As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Corporate Borg

The corporate lobbyists continue to line up to obstruct President Obama's budget reforms. An excellent example is the proposed rollback of the privatization of the student loan industry, which has caused lots of consternation among... the private student loan industry (which, incidentally, got a bailout last year). They think direct government lending of student loans, which would save $94 billion dollars over a decade, would just be a terrible outcome for, well, them, and they're leading a fight based on, get this, the fact that Pell grants would be mandatory and not subject to the whims of appropriators. "Make grants for higher education more uncertain!" certainly sounds like the stuff of popular outcry.

But even more telling are the cautions of Richard Gephardt with respect to health care reform. Gephardt, a longtime labor leader while in Congress, wants the Obama Administration and Congress to scale back their ambitions.

The caution comes from Richard A. Gephardt, a former Missouri congressman and a major figure in Democratic politics in his 28 years in the House and service as party leader. He put health coverage for all Americans at the center of his 2004 presidential bid, calling it “the moral issue of our time.”

Now Mr. Gephardt says universal or near-universal coverage cannot pass this year — and he is urging the White House to defer that goal until it enacts cost-saving reforms in health care delivery. Otherwise, he argues, the new president risks the same losing argument about paying for expanded coverage that stymied President Bill Clinton 15 years ago [...]

“I feel so much now like déjà vu all over again,” said Mr. Gephardt, who now lobbies for corporate America on issues including health care. Universal coverage “is absolutely imperative, and it needs to be dealt with. But the way to get to it is to show that we can deal with some of these problems first.”

Gephardt may be correct about the difficulties of funding health care; he neglects to take into account the extreme desire of the public to reform the system, much more so than in 1993. But the half-disclosure comes in paragraph 17:

One old friend links Mr. Gephardt’s assessment to his lucrative new career as a lobbyist. “He’s advising a lot of big corporations,” said Tom Buffenbarger, president of the machinists’ union. “All he’s hearing is costs.”

You won't find this in John Harwood's article, but Gephardt's lobby shop represents the US Chamber of Commerce, Goldman Sachs, and the government of Turkey, in which perch he lobbied to kill a resolution acknowledging the Armenian genocide that he once co-sponsored. Here's a long article on all of Gephardt's corporate ties.

In this respect, I see Washington as a kind of Roach Motel, where politicians of all ideological stripes walk in, but they don't walk out without a sweet corporate gig and a mindset to protect the interests of the powerful over the people. A familiar story, of course, but at this crisis point, when those same corporate interests have just about sucked the Treasury dry, we need those defenders of the public and the common good, and cannot find them.

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