Felicia Muftic – Big money rules Washington
Grand County, CO Colorado
One of the pleasures of writing a column is the feedback I get in the form of emails and telephone calls. I find it refreshing to hear from those whose views are different and they challenge me to rethink, to justify my arguments, and even to alter them.
I received one of those calls the other day from a frequent critic of my viewpoints and we discovered common ground: disgust with how Washington functions.
My European friends have remarked recently that they view American politics as being corrupt because of the large sums of money spent to influence how voters vote and legislators legislate. My inadequate response was that the corruption was legitimized by the permissive nature of campaign contribution regulation and the cost of advertising on television.
I am a veteran of state house lobbying on behalf of consumer protection reforms in various capacities as an executive in government and nonprofit consumer service organizations, and I understand how the system works. However, I have never seen anything like the excesses in Congress in this past decade, especially during the past year in health care and banking reform issues.
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The health insurance industry has spent at least $250 million to protect their bottom lines. Big pharmaceuticals have poured in $199 million for the same purpose, and Wall Street lobbyists have spent even more than that to defeat any measures that would prevent a repeat of the crash they caused.
Vote trading, handing out favors for votes, and lobbyists’ influence deserve our disgust. Ted Muftic (my son the former Wall Street guy) exploded the other day with an e-mail to me:
“Nothing will ever be done right in Washington until the pervasive culture of big money lobbying is banned altogether. What kind of democracy do we have when special interests with the money and power to fight their cause consistently win the day against basic things that provide the average American with a break? Is it any wonder that populist demagogues are on the ascendance?
“I am not against capitalism and big companies, but our leaders need to lead for all the people – and it is a shame that the Democrats have the one chance to do the right thing, and can’t even do it. I was hoping for affordable and reasonable health care … but I think I am going to go out and buy stock in health insurance companies so that one day I will have some money at least to pay for me and my son Max.
“I am sickened by this bill – If we have no public option, no Medicare buy-in, no control on premiums, no control on what percent of premiums should be spent on actual healthcare, and the same darn cabal of scumbag insurance companies in control, then we have nothing except another transfer of taxpayer dollars to the insurance companies. This blows!”
Vote trading has always been the stuff legislators use as tools to get their bills passed. Plums handed out have always been part of securing votes. Such is certainly the case in getting to the 60 votes Senate Democrats needed to break a filibuster over health care reform. They always will be part of the ugly sausage making of legislation until someone stands up and says enough. That happened Dec. 21 When Colorado’s junior Senator Michael Bennet (D) made a statement on the Senate floor.
He is facing a tough election in 2010. He is little known, he is a moderate, and he has been targeted by both the national Republicans and state ones for defeat as low hanging fruit. However, in a very strange twist, the National Republican Senatorial Committee criticized him for not asking for special favors to secure his vote on health care reform. His answer should be applauded by everyone who is disgusted with Washington politics.
Senator Bennet: ” Only in Washington would someone be attacked for not negotiating a backroom deal. Just because others choose to engage in the same tired Washington rituals, doesn’t mean that I have to. So I have a message for the columnists, the political professionals, and those back home. I am not happy about the backroom deals. I am not happy that the public option was held hostage by people in our own party. I do not support rewarding delay with special deals. I will let others justify their vote and their tactics.
“As for me, I am voting to provide coverage to 840,000 uninsured Coloradans. Voting to extend Medicare for our seniors and provide free preventive care for everyone. Voting to close the prescription drug loophole and provide tax cuts to small business. Voting to make health care more affordable and eliminate exclusions based on pre-existing conditions. Voting for health care reform that is fully paid for.”
Attaboy, Senator Bennet.
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