From the front page of today's Washington Post a reminder of the power of the pharmaceutical lobby. Democratic leadership had a bill in mind for a goverment-run prescription drug program designed to cut costs for senior citizens. Then the drug lobby - and their checkbooks- started knocking at the door and cutting health care costs took a backseat to appeasing them.
Democrats have abandoned their initial plan for a government program, and are instead pushing a weakened agenda that includes requiring the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower Medicare drug costs, anticipated to produce much less in savings for seniors. This move is motivated out of fear of the drug companies, who spend more on lobbying than any other industry, and gave nearly $15 million to federal candidates and committees in the last election cycle, according the Center for Responsive Politics.
Like every other industy seeking influence with the newly Democratic Congress, Big Pharma has been redirecting its considerable donations to Democrats and hiring Democrat lobbyists to push its agenda on the Hill. The article crunches the numbers on the increased donations to Democrats, noting among others the spike in contributions to House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) - as well as the $1.17 million President Bush, who has threatened to veto the bill, received for his 2004 re-election bid from the drug industry.
Congress can't push a prescription drug plan that would produce real savings for cash-strapped seniors so long as the campaign cash to which their re-election efforts are tied depends on their acquiesence to industry demands. For policy that works in the interests of average citizens, not big industry, we need to take the money out of the equation with full public financing of elections.