Some Choice Words for The Select Few by: Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout
Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of The Washington Post - one of the most powerful people in DC - invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.
But CEOs and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head - or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than "an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done."
In this case, the "stakeholders" in health care reform do not include the rabble. (The ones who have no health care and are suffering - my words)
The Washington Post dinner was canceled after a copy of the invite was leaked to the web site Politico.com, by a health care lobbyist, of all people.
It was enough to give us a glimpse into how things really work in Washington - a clear insight into why there is such a great disconnect between democracy and government today, between Washington and the rest of the country.
According to one poll after another, a majority of Americans not only want a public option in health care, they also think that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power over policy, that money in politics is the root of all evil, that working families and poor communities need and deserve public support if the market system fails to generate shared prosperity.
But, when the insiders in Washington have finished none of these reforms happen. "Oh," they say, "it's all about compromise. "
That, people, is bull - the basic nutrient of Washington's high and mighty. It's about money - the golden ticket to "the select few who actually get it done."
When Congress passed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, "the select few" made sure it no longer contained the cramdown provision that would have allowed judges to readjust mortgages. The one provision that would have helped homeowners the most was removed in favor of an industry that pours hundreds of millions into political campaigns.
So, too, with a bill designed to protect us from terrorist attacks on chemical plants. With "the select few" dictating marching orders, hundreds of factories are being exempted from measures that would make them spend money to prevent the release of toxic clouds that could kill hundreds of thousands.
Everyone knows the credit ratings agencies were co-conspirators with Wall Street in the shameful wilding that brought on the financial meltdown. But when the Obama administration came up with new reforms to prevent another crisis, the credit ratings agencies were given a pass.
And by the time an energy bill emerged from the House of Representatives "the select few " had given away billions of dollars worth of emission permits and offsets. "It grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts," expanding from 648 pages to 1,400 as it spread its largesse among big oil and gas, utility companies and agribusiness.
This week, the public interest groups Common Cause and the Center for Responsive Politics reported that, "According to lobby disclosure reports, 34 energy companies registered in the first quarter of 2009 to lobby Congress around the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This group of companies spent a total of $23.7 million - or $260,000 a day - lobbying members of Congress in January, February and March.
Data shows oil and gas companies, mining companies and electric utilities combined have given more than $2 million just to the 19 members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since 2007, the start of the last full election cycle."
It's happening to health care as well. Even the pro-business magazine The Economist says America has the worst system in the developed world, controlled by executives who are not held to account and investors whose primary goal is raising share price and increasing profit - while wasting $450 billion dollars in redundant administrative costs and leaving nearly 50 million uninsured.
Enter "the select few who actually get it done." Three out of four of the big health care firms lobbying on Capitol Hill have former members of Congress or government staff members on the payroll - more than 350 of them - and they're all fighting hard to prevent a public option, at a rate in excess of $1.4 million a day.
Health care policy has become insider heaven. Even Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health reform director, served on the boards of several major health care corporations.
President Obama has pushed hard for a public option but many fear he's wavering, and just this week his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel - the insider di tutti insiders - indicated that a public plan just might be negotiable, ready for reengineering, no doubt, by "the select few who actually get it done."
That's how it works. And it works that way because we let it. (emphasis mine) The game goes on and the insiders keep dealing themselves winning hands. Nothing will change - nothing - until the moneylenders are tossed out of the temple, the ATM's are wrested from the marble halls, and we tear down the sign they've placed on government - the one that reads, "For Sale."
Doesn't that just tug at your heart strings?
I got a video from a Republican friend filmed by that Tea Party bunch. I didn't agree with much of what the narrator said, but he did a bang up job. I wish some liberal would make a video this good that would stir the people to action. We need a peaceful revolution. I promise to lead the parade in my scooter. We will go up to the doors of the law makers and stay there until they listen to our grievances.