Bipartisan Hypocrisy- “Corporate Welfare” and Lowering the National Debt

Enacting the law that kept the nation from going over the fiscal cliff, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle gave a $500 million gift to Amigen and other drug companies, by inserting an unrelated provision into the bill. They delayed by two years Medicare price restraints on certain oral drugs utilized by kidney dialysis patients that will wind up costing the government approximately a half billion dollars it would have reaped in savings.

This “corporate welfare” provision was shepherded through the Senate by Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee and Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, head of the Finance Committee, helped by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. All of these Senators received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from Amgen employees, lobbyists and political action committees in the last five years. Amigen has a contingent of 74 lobbyists in Washington and has strong connections to the above named senators. In addition to its financial contributions, Amgen’s lobbyists include McConnell and Baucus’s former chiefs of staff.

Originally, the delay in price restraints was to be in place until 2014, but the recent bill increased the delay until 2016 with no substantial rationale. Aides to the senators and a spokesperson for Amgen claimed the delay was necessary to grant Medicare and providers adequate time to adjust to other complicated provisions that determine Medicare reimbursement for dialysis, a blatantly fictitious explanation.

How can citizens believe that politicians are serious about cutting the national debt when this type of giveaway occurs, supported by members of both parties. And of particular interest in this story is the fact that just weeks prior to Amigen’s receiving this largesse from Congress, the company had pleaded guilty to illegal marketing of a drug that combats anemia in dialysis patients. With the plea, Amgen agreed to pay $762 million in criminal and civil penalties, the largest settlement ever for a biotechnology firm.

Unfortunately, this type of action occurs all too frequently within a Congress that has said it wants to do away with pork and earmarks, and that the national debt must be reduced. It is seen with pressure on the Pentagon by members of Congress to accept weapons systems that are unwanted,
and in unnecessary subsidies to corporate farmers who do quite well without the extra government support. The carried interest of hedge funds and private equity groups that are taxed as capital gains rather than income is another example of corporate welfare aiding a special interest group at the expense of the majority of citizens.

Conservatives in Congress are anxious to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits to seniors and discretionary spending needed for education, infrastructure, research and development, and so forth, in order to reduce budget deficits and the national debt. Before they take an ax to
government spending, however, it would be worthwhile eliminating all of the corporate welfare programs and see how much savings that generates. There is more than a little hypocrisy in the politicians of both parties who sponsor or acquiesce to these special corporate “breaks” and call themselves fiscal conservatives.

Resurrecting
Democracy

em>A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.

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Author: ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Guest Voice Columnist

Political junkie, Vietnam vet, neurologist- two books on aging and dementia. Last book on health care reform- Shock Therapy for the American Health Care System. New book on the need for a centrist third party- Resurrecting Democracy- A Citizen's Call for a Centrist Third Party- will be available early October 2011

  • The_Ohioan

    Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., introduced a bill Wednesday to remove the dialysis drug provision, saying in a statement: “This special interest provision should have stood on its own merits with an up or down vote. It’s no wonder cockroaches and root canals are more popular than Congress.”

    Lee (the other Republican Senator from Utah) sees this situation as just one example of a broader problem where the Senate, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, allows too little public debate and two few amendments to major pieces of legislation.

    “It creates an environment where members feel compelled to slip something in that ends up getting passed without ever seeing the light of day,” he said.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/55686984-90/amgen-hatch-bill-legislation.html.csp

  • dduck

    And, the beat goes on.

  • slamfu

    Amen Robert.

  • ShannonLeee

    shepherded through the Senate by Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee and Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, head of the Finance Committee

    bi-partisanship, gotta love it.

    i think this is what is called “double penetration”

  • Willwright

    All these contributions from big corporations and individuals are made with the expectation that they will get something in return. This is just a form of corruption in my opinion. We need sharp spending limits or public funding of campaigns to put an end to this cancer growing on our democracy.

  • sheknows

    This type of corruption has been there since day one of our government. Is senator Welch saying that the senate never gets to see these types of things until it’s too late?? Well, what type of representatives do we have here? Blind or stupid ones that can’t protect the interests of their constituency?

    Somehow I find this whole system rather unbelievable. It’s like telling the american people they were ripped off by underhanded methods, but there isn’t anything we can do about it….sorry. REALLY??

    Changing senators is rearranging deck chairs. There has to be some kind of fail safe mechanism in place to prevent or reverse special interest votes. At the very least..something to REVEAL them before voting.

    What are they going to do when they have cut the social programs to bare bones and can’t find more money to rob Peter to pay Paul?

  • http://www.robertlevinebooks.com ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Guest Voice Columnist

    We need a centrist third party to expose the hypocrisy of the Republicans and Democrats, and change the way the nation is governed. The corruption in the two party system is too engrained to change without a shock to the system.

  • slamfu

    Lets not forget the rage that can be generated from a lottery winner who still collects food stamps, which must cost us, jeez, THOUSANDS of dollars a year. Instead, let us focus on the wise use of tax breaks to oil companies who need them far less than the lottery winner needs food stamps, which costs us BILLIONS.

  • zusa1

    “Lobbying Works! Big Spenders Reap Big Stock Gains Says Trennert”

    “”Follow the money,” the simple but famous instruction whispered to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward by his “Deep Throat” source, was enough to crack the Watergate scandal. Today, 40 years later, those very same words appear to have blown the lid off of another political outrage in our nation’s capital: the corrupting influence of money in politics.
    While this financial connection, in and of itself, is hardly a great revelation, new analysis from Strategas Research Partners shows irrefutable evidence that companies are getting a real bang for their buck on the money they spend trying to influence lawmakers. By tracking the 50 companies that spend the most money — as a percentage of their total assets — on lobbying, the so-called Lobbying Index proves it’s a darn good investment.
    How good? The Lobbying Index has now beaten the S&P 500 for 12 years in a row.
    “It’s almost in the statistically hard-to-believe category,” says Jason Trennert, Managing Partner at Strategas Research Partners, of the benchmark’s unbeaten string. “Remarkably, it seems to work. The companies that spend more, tend to outperform,” he surmises in the attached video.

    “I think it speaks to the fact that government is a much bigger part of the economy,” Trennert points out, adding that many companies now actually view their lobbying expenditures along the same lines as R&D (research and development) or equipment spending. “Companies are understanding better the idea that it is important…that it is a fiduciary duty to spend money and make sure your voice is heard,” he says.”

    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/breakout/lobbying-works-big-spenders-reap-big-stock-gains-143308537.html

  • sheknows

    ” A shock to the system”…I like that. Well, a petition against special interest legislation and a call for full third party review, that sort of thing. Of course the White House receives about 500 petitions a year for various things, so unless you had over million signatures no one would even pay attention. Even then, you’re likely to get a computer generated form letter thanking you for your interest and to rest assured the matter will be looked into. ( as soon as the Lunar colony is completed)
    A shock would be to accompany the petition with a refusal to pay federal taxes until there is reform. Again, you would need MILLIONS of people willing to claim 8 deductions ea paycheck and then not pay federal at years end.
    Money talks….if you don’t mind going off the grid for a few years. :)

    But without some sort of revolt, things will never change. The Wallstreet movement should have made lawmakers sit up and DO something, but it lacked support and cohesion, yet 90% of Americans were outraged by the bailout. For their passivity, they got legislation further protecting the banks.

  • dduck

    What SL said.