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Follow the Money

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"An honest politician," Secretary of War Simon Cameron supposedly said, "is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought." By Cameron's definition, we have the most honest government in the history of the United States. Congress and the White House have been bought by the unions, the entertainment industry and the plaintiffs' lawyers. And they stay bought.

Why else would Congress and the White House pick this time, when unemployment is tottering on the precipice of 10 percent, to force through a health care bill that will raise taxes, destroy one-sixth of America's private sector and increase the deficit by billions? Why else would Congress and the White House declare the revamping of health care along DMV lines an absolute priority? Why else would Congress and the White House determine that American's top priority -- contrary to every poll taken over the last year -- is dealing with health insurance?

The fact is that everyone stands to lose from the Democratic plan to nationalize health care -- except key Democratic constituencies.

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Take, for example, the unions. Unions spent hundreds of millions of dollars supporting candidate Obama's run for the White House. And, not coincidentally, unions have been the biggest supporters of President Obama's call for a "public option," where the taxpayer money would be seized by the government in order to pay for health care coverage. On the surface, this makes no sense -- after all, union members have notoriously excellent health care coverage due to their collective bargaining power. In fact, unions have come out foursquare against any proposal to tax so-called "Cadillac" health care coverage, since so many of their members have Cadillac coverage.

So why would the unions back a "public option" in health care? Because the "public option" would create more government workers. And the unions need more government workers. While only 7.6 percent of employed wage and salary workers in the private sector were members of unions in 2008, 36.8 percent of government workers and 42.2 percent of local government workers were unionized. That means that the only hope for expanding union reach is expanding the government itself. And that means that the unions' top priority must be the nationalization of health care, which explains why the unions oppose any plan that does not include a "public option" -- that's the whole point of the bill as far as the unions are concerned.

Meanwhile, the entertainment industry, one of President Obama's biggest campaign support systems, is backing Obama's socialized medicine to the hilt. Again, this makes little sense on the surface -- members of the entertainment industry generally receive great benefits through their guilds already. But it begins to make more sense when the payoff becomes more explicit: The White House and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) are coercing pharmaceutical companies into buying advertising time. According to the Associated Press and The New York Times, the White House and congressional leaders have promised to limit tax and fee exposure for drug companies, so long as the drug companies spend $100 million out of pocket on pro-health insurance bill advertising. In essence, the government has extorted drug companies to bankroll the mass media.

In case anyone was still sophomoric enough to believe Democrats' pledge that the health care bill is about improving health care, Congress and the White House have consistently opposed the easiest method for lowering health care costs: limiting malpractice lawsuits. According to the Congressional Budget Office, preventing frivolous malpractice lawsuits and lowering pain and suffering judgments could say at least $41 billion over the next 10 years. Yet Congress has stalled such a measure several times.

To add another incentive for plaintiffs' lawyers to jump on board, the Obama Justice Department recently came out against the continued antitrust exemption for health insurance companies. Getting rid of the exemption, enacted in 1945, would "allow competition to have a greater role in reforming health and medical malpractice insurance markets than would otherwise be the case," explained Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney. There are already laws on the books that prevent price fixing -- even price fixing agreements to lower prices in order to comply with government mandates (both Presidents Carter and Clinton threatened to prosecute insurance companies for fixing prices too low in order to prevent the government from using high prices as an excuse to nationalize insurance). So what is this really about? It's a green light for lawyers to attack insurance companies.

We have yet to see a bill from the Democratic Congress or the Obama White House that is not actually a payoff to a key constituency. The tsunami of dollars unleashed by the Obama Treasury Department in coordination with the Fed has obscured the fact that many of those dollars are ending up in the pockets of Friends of Obama or Friends of Nancy or Friends of Harry. Before the American people sign off on any more spending, they must know beyond a reasonable doubt that such spending isn't merely another symptom of "honest politicians" staying bought.

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