"Misapplying the theory I mislearned in college."
Glenn Greenwald and David Sirota have reported that Liz Fowler has been appointed Deputy Director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she will help the Obama Administration implement health care reform.
This has unsurprisingly provoked a debate within the democratic/progressive community between the Obama camp who give the President the benefit of the doubt on just about any question, and issue-oriented progressives who continue to progress down the path of disillusionment with the President. Just check out the discussion threads for each of the two articles cited above to see what I'm talking about. One key question seems to be whether it is fair to assume that Ms. Fowler is irreparably corrupted by her stints at Wellpoint or whether she is fundamentally just an expert who will serve her new master (the administration) without secret loyalty to the industry that she has served for so long.
I want to focus on a slightly different question--let's assume that, because of Fowler's extensive work in healthcare legislation at Wellpoint and her central role in drafting and maneuvering the bill as part of Baucus's staff, she is uniquely qualified to administer the law for the Obama administration. What does that mean? Why is the only, or best, person qualified to implement this 2000-page law, a former lobbyist for Wellpoint and clear health care law careerist? The implication is that the rest of the House and Senate, the members and the thousands of staffers and consultants serving them, passed a law that they don't fully understand the details of. And why is that? My sense is that most of those folks just don't care about the law, or health care reform. They are part of the upper-class elite that believe they will probably never have to worry about their insurability or going bankrupt from health care costs and they don't really know anyone who is not insured buts wants to be. As long as they can keep up the narrative about how the "votes just aren't there" for the public option and demonizing the Republicans (or the "rotating villain"of the moment), they will continue to be reelected, and, at best, they all get paid the same whether the bill passes or not, with or without a public option (at worst, they get paid more for industry-pleasing legislation in the form of political contributions and lucrative employment once they leave government). There simply isn't enough incentive for any legislator or staffer to become as expert in the law as Fowler has because there is no payoff, and people are generally lazy these days.
Contrast that to Fowler's position, where, if she wasn't already ahead of the game for having drafted substantial portions of the law, she would in any event be massively incented to read and understand it, perhaps even working over a weekend or two, so as to eventually be rewarded by Wellpoint or whichever other for-profit enterprise she ends up at after bringing home the bacon in her latest gig as Obama's Deputy Director implementing the law.
The main point here is how, in our late-post-industrial capitalist system with a political culture that is about anything but wonkery in the public interest, corporations will always have the advantage because they essentially own all of the expertise, and they own it because they can pay for it.
This is part of a larger theme I am developing about the brain drain of the left.
P.S. If there's any doubt that the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight is where the action is going forward, look at this description from the US Department of HHS's own website:
Our office is responsible for ensuring compliance with the new insurance market rules, such as the prohibitions on rescissions and on pre-existing condition exclusions for children that take effect this year. It will oversee the new medical loss ratio rules and will assist states in reviewing insurance rates. It will provide guidance and oversight for the state-based insurance exchanges. It will also administer the temporary high-risk pool program and the early retiree reinsurance program, and compile and maintain data for an internet portal providing information on insurance options.
P.P.S.: Medical loss ratios are the key going forward--that is the ratio of claims paid to total premium collected, and the higher the ratio, the more health care per premium dollar the insurer is spending. Higher ratios are more patient-favorable, lower ones mean more premium dollars go to executives and shareholders.
It's time for eminent domain--feds take possession of the site and let a jury figure out later if there is any "just compensation" to be paid to BP.
But the administration's thinking must be that it's a hot potato and they don't want to buy the problem and the inevitable criticism that will go with their handling of it from all sides.
Nonetheless, that would constitute actual leadership that would be vindicated by history, but alas.
Apparently there is a narcotics enforcement agency called WestNet --a "multi-jurisdictional task force typically asked to focus on meth manufacture and distribution. However, the agency also investigates other narcotics problems, including marijuana" according to this--and they have seized from an illegal dispensary some pages of signed petitions that express support for Washington's I-1068 bill, which would legalize marijuana. WestNET has now said they will return the petitions but the organizers and signers are deeply concerned that the information will be copied and used to further harass legalization supporters. I would support legislation that makes it illegal to use signed petitions constituting legitimate first amendment expression and protest, similar to the way that "fruit of the poison tree" doctrine prevents the use of illegally obtained evidence to convict.Meanwhile, the NRA has made it so that state and federal law enforcement can't use gun registration information from other other jurisdictions.
GRAND ISLE, La. - Jefferson Parish Emergency managers say they have commandeered all of BP's hired boats in Grand Isle.A representative for Jefferson Parish Emergency chief Deano Bonano said they requested immediate action after oil moved into the marsh passes and onto the beaches in Grand Isle.He said more than 40 boats were sitting idle while he watched the oil rush into the passes.At around 5:30 p.m., Jefferson Councilman Chris Roberts confirmed the boats have been commandeered by JP emergency managers.
"Unregulated finance, the ideology of unfettered free markets, and state capture by corporate interests are what ended up undermining democracy both in North America and in Europe. All industrialized countries are at risk, but it’s the eurozone – with its vulnerable structures – that points most clearly to our potentially unpleasant collective futures."
The Road To Economic Serfdom - posted today by Peter Boone and Simon Johnson
At this point, with the imminent destruction of the ecosystem of the Mississippi Delta, the threat to shipping lanes of national importance, and the unknown but likely to be extremely bad impact on the economies of the Gulf states, the only honorable thing to do for BP senior management is honor suicide, or what is called
So I've mostly stopped reading "liberal" blogs like Salon (with the notable exception of Greenwald) and Huffington Post because they are filled with crap. If liberals took a moment to look at what they look like to the outside world, they would see that the right-wing stereotype has significant truth to it: it is largely analysis-free hand-wringing over how the government is failing one underprivileged segment of society or another.