Lobbying Obama

One of the many changes that President Obama promised during his presidential campaign in 2008 was an end to the “revolving door between governing and corporate lobbying.”

So far, Obama has not accomplished this mission, even though he constantly tells the American people he has. Some of the most controversial issues today, like financial and health care reform, have all been influenced by the largest and most profitable industries.

Since 2004, many pharmaceutical and banking corporations have exponentially invested in influential lobbyists and campaign contributions. Their main intent is to prevent the government from creating unprofitable legislation.

Unfortunately, their investments have paid off and their interests have been regarded as a higher priority than those of the American people. Special interests seemed much more important to President Obama than keeping his promise of transparency when he made behind-the-scenes deals with the pharmaceutical companies.

In these agreements he accepted preventative measures toward the competition of outside medications from Canada and Europe. Without competition, U.S. pharmaceutical companies will be able to determine the prices of medications that will most likely not be the cheapest alternatives.

In return, the pharmaceutical industry promised to provide $80 billion in cost savings for people buying medication. After they reach the $80 billion point, the companies can set up their own prices.

At first this sounds like a significant sum, but it should also be taken into consideration that the baby boomers, which consist of about 80 million people, are entering the age of retirement and will be the ones demanding the most medication. What has not been widely mentioned is that this discount program will not include Medicare Part D, which is the drug program for senior citizens.

President Obama’s claim that pharmaceutical interests were responsible for the lag in action toward health care reform is another lie in which he tries to create a distance between his administration’s actions and the influence of big business. In fact, during the health care reform writing process, major pharmaceutical companies were approving of all the changes along the way.

Billy Tuzin, a former Republican representative from Louisiana that now leads the pharmaceutical trade group, was a major individual involved in writing the reform law. Tuzin happens to also be the same man that President Obama scolded and used as an example of the corruption in Washington during his 2008 presidential campaign.

Financial reform has also been just as important during Obama’s term as health care, and has also not been immune to the influence of special interests. Interestingly, while pharmaceutical groups are fast at work with health care reform, many of the short-term cash loan companies have been increasingly successful during the recession, and are also investing millions on lobbying in Washington.

Last year, Congress proposed amendments that would cap payday interest rates as well as limit the number of loans that a lender could give to a customer. These proposed amendments never succeeded due to the campaign contributions given by these companies to both Democrats and Republicans. These payday-lending industries are determined to have the maximum amount of power possible, and have resorted to paying off members of Congress, with a reported $1.3 million given to congressional campaigns since the start of last year.

Tailoring to these private interest groups is a big offense to the American people, especially at a time when these large industries are bringing in billions of dollars,  compared to the larger population in which many fear losing their homes. Ignoring current issues like the lack of resources for the elderly and the future deficit in Social Security funds will be an even larger burden to future generations as they begin to age themselves.

The Obama administration seems to be worried about solving the present problems and ignoring the consequences that lie in the future. This seems a little too ironic, considering that he acquired a large young fan base due to his claim that he cares about the future generation.

If he did care more about future generations than about his political agenda, he would have realized early on that the health care reform package is not convenient at a time when the country needs to repair itself economically. This would be unpopular considering the hype of health care reform even during the election.

Reforms, especially one as extensive as health care reform, can always be expected to increase the deficit before they show any growth. The compromise between the pharmaceutical companies and the government does nothing to help the constantly increasing elderly group. If they cannot afford medication, the population is once again responsible for supplying it, and this is just another expense thrown on our generation’s tab.

It is obvious that as president, Obama will have to make decisions that are not always the most popular, but what is important is that he upholds his promise of transparency. This current generation will inherit the debt. Therefore, it is important that we have a say in the country’s direction. It seems irresponsible and unethical to make long-term decisions for the benefit of groups that will help keep the rich powerful and the poor oppressed.

Sophia Solis is a fourth-year political science major. She can be reached at sophias@uci.edu.