Democracy Under Assault
Theopolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right

Michele Swenson

The New Gilded Age: Survival-of-the-Fittest Capitalism Generates Bad Policy
e.g., Medicare Prescription Drug Reform

 Newt Gingrich’s "opportunity society" quickly morphed into government of the highest bidder. The "K-Street Project" has been a blatant attempt by right-wing operatives like Gingrich, Tom DeLay and Grover Norquist to direct huge sums of money to Republican coffers, with demands that all corporations hire Republican lobbyists and contribute to Republicans and their causes. In turn, corporate lobbyists have been invited by Republicans to write self-interested legislation, eliminating regulations, establishing corporate subsidies, and privatizing-for-profit everything from health care to government services. Increasingly, energy policy is written by the energy industry industry; the EPA works for polluting industries (even as the Bush administration has censored discussions of climate change in EPA reports); and the insurance and pharmaceutical industries write health care policy.

Right-wing think tanks have expressed the intent to eliminate (by privatizing) all government programs since the New Deal, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and to sell public lands to private industry. George W. Bush’s proposed "ownership society" appears to be the first step toward privatizing Social Security, placing workers' retirement funds at the mercy of marketplace uncertainties, while benefitting primarily the investment industry. Grover Norquist, a chief architect of Bush administration annual tax cuts for the rich, eagerly anticipates chaos and bankruptcy in the states, precipitated by defunding the federal government, and in turn, bankrupting the states. Norquist has declared, "We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals, and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship."  His goal: to "drown government in a bathtub."  "There isn’t any ‘us’ and ‘them’ with [the Bush] administration. They is us. We is them," crowed Norquist.

Medicare Prescription Drug Reform
is symptomatic of what ails the U.S. health care "system." It represents yet another inordinate shift of taxpayer-funded dollars to private industry. The measure makes privatization of Medicare a condition of limited prescription drug coverage, thus placing the bottom line of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries before any health care benefit, while fragmenting the Medicare risk pool. The bill guaranteesdirect government subsidies of $12 billion to private insurance HMOs and PPOs (with average overhead costs of 15-20 percent), effectively overpaying them to compete with traditional Medicare (averaging 3 percent overhead costs). Medicare Reform specifically prohibits negotiation of bulk-rate drug pricesby leveraging the size of the Medicare pool. A further gift to the pharmaceutical industry - among the most profitable Fortune 500 companies - the bill guarantees increased annual profits of $13 billion.

 See:  Medicare Reform: Prescription for Chaos