By Adil James, MMNS
Another open question in this 2008 election is the level of control exerted over each candidate by the healthcare industry. For instance, despite Hillary Clintonâ€™s name being associated with an attempt at healthcare reform during Billâ€™s first term, she has since taken a lot of money from the healthcare industry, as was shown by Michael Mooreâ€™s movie Sicko.
Sicko showed that Clinton is the second largest recipient in the Senate of health care industry contributions (from doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and insurers). (Clinton was so upset about Mooreâ€™s portrayal of her in the movie that she reportedly walked out of a screening).
Michael Moore was not the only one who noticed. According to the political watchdog website maplight.org (which analyzes legislator campaign receipts since 2001) Clinton received more money as a senate candidate from
- insurance companies, general
(a catchall category that does not include health insurance) than any other candidate ($84,250), and in second place is Barack Obama (with $46,562). From the
- health insurance
industry she has taken $65,650. Obama took just slightly less, $65,365.
- pharmaceutical manufacturing
industry pursues its interests in congress ruthlessly and lavishly, putting the insurance industry to shame, and putting even more money into the till.
From them Hillary Clinton received $170,250 between 2001 and 2008 (and Barack is just behind her, with $131,230).
Maplight.org had no information for former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), who won office in 1998 and left after his failed presidential run in 2004 with John Kerry (Kerry himself a major senate recipient of lobbying money). According to the website opensecrets.org, Senator Edwards vowed in his campaign not to take any money from registered lobbyists or PACs, and he has only accepted money thus far from individual donors, except for a negligible (much less than 1%) amount donated by business. He maintains Washington affiliations, and has worked closely with the Council on Foreign Relations.
In fact, Obama and Clinton have also received only minimal amounts of funding for their presidential campaigns from PACs and lobbyists.
Dark horse Republican candidate Ron Paul has received only a relatively small amount from the pharmaceuticals industry in his legislative campaigns, although of course his lesser stature as a representative and not a Senator makes him a less inviting target for industry buy-offs. He has received $10,678 from pharmaceuticals manufacturing, according to maplight.org.
Another foreshadowing of future healthcare policy is the current insurance status of the candidates themselves and their staffers. NPRâ€™s Julie Rovner looked at each candidate on the basis of what kind of insurance the candidates and their staff carry with them. Most of the candidates this year, she showed, especially front-runners, are members of the Senate and therefore have taxpayer-subsidized coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan.
All of the Democratic candidates offer health insurance to their campaign workers except Dennis Kucinich, who is running a relatively low-budget campaign and says he cannot afford it.
The Republican candidates, on the other hand, are a mixed lot. Relatively socially liberal candidates McCain and Giuliani provide health insurance to their campaign staff. Reps. Paul and Duncan Hunter do not, largely they say because their staffers are volunteers. Apparently the fanatical devotion Ron Paul has from his supporters, which resulted in his unprecedented fundraising, is undiminished by the fact that he does not insure them. The remaining Republican candidates refused to divulge whether staff was coveredâ€”jump to your own conclusions, as we have. Most of them emphasize personal accountability for health coverage, but do not wish to speak with reporters about how they, many of them having access to governmental health programs and/or vast personal finances, not to mention campaign funds, have resolved this issue in their own lives (or in their employeesâ€™ lives). Perhaps their lectures about personal accountability are partially intended for their own staffers. Do they provide healthcare for their children or advise them to be personally accountable?
Given the funding numbers for the two enormous Democratic front-runners, who are generally presupposed to be sympathetic to healthcare reform and one of whom will likely take the White House, it is difficult to imagine that whoever wins the seat there will have an entirely clear head about how to go forward on the healthcare issue. Whoever wins will either prove himself or herself by doing work that damages the interests of past financial supporters (who grow fat as leeches on the very flaws that must be reworked), or simply fail to rework our nationâ€™s healthcare system.
Only time will tell whether our new president will jump into a fight with his own past supporters, a fight from which he or she cannot emerge undamaged, or instead just bask comfortably in the Washington limelight, while health care industry’s fat and uncaring parasites suck away the lifeblood of the American people.