TRUE PARTISAN POLITICS: High speed internet, prescription drugs, and
Under the 1996 telecommunications
act, the "Baby Bells(5)" are not allowed to offer high speed internet
access (without allowing other companies to
infrastructure) on the grounds that they own practically all of the
phone cable in the United States. This issue has little or no
relation to party politics. Neither democrats nor republicans have
taken any stance that is directly for or against this act.
However, the Baby Bells have been lobbying extensively to get the act
amended to allow them to offer such access without allowing their
competitors to use their infrastructure.
Senators Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and John Dingell
(D-MI) proposed a deal in which the Bells can offer an
exclusive lease to use their cable. The two companies that stand
to loose the most are AT&T and AOL/Time Warner: currently the two
largest suppliers of broadband internet in the United States. Not
surprisingly, Senator Tauzin had Verizon and SBC Communications as his
number one and four contributors during his 2000 election campaign.
And this doesn't even include contributions from SBC and Bell South used
to pay for Tauzin’s half-million dollar Mardi Gras party during the
Republican Convention in Philadelphia(6). Senator Dingell had
these companies - Verizon and SBC - as his number three and four
contributors, with Bell South at number seven. Not surprisingly,
the opponents of this bill have received large amounts of money from
AT&T and AOL/Time Warner. John Conyers Jr., (D-MI) received a
total $21,500 from these corporations for his 2000 election, making them
his second and fourth largest contributors, respectively(7).
Despite many politicians’ promises
for prescription drug coverage, and the belief of many American's that
such coverage is necessary, this reform is unlikely to happen as soon as
promised. There is nothing close to a consensus on how to reduce
the cost of prescription drugs for the American people. Obviously,
some debate on a subject is necessary to
determine the best
possible solution. However, this debate is not about who has the
best ideas, but rather, whose donors’ have the most clout.
In its two forms, the bill provides for a type
of voucher system that senior citizens can use to purchase
private health insurance at a lower cost (7). This bill benefits
the pharmaceutical industry, as a voucher for health insurance will not
actually lower the price - and thereby won't decrease the profits made
by manufacturers - of prescription medication. The supporters of
this bill are Bill First (R-TN) and John Breaux (D-LA), who received
$120,000 in 2000 and nearly $70,000 in 1998 from the pharmaceutical
industry, respectively. Not surprisingly, neither of them received much,
if any, money from insurance companies. Another option, for
example, could have been for the government to control the outrageous
costs of medication. This approach would benefit insurance
companies and lower the profits of the pharmaceutical companies.
These are just a few examples of congressional
representatives displaying their loyalty to the wills of
their donors, rather than to their constituents or their own personal
conscious. We have presented here a limited number of instances;
there are many more. Reverting to the Economic Stimulus Plan, we
see that even the few members of congress who are opposed to the heavy
influence that corporate America exerts upon the legislative process
fall prey to the same influences. More specifically, consider
Senator Feingold. Although his statements against the president's
Economic Stimulus Plan should be commended, it must be noted that he
didn't receive donations from any of the corporations that stood to gain
from this particular proposal.
(5) "“Baby Bells” being defined as Qwest,
SBC Communications, BellSouth and Verizon.
(7) Committee Report 2 of 2 - House Rpt. 107-83 Part
2 “Unfortunately, the Tauzin bill is so deeply flawed
that we cannot…fix this bill.”
Financial data is still from Center for Responsible Politics.
S.357 S.358; referred to Senate Finance committee Feb 15 2001, destined
to begin Jan 1 2004
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