If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em (and Then Say You Beat 'Em)


Complaints about corporate money and influence in politics are a constant in American political discourse, with complainers typically grousing that industry cash and power stifle proper regulation. But too often, despite claims that regulation is some sort of victory against corporate power, federal meddling just makes the government an industry partner (for perhaps the most notorious example, see the tobacco industry's win-win deal with the government). And thus, as in this Politico story about political battles being waged by drug manufacturers, political actors necessarily become subject to corporate blowback and power plays whenever there's some indication the politicians might not be playing along:

A Senate-side deal last month with drug manufacturers is coming back to bite House Democrats looking for savings to pay for their own health care reform bill this summer. 

Having struck a bargain with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the industry is aggressively targeting individual House Democrats, warning of repercussions in the 2010 elections if they go along with a tougher set of savings advocated by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

…PhRMA, the powerful Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association lobby, is openly playing one chairman against the other.

Political considerations make it difficult to overhaul the health-care industry without input from the affected corporate players. So even though PhRMA's offer to reduce the cost of drugs for seniors was called "historic," it's little more than political wheeling and dealing. And the result is that drug industry operations have been pushed further into the realm of politics. The industry's success or failure now hinges to an even greater degree on decisions made by politicians; consequently, that's where drug makers are going to focus their attention. The whole process just leads to greater corporate-political entanglement, no matter what victories the regulators claim. Want to reduce corporate influence over government? Try cutting back on government influence over corporations.

Update: The Post reports that the health-care industry has hired hundreds of former government employees as lobbyists. The piece warns of a "record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry." But isn't that exactly what's to be expected in the midst of an equally massive attempt to revamp the entire national health-care system? This shouldn't surprise anyone: Any move toward greater government involvement in health-care is going to lead toward increased health-care lobbying of government.