Why government doesn't work -- 01/22/13

People keep wondering why government does not work... and then they go and vote for the same clowns crooks distinguished and caring politicians...

And I keep saying that I have the utmost contempt for both political parties... so here is an attempt at providing an example of why I feel that way.

Let us consider Medicare and how our loving and caring national elite is helping to keep costs under control so that medical care can be provided without sending the nation into bankruptcy. And let us consider the actions of two members of the United States Senate, that great body of wise and honest political heroes, two great and towering men of great compassion and honesty and concern. One is a Republican -- and one is a Democrat -- Senator Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) and Senator Max Baucus (D, Montana). They are leaders of the Senate Finance Committee. Oh, lets add in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Kentucky).

And then there is Amgen, the great pharmaceutical company that is dedicated to keeping us all healthy at quite reasonable cost, a pillar of corporate good will and honesty. (Well, if you ignore their December 19th guilty plea regarding illegal marketing of one of its drugs, a plea which will have them paying criminal and civil penalties totalling 762 million dollars.) Oh, just a minor problem. Something that could happen to anyone. Really, it's no big thing.

Mix this together with the fiscal cliff negotiations and also the urgent need to keep Medicare costs under control. One of the things Medicare was doing to keep costs reasonable was putting price controls on some drugs used for kidney dialysis patients. One of these drugs is Sensipar (made by Amgen).

Buried in the details of "The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" -- ah well, I won't bother to quote the obscure language (you can scroll down through that PDF, Section 632 -- the part of interest here -- starts on page 107 and takes up another three or four pages). What it does is to delay the implementation of changes in Medicare payments by two years. It carefully does not mention Amgen by name, but it results in a half a billion dollar windfall for Amgen over that two year period. (By the way, Amgen had already had a two year delay, so this is a second two year delay for them.)

As the New York Times reported (" Fiscal Footnote: Big Senate Gift to Drug Maker") -- Amgen "... has a deep bench of Washington lobbyists that includes Jeff Forbes, the former chief of staff to Mr. Baucus; Hunter Bates, the former chief of staff for Mr. McConnell; and Tony Podesta, whose fast-growing lobbying firm has unusually close ties to the White House."

Well, let's be more exact about Amgen and the politicians. Again, from the N.Y. Times -- "Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee's ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns."

Three cheers for those good folks at Amgen whose five million dollar investment in buying politicians was returned a hundred times over.

And this is exactly why I object so strongly to the so-called Affordable Care Act -- a/k/a Obamacare. During his 2008 campaign he promised that his administration would be the most open and transparent in history and that we would get to watch on C-SPAN as health care financing reform would be debated and written in open public meetings. Instead it was written in secret committees with vast amounts of input from healthcare industry lobbyists (from the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, hospitals, etc.). This particular piece of special dealing was hidden in a 153 page fiscal reform act that was supposed to prevent "The Fiscal Cliff" crashing the economy. What other little goodies did they plant in there? And just imagine what the lobbyists put in the more than two thousand pages of Obamacare. (Ah, yes, good old Nancy Pelosi: "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.")

Ah well, but so many people believe that their party is the home of all the wonderful caring politicians and that all the evil is in the other party. If you are one of those people, then you are probably part of the problem.

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