Mt. Vernon Register-News

July 18, 2012

A bold statement

James B. Rippy

MT. VERNON — I am going to make a bold statement. I have been writing this weekly column for quite a while and the longer I study and research problems like corruptness and unaffordable health care the more convinced I become about the true cause.

I am absolutely convinced that we do not have a major problem in this country that cannot ultimately be traced to the partnership of lobbyists and a political system that’s corrupt to the core. Our system is built on the ability of special interests groups to buy our political leaders and dictate what they want in return through their billions in campaign contributions. We could fill not only a book, but volumes of books that support this conclusion. Let’s just take a few examples, around for a while, that vividly show the tremendous power that some of these groups have in influencing our political leaders at the expense of the people. I have used this first one many times before, because it really shows the power of special interest groups with a total absence of concern for the people.

Medicare D is a prescription drug plan for seniors that was supposedly a benefit to all Medicare eligible seniors. Why would our political leaders write into this law that Medicare could not negotiate prices with drug companies? Rather than me trying to explain this, this is what our current President was reported to say about the subject.

Obama spoke of the chief lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, former Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Louisiana.

“The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies,” Mr. Obama said in a campaign advertisement, referring to 2003 legislation. “And you know what? The chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year.”

What does this mean to a lot of us? It means that we can end up paying a lot more for prescription drugs than our neighbors to the north and south.

Before I forget to mention it, some of these drugs are reportedly manufactured in blister packs in the same plant in the United States and shipped north and south. Tell me how that makes sense. Does it make sense that the Veterans Administration negotiates prices reportedly 48 percent lower and Medicare cannot by law? It just illustrates the power of a special interest group reported as one of the largest contributors to the lobbying effort in Congress. They quote huge numbers for research. Should the United States fund research for the world and receive no benefit? The many drug advertisements you see daily makes you wonder how their research spending and advertisement spending compare.

The only way to stop this type of special interest abuse is to publicly finance elections and elect folks who represent the people and not the drug companies.

I received an article this week detailing how Countrywide Financial Corp used the power of their lobbying efforts along with financial incentives.

“The former Countrywide Financial Corp., whose subprime loans helped start the nation's foreclosure crisis, made hundreds of discount loans to buy influence with members of Congress, congressional staff, top government officials and executives of troubled mortgage giant Fannie Mae,” according to a House report.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the discounts — from January 1996 to June 2008 — were not only aimed at gaining influence for the company but to help mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

“Countrywide’s business depended largely on Fannie, which at the time was trying to fend off more government regulation but eventually had to come under government control,” the AP report states.

These guys did not give discounted loans to these members of Congress and their staffs because they liked them. They wanted special treatment and they received it. I do not believe that Democrat or Republican makes very much difference in a terribly corrupt, broken system as it exists today. I started with the statement that all our ills can be traced eventually to amendments, earmarks and political contributions being used as bribes in our system. The only way to change this terrible system is to kick them out and keep kicking them out until we elect people that are beholden to us.

The law passed allowing organizations, companies, etc., to contribute as if they were individual citizens with no limit just make it easier to buy and sell our political leaders. The upcoming election will probably cost in excess of $1 billion. It does not take a lightning bolt from above to realize that your $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 contribution cannot compete with $40,000-a-plate fundraiser dinners and millions of dollars contributed by special interest groups to get what they want. Your voice is like a lonely cry in a forest in comparison to the sound of the drug companies, insurance giants and other organizations with very deep pockets that roar like lions in the jungle.

You might say, “Well I still have the right to vote for the candidate that is my choice.” Think about it! Are we so naïve to kid ourselves that the daily barrage of all types of news media (TV, newspaper advertisements, etc.,) praising or disparaging a candidate has no effect on the outcome of elections? The candidate with integrity that would truly represent the will of the people has no chance to get his message out. He just cannot match the money that is spent by special interest groups for and sometimes viciously against a candidate. We have a terribly broken system that has reached a breaking point over the last decade. Public financing of elections is a path for the future. Ask your representative where they stand on and

If they do not support this, kick them out at every opportunity. We do not have a problem that cannot be fixed with leadership that has integrity. Let me close with a definition of integrity given to me years ago. “Integrity is doing the right and honorable thing when no one is looking.”