Abramoff and Medicare

by John Holbo on January 22, 2006

I’m reading Off Center. Here’s something from p. 87:

When the debate over prescription drug coverage picked up in the late Clinton years, the pharmaceutical lobbying group PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, pronounced “Farma”) went so far as to establish a faux grassroots organization that putatively represented the elderly: “Citizens for a Better Medicare.” Despite the lofty title, Citizens for a Better Medicare had few, if any, actual citizens on its rolls Its main activity was to spend millions of PhRMA dollars on slick ad campaigns supporting an industry-friendly drug plan. When Citizens for a Better Medicare came under fire, PhRMA switched its “grassroots” efforts over to the United Seniors Association, a conservative direct-mail organization that had cut its teeth with frightening scare letters to senior citizens. The United Seniors Association board included, among other GOP political operatives, Jack Abramoff

Greg Sargent and Kevin Drum have lately suggested that (as Kevin writes) “Dems might do well to tie the Republican corruption scandal to the broader theme of Republican addiction to special business interests.” Healthcare and the energy industry are the obvious places to start. But I haven’t yet seen anyone point out this fairly direct Abramoff/Medicare bill connection. Rather a useful factoid, perhaps, for purposes of converting the maddening complexities of this legislative boondoggle into damning talking-points. Medicare. It doth glaze the eyes over.

Mark Schmitt:

The backlash against the Medicare drug bill may or may not be a backlash against the people responsible for the Medicare drug bill. If it merely increases cynicism and deepens the sense that government can’t do anything right, then the ground remains fertile for the Republican anti-government message – even if it is Republicans themselves who betrayed their own anti-government message. Democrats have a very complicated (but absolutely true) story to tell here: They have to show that the Medicare bill was a guaranteed disaster from the start, that its consequences were not accidental but imtimately related to the corruption of the Republican majority, and that there is an alternative that would do more and cost less, and that Democrats would make it happen. We cannot assume that this story will occur automatically to people as they struggle with the program.