By George Waring
Letter to the editor, The Montana Standard
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Thanks for the photo on Tuesday of Sen. Max Baucus straightening Tim Geithner’s tie. That’s the least the senator could do for a most important constituent and campaign contributor.
While the senator congratulates himself for his work on health insurance reform, the photo reminds us that his work for Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street titans also has been top flight.
Outside of Montana, Baucus has been getting a lot of press, but not quite the friendly sort. The latest issue of the New York Review of Books (April 8) features an article focused on the senator’s health care work. It is Michael Tomasky’s “The Money Fighting Health Care Reform.” Its thesis: the major health insurance corporations and Big Pharma have just banked a hefty return on their investments in Baucus’ congressional career.
Just how hefty a return is clear when we remember that candidate Obama campaigned in favor of closing the so-called donut hole in Medicare’s prescription coverage, allowing drug reimportation from Canada and giving Medicare the authority to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. Tomasky points out that the crucial Senate committee vote on restraining Big Pharma saw Baucus join the Republicans to vote against closing the Medicare donut hole completely. He was joined by two other Democrats to give the Republicans a 13 to 10 victory.
The Tomasky article is worth studying, even the full color graph showing how much money Baucus’ campaign received from the likes of Pfizer, Merk, BlueCross Blue Shield, Aetna, etc. And how many of Baucus’ former staffers had become lobbyists for the largest insurance and drug companies. When the senator opposed even the weak public option that Obama once had desired, he proved himself to be a fine Wall Street tie fixer, but not much of a defender of the folks needing some cost-cutting back home.