from the health sector, with Hoyer coming in fourth.

And here’s a joint report from the the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics:

chartA month-long collaborative investigation has uncovered never-before-seen webs of campaign contributions from outside lobbyists and their clients, who are all important players in the health care reform, to key members of Congress. The investigation identified outside lobbyists that donated to the same members of Congress as their clients, and strongly suggests that special interest giving is enhanced by the K Street contributors they hire.

Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and author of the main health care reform bill now being debated in the Senate, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this one-two punch from the lobbyists and their clients. From January 2007 through June 2009, Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client.

And here’s what a publication called The Hill had to say:

doddSenator Dodd (pictured at right touring a health care facility) has branched out his fund raising operation by tapping health care-related companies for more than $112,000 in the second quarter of 2009. The sum represents a good chunk of the more than $450,000 Dodd accumulated from PACs in the second quarter. In addition, fund raising records reviewed by The Hill show that Dodd accepted contributions from 32 lobbyists representing health care interests between April 1 and June 30, the weeks preceding Dodd’s markup of legislation overhauling the nation’s health care system.

So you can guess whose side the three mouseketeers – Reid, Baucus and Dodd – will be on when they go to to work on that Senate bill today, can’t you?

Look, this is no secret. Everybody who has been paying attention knows Congress is in the pockets of the health care profiteers. It’s not just the Democrats who have sold out; the Republicans were always on the industry’s payroll. And the public is finally disenchanted.

According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll:

Sixty-four percent of voters disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their jobs, with 25 percent approving. Also, 53 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the party in general, while 25 percent rated it favorably.

The performance of Democratic lawmakers was disapproved of by 56 percent, with 33 expressing approval. For the party in general, 46 percent expressed disapproval, 38 percent approval.

Yes, everybody knows the country is being looted once again, and once again nobody can do anything about it. It seems obvious – to me, anyway – that Congress should forget about the current charade and enact legislation to let Americans of all ages join Medicare. That would need no 60-vote majority. It could be passed without the threat of a Republican filibuster.

So why hasn’t Congress done that? I guess we can find the answer by following the money – as usual.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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