Sunday, August 23, 2009

Health Care: Tom Daschle And A New Widget

The New York Times has an interesting article on former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle today:

Six months have passed since the morning when Tom Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, under fire for not paying certain taxes, called President Obama in his study off the Oval Office to withdraw his nomination as health secretary and reform czar.

But these days it often seems as if Mr. Daschle never left the picture. With unrivaled ties on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, he talks constantly with top White House advisers, many of whom previously worked for him.

Daschle Has Ear of White House and Industry

As I wrote at the time, I thought Daschle's nomination was an early indication that President Obama wasn't serious about health care reform. At least, he wasn't serious about helping anyone who didn't own an insurance, pharmaceuticals, or health care company:

You might find it ironic that Republican Senators plan to grill Daschle on this matter [of his work as a lobbyist for various health care-related corporations], but Daschle's own record shows how pervasive the revolving door culture can be in our nation's capital. All I can say about the irony is that I'm just glad there are still two major parties in DC. If there were any fewer, we probably wouldn't be hearing about this at all.

Even assuming Daschle was willing to say goodbye to all that, it's unlikely that he'll also be willing to work his wife out of a living.

Universal Health Care? Dream On

Daschle's wife, Linda, also worked as a lobbyist for drug maker Schering-Plough Corp. His livelihood is dependent on their well-being. Obama listens to this guy quite a bit it would seem:

[Daschle] still speaks frequently to the president, who met with him as recently as Friday morning in the Oval Office. And he remains a highly paid policy adviser to hospital, drug, pharmaceutical and other health care industry clients of Alston & Bird, the law and lobbying firm.

Daschle Has Ear of White House and Industry

Daschle's failed appointment, and Kathleen Sebelius's appointment, demonstrate where Obama's loyalties lie. Daschle has never been an advocate for patients or insurance consumers. Sebelius, while she seems to have had a good record as Kansas' insurance commissioner, failed in her only attempt to expand health care coverage as governor, and has no record that I can see of advocating anything like public financing of health care. Daschle's influence, and Sebelius's recent statements on the public option, represent continuation of the conditions that have made health care in America the sorry excuse for care that it is.

This is why I've said, since that January article, that Obama isn't going to help us on health care. He's not listening to the people who represent our interests, at least not on a regular basis. He's listening to, as Matt Taibbi described Daschle, the "bought-off Washington whores". If you want a clue to where a leader is headed on an issue, look at who advises him.

The other bit of news is about that widget you may have noticed in the upper left hand corner of this blog. It's for FireDogLake's They Took The Pledge campaign, which is aimed at rewarding the U.S. Representatives who have pledged to vote against any health care bill that doesn't include a public option. This is a worthy goal, because good behavior is seldom rewarded as extravagantly as bad behavior in DC, and that needs to change.

So, please, if you can, give some of the members on that list whatever you can afford. If you'd just like to divide your contribution evenly among all the representatives, which is what I did, go to this page and just fill in the Distributed among the recipients below box with the amount you'd like to contribute.

As you can see from the static version of the drive's thermometer that appears at the top of this article, the drive is pretty near its goal. Don't let that stop you, though. No one's going to complain if we exceed it.

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