Posts Tagged ‘Steve Forbes’


Congress’ Ugly Intimidation Of An Industry

October 9, 2009

Americans angry with the charades of WAXMAN and STUPAK.

Their lies, deceit, tactics, wrath, witch-hunts, harassment, intimidation, smoke + mirrors, threat, silence, terrorize, cajole, eliminate, destroy, confrontation, bait-and-switch

Congress’ Ugly Intimidation Of An Industry

By STEVE FORBES IBD: 8 Oct. 2009

For anyone who missed it, we witnessed in recent weeks one of the broadest misuses of congressional power in recent history.

Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and his colleague Bart Stupak are openly engaged in a campaign of harassment and intimidation against 52 of America’s largest health insurance providers.

They seek nothing less than to silence all voices opposed to their government-run health care proposals.

Just days after AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), the industry trade group for American health insurers, sent Waxman a letter voicing opposition to many components of his proposed health care overhaul, he responded with his own version of a political shock-and-awe campaign, a frightening example of raw intimidation.

On Aug. 17, 52 insurers received a letter from Waxman and Stupak demanding they provide intricate details on executive and employee compensation, release the names of all members of their boards of directors and hand over detailed lists of expenses for all off-site meetings and retreats over the past five years.

It does not take a member of Congress to notice that this information is irrelevant to the health care debate. The only possible purpose behind these requests is to force private insurers to back down now — lest they be confronted by the full wrath of congressional subpoenas followed by lengthy, expensive and pointless hearings that amount to political witch hunts.

What’s next? Perhaps Waxman and Stupak would also like detailed personal information on any employees who are known or suspected communists. It all smacks of the ugly methods employed by Sen. Joe McCarthy more than a half-century ago.

Of course, Waxman and Stupak claim that the information they seek is relevant to health care reform. Yet they target only insurers. Hospitals, physician groups, pharmaceutical companies and other parts of the health care complex are untouched.

Could this possibly be because insurers possess one of the few organized voices in opposition to their proposals, and this voice is being heard by more and more Americans?

Behind Waxman’s and Stupak’s grandiose conception of their own power is clearly the hope that these tactics will distract the public from the many pitfalls of their health care proposals.

The public option that some congressional democrats have been promoting with such intensity is quickly losing favor among the public. According to the most recent polls, more voters clearly oppose a government-run option than are in favor.

So what better way to help Americans forget that they oppose your policy than to turn your committee chambers into a soapbox, conjure up a new villain and refocus criticism away from your proposal and onto something else entirely?

Luckily for America, few people are falling for their smoke and mirrors. Already the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even some prominent Democrats are questioning these tactics.

As Politico recently reported, one prominent Democrat lobbyist recognized that Waxman’s request was guilty of “overreach” with “broad potential to backfire.” Thus Waxman’s bait-and-switch strategy may well fail. He doesn’t realize that most Americans are fair-minded and not easily distracted by congressional versions of Roman Gladiator games.

Waxman and Stupak clearly do not understand that the best policy will be one that takes into account the concerns, proposals and considerations of relevant participants from all sides of the political spectrum, and all facets of the health care world. Shunning or intimidating an easy villain will do nothing to ensure that Americans receive health care reform that actually works, and genuinely improves lives.

Democrats and fellow members of Congress need to put a stop to the charades of Waxman and Stupak, and order the Energy and Commerce Committee back on the task of putting together some very important legislation.

The greatest service the rest of us can do is to ignore these charades and political games entirely and remain focused on real policy and real results.

• Forbes is president and chief executive of Forbes and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine.