Last evening, Susie and I went to her son's house for his 44th birthday celebration. While there, we watched a bit of Bill Maher's show. He interviewed Bill Moyers, who stated flatly that Rahm Emmanuel's anxiety about raising money from the pharmaceutical companies and other segments of the health care industry was standing in the way of meaningful reform. According to Moyers, Emmanuel has his eye on the 2012 election, to the exclusion of virtually everything else.
This is the sort of cynical insider information that we on the left live and die for. We are endlessly ready to feel betrayed by our false heroes, and happy to be made impotent by large forces outside our control.
But what Moyers said didn't make sense to me, so I spent a few moments on line checking some numbers. By October 19, 2008, three weeks before the election, the Obhama campaign had raised $605 million. So let us suppose that by election day the total was in the neighborhood of $650 million. This includes the enormously expensive primary campaign, of course, but never mind. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, as of September 25, 2008, the "health sector" [which presumably includes Big Pharma, HMOs, doctors, etc etc] had donated $17.7 million. The focus of the NEJM article, by the way, was on the fact that the health sector had donated more to the Democratic campaign than to the Republican campaign, reversing a long trend.
Now think about this for a moment. Health Care Reform is a centerpiece of Obama's presidency, along with energy reform and educational reform. Everyone understands that health care is far and away the biggest, hardest task the Obama White House will undertake. As I have noted before, health care gobbles up 15% of the total national GDP. It is HUGE. Obama's re-election chances depend on three things: First, pulling the economy out of its slump [already happening]; second, winding down the two wars in the Middle East; and third, accomplishing some sort of visibly significant health care reform. If he does these three things, he is a shoo-in. There is no one in the Republican camp who can stop him. If he fails to accomplish the third, he becomes vulnerable to attack.
IS IT PLAUSIBLE, IS IT CONCEIVABLE, THAT HE WOULD JEOPARDIZE HIS RE-ELECTION TO SECURE 2.7% OF THE ENORMOUS WAR CHEST HE WILL RAISE? GOOD GRIEF. HE WOULD LOSE FIFTY TIMES THAT MUCH FROM THE LIBERAL WING OF THE ELECTORATE SITTING ON ITS HANDS! AND HE KNOWS THAT.
There are many reasons why the reform of health care is so difficult, not hte least of which is the role that donations from the health sector play in the decisions of members of Congress. But it is simply not plausible thast the White House is being swayed by that consideration.