NPR Asks Viewers to Identify Health Care Lobbyists, But Misses the Real Point

NPR is asking listeners to out known health care lobbyists:

When 22 senators started working over the first health care overhaul bill on June 17, the news cameras were pointed at them -- except for NPR's photographer, who turned his lens on the lobbyists. Whatever bill emerges from Congress will affect one-sixth of the economy, and stakeholders have mobilized. We've begun to identify some of the faces in the hearing room, and we want to keep the process going. Know someone in these photos? Let us know who that someone is -- e-mail or let us know via Twitter @DollarPolitics.

I'm the last person to defend health care lobbyists. Really, I think they're terrible, terrible people. However, NPR is diverting attention away from the real problem: centrist Democrats and Congress representatives that receive thousands of dollars in donations from the private health care and insurance industries.

If health care reform fails this time around, it will be because of so-called Democrats like Ben Nelson, who said a public option would be a "deal-breaker" because such a plan would threaten private insurers. Call me naive, but I thought Senator Nelson was elected to represent the interests of his constituents, and not the private insurance industry.

Other public option naysayers include Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) who said that the U.S. Senate will not "go down the government-run health care road" even though the most recent New York Times-CBS poll shows that 72% of Americans want a government role in health care, and are willing to pay higher taxes for it.

NPR has aimed its crosshairs at the wrong group because lobbyists are dispensable. Think of a giant pez dispenser that ejects only smiling assholes and that's sort of what the lobbyist machine in Washington is like. Outing a dozen health care lobbyists won't stop unscrupulous Senators from moving on to the next fresh-faced hustler from Pharma Inc.

The real problem are the folks taking the cash. Below is a list (PDF) of the worst offenders from Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization.

Pay special attention to the column "Committee or Leadership?" The representatives with a "Yes" beside their names (I've highlighted the tables for easy viewing) are the representatives simultaneously receiving money from the private health care industry while actively working to reform health care. These individuals are far more dangerous than an endless supply of lobbyists because they are actually shaping policy. Additionally, voters have control over these representatives. Namely, citizens have the ability to vote them the hell out of office if they try to shove a bullshit excuse down your throat like the one spouted by Lindsay Graham: we can't have health care because it will hurt my donors in the private health care industry.

There will always be a new shady ombudsman for the private health care industry waiting in the shadows to dick the American people just so they can get a vacation house in Malibu. You can't control that, but what you can control is your vote, and your representatives, who ultimately shape public policy. If these representatives are actively working to deny you from receiving health care, stop voting for them. Support Progressive candidates that acknowledge you're a human being and you have the right to health care.



Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny's blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.