Free Markets, Free People

Robert Reich’s “Democracy”

Robert Reich writes what I can only characterize as a whining rant which is so, oh I don’t know, odd, that I have to comment. It has to do with a supposed deal the White House has struck with “big Pharma” which Reich claims keeps the government from negotiating lower drug prices in return for 80 billion in cost savings (if the government has wrung 80 bil in cost savings, isn’t that a negotiation for lower cost that has already been accomplished?):

I want universal health insurance. And having had a front-row seat in 1994 when Big Pharma and the rest of the health-industry complex went to battle against it, I can tell you firsthand how big and effective the onslaught can be. So I appreciate Big Pharma’s support this time around, and I like it that the industry is doing the reverse of what it did last time, and airing ads to persuade the public of the rightness of the White House’s effort.

But I also care about democracy, and the deal between Big Pharma and the White House frankly worries me. It’s bad enough when industry lobbyists extract concessions from members of Congress, which happens all the time. But when an industry gets secret concessions out of the White House in return for a promise to lend the industry’s support to a key piece of legislation, we’re in big trouble. That’s called extortion: An industry is using its capacity to threaten or prevent legislation as a means of altering that legislation for its own benefit. And it’s doing so at the highest reaches of our government, in the office of the president.

Notice first that the word “market” never appears in his diatribe.  In fact, “market” doesn’t appear in his piece at all.  That’s because Reich doesn’t care about markets. And, of course, any market that exists in health care has been so distorted by government that it hardly qualifies for the term.

Reich cares about control. And he wants full control by government. Notice that when politicians use threats to prevent legislation’s passage if what they want isn’t included in (or taken out of) a bill, that’s called “compromise”, but when an interested constituent (and pharma as a business that is government regulated certainly qualifies as that) promises to work against pending legislation that wouldn’t be in their best interest unless they get concessions, that’s “extortion”.

Reich only wants the government to have the power to extort what it wants and it makes him mad when constituents use their power to push their interests. He claims that thwarts “democracy”. Really?

As I see it, it is exactly the brand of democracy the Democrats have practiced for eons – special interest democracy. The only reason Reich is a little irritated in this case is because the special interest in question isn’t one which the left favors. Democracy, in Reich’s world, is when favored special interests “extort” petition the government, make deals and get legislation passed which serves their interests.

All that said, I agree with one point – what in the world is the White House doing striking such deals? Since it can’t write the legislation, how does it guarantee whatever concessions it’s agreed to will show up in the final legislation? And what happens if it doesn’t make it into the final legislation after big Pharma spends more money than John McCain did during the presidential election for TV adds supporting Obamacare?


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7 Responses to Robert Reich’s “Democracy”

  • Let’s be glad that Reich at least has the integrity (rare in a liberal) to cry “foul” when TAO does something so (ahem) fishy. Where are the rest of the libs? Why aren’t they up in arms that TAO is striking secret deals with a hated industry? Where is MiniTru? They spent quite a bit of ink and air time “wondering” about the “secret deals” between Cheney and Big Oil. Their silence on this issue is rather deafening, no?

  • So the question becomes, will the White House join the big pharmaceuticals in a price-fixing scheme, or will the White House stab those evil corporate monsters in the back once Obamacare is passed?  STAY TUNED!

  • I’d almost say this is against McCain-Feingold.

  • I want universal health insurance.

    Really? He’d actually participate in such a plan if it were passed?

  • If there was any extortion here, it was the White House doing the extorting.  Big Pharma was just the gullible “victim.”

  • Reich is that form of 1960’s style lefty who is even more irrational than most.  They are extremely anti- “big” corporation, but pro government because they supposedly care about the “little guy”.
    But while corporations can sometimes be meddlesome, stupid, or abusive, they cannot tax me, conscript me, imprison me, or execute me.  Government can do all of the above.  Corporations are also directly responsive to the will of the people since they need money given willingly to operate. Government, not so much.
    In short, (a little joke there) Reich is an idiot.

  • It’s characteristic of the economic thinking at the time that Robert Reich studied economics in school.  I took my economics courses at roughly the same time as he did.  In several years worth of courses I rarely heard the word “markets” and not once did I hear the word “incentives”.  The word “taxes” was encountered pretty frequently, however.