Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How Corrupt Can these People Be?

While the Congress and senate was happily cutting $35 billion dollars from student loan programs and other social programs, they were busy saving the private health insurance industry $22 billion dollars:

Closed-Door Deal Makes $22 Billion Difference
GOP Negotiators Criticized for Change In Measure on HMOs

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 24, 2006; A01

House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate version would have targeted private HMOs participating in Medicare by changing the formula that governs their reimbursement, lowering payments $26 billion over the next decade. But after lobbying by the health insurance industry, the final version made a critical change that had the effect of eliminating all but $4 billion of the projected savings, according to CBO and other health policy experts.

That change was made in mid-December during private negotiations involving House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the staffs of those committees as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee. House and Senate Democrats were excluded from the meeting. The Senate gave final approval to the budget-cutting measure on Dec. 21, but the House must give it final consideration early next month.

The change in the Medicare provision underscores a practice that growing numbers of lawmakers from both parties want addressed. More than ever, Republican congressional lawmakers and leaders are making vital decisions, involving far-reaching policies and billions of dollars, without the public -- or even congressional Democrats -- present.

The corruption scandal involving Republican former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the bribery plea of former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) have prompted calls for a restructuring of lobbying rules and congressional practices that make lobbying easier.

A prime target for changes are the closed-door negotiations known as conference committees, where members of the House and Senate hash out their differences over competing versions of legislation. House and Senate Democrats last week proposed that all such conference committees meet in the open and that any changes be made by a vote of all conferees.

"It happens in the dead of night when lobbyists get a [Republican lawmaker] in the corner and say, 'We've got to have this,' " said Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (Calif.), the Democrats' point man on Medicare issues. "It's a pattern that just goes on and on, and at some point the public's going to rise up."

Sure, the public's going to rise up. As soon as they turn off American Idol and stop reading People Magazine and start paying attention to how much they're getting screwed by the ruling party in power.

Which is most likely never.

We should change the name of the country to "Bread and Circuses".

Because that's exactly where we're at. The boys and girls reunning the country in Washington and on Wall Street do whatever the fuck they want (including breaking the law) and keep the rest of us fat and apathetic with our bread and circuses.

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