Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama Pre-State of the Union

President Obama dined with corporate icons over lunch the day of his State of the Union speech. He assured them he wasn't anti-business. NyPo reported:

The tone of the meal suggested that the president felt he'd taken his attacks too far, said one person familiar with the private meeting.
JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and Exxon's Rex Tillerson were among corporate chieftains breaking bread at the White House. The meal was eventful, according to sources:

"Your brand is broken," Shelly Lazarus, chairman of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide cautioned the president at the lunch, sources reported.

That's the immediate history before President Obama's "brand repairing" speech. He noted:

Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call.

Isn't history in the past? I'm not sure it calls. Yet, the present screams. Americans rail about widespread leadership dysfunction in our hallowed halls of government and corporate board rooms. Both turn a tin ear.

Does everything have to be "business-ized"? The President of the United States is reduced to "a brand." Education needs a "return on investment," failing to have any intrinsic value. The Pentagon is now "hedging," otherwise known as making risky bets.

Foreign help, run by private entities, is no longer aid, but "investment." The failure to mobilize and coordinate emergency response in Haiti is "a glitch." While tens of thousands slowly eke towards death, President Obama promised "slow and steady improvement," while standing between Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

But the present funk takes no toll on Obama. He said in his State of the Union:

We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit.

Odd, in his first year in office, the "Obama branded" White House drove division.

The following health care narrative emerges from scrubbed White House visitor lists. An army of political consultants and pollsters helped craft health care reform (seen in Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina's visitor logs). Presidential operatives strong armed K Street as it struck back room deals with important players, big pharma, hospitals, provider groups and corporations badly wishing to dump that pesky health insurance benefit (seen in Ezekiel Emanuel, Nancy-Ann DeParle and Peter Orzag's visitor lists).

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel tried to lock up health care and corporate money on behalf of the Blue team. Rahm dangled sweet fruit. The plum for health care providers was better reimbursement, fewer uninsured patients and/or higher fee schedules.

Corporate fruit involved shifting the burden for health insurance to Uncle Sam or the worker. Not told in the reform story, 35.3 million fewer Americans would have employer sponsored health insurance coverage come 2019 (per CBO projections).

The Red team, long inactive on health care, noticed Rahm's strategy. Under the threat of losing their lifeblood (K Street money), Republicans went into hyper-stonewalling. They screamed "Death panels," while sitting on their taxpayer funded, health insured posteriors.

The public is angry because it paid attention. Obama said:

And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?"

White House visitor lists show a smattering of health care & business lobbyists, many Tom Daschle's associates at Alston & Bird. How many puffed with pride at making the cut when the partial list was released last year? Given the change in sentiment, they might be hiding.

There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo.

Some stand to make millions from their stock holdings. Health economists Stuart Altman (WH visitor) and Uwe Reinhardt (Nancy-Ann DeParle colleague) sit on the board of health insurers, as does Gail Wilensky, who testified before the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Corporacrat Max Baucus. Here is a partial list of conflicted advisers.

Stuart Altman--Aveta
Uwe Reinhardt--Americhoice

Gail Wilensky--UnitedHealth

Bonus names:

Mrs. Evan Bayh--WellPoint

William H.T. "Uncle Bucky" Bush--WellPoint

Tom Scully--Universal American
The last two players, Bush & Scully, are on the Red side. I included them for bipartisanship.

Last night proved Obama can flat out give a speech. As his lunchtime corporate guests noted, the President often becomes remorseful later. How long before he moonwalks on any State of the Union commitments? Note: the President made no commitments on health care. It might further damage his brand.

There is a year long pattern with President Obama, Populist rhetoric, Corporatist implementation. The public has noticed. Will it continue? Apparently, it only took a day for the White House to invite dreadful lobbyists back inside.

Obama is the new Lucy, holding the football beneath his finger, uprights in the background. The President waves his hand. I run, swing.....Aaarrgghhh! My head hurts, I can't see so well. I can still hear, Mr. President.

What's that? Jim Messina is Max Baucus' ex-Chief of Staff. #!O%#, another political whore.

Enjoy your meetings Mr. President. I'll find a game without you.

Update: Surely Susan Bayh can explain the 39% premium increase for California individual policy holders. She likely approved it as a WellPoint Board member.

Update 2: WellPoint's Foundation promised $30 million toward programs for the uninsured. They failed miserably.

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