Dear Diary reader,
Will Bonner here…
Dad is at the family ranch high up in the Andes in northern Argentina…
He’s (literally) off the grid for the next week.
But don’t worry, we have the first part of a four-part series I’m calling “How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” for you today.
Dad reckons America is being ruined by folks he calls “zombies” – people, usually in or cosy with the government, who live off the “live flesh” of our capitalist system…
Welcome to Zombieland
The defining characteristic of a zombified system is the way it hands out its rewards. In an honest economy people do their best. They work hard. They take their chances. Some prevail because they are productive. Others are just lucky. The chips fall where they may.
But as zombies take over the system, the chips fall where they are told to fall. Rather than to honest and efficient producers, the rewards go to those who curry favors.
Elizabeth Fowler knows how it works. She labored at the left hand of senator Max Baucus, drafting the collection of crimes and punishments that came to be known as “Obamacare.”
Senator Baucus admitted he had better things to do than read it. But he didn’t have to. His chief health policy counsel, the aforementioned Ms. Fowler, knew what was in it. As a former top lobbyist for Wellpoint, America’s largest health insurance provider, she made sure the chips fell where she wanted them to.
“If you drew an organization chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations,” wrote Politico.com at the time, “Fowler would be chief operating officer.”
Fowler had already been through the revolving door more than once. She worked for Baucus before joining Wellpoint… and after. When she came back to Baucus she replaced Michelle Easton, another Wellpoint lobbyist, who helped guide the senator on health policy while Ms. Fowler was on the Wellpoint payroll.
You Go Girl!
After the legislation was passed, the White House turned to the clever lobbyist to implement it. After all, the sweet spot in the legislation was the provision requiring people to buy products from companies such as Wellpoint, whether they wanted to or not.
As America’s new Special Assistant to the President for Healthcare and Economic Policy at the National Economic Council, Fowler’s real job was to make sure Wellpoint got a good return on its investment.
And then in December 2012: Whoosh… she went back out through the revolving door. Type “Elizabeth Fowler” and “revolving door” into Google and you will get the whole story. The “architect of Obamacare,” say the papers, left the White House to go to the honeypot at Johnson & Johnson.
What will she do there? Will she test the adult diapers? Will she take out the trash or write advertising jingles? No, she is up to her old tricks – in a “senior position” at their “government affairs and policy group.”
You go girl!
(This is not the first time this sort of special privilege has been granted in the USA. The ethanol industry got it coming and going. Tax credits subsidized farmers for growing corn and then federal mandates required fuel companies to buy it.)
How the Zombie System Works
Wellpoint was not the only winner in the health-care sector last year. The New York Times reports:
Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the “fiscal cliff” bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs.
The special favor was buried in Section 632. It involved a kidney dialysis drug, Sensipar, that was spared from cost-cutting restrictions for another two years. This was the fruit of efforts by 74 Amgen lobbyists. It is expected to cost the Medicare system up to $500 million.
That’s how a zombie system works. Congressional staff members slip favors to private sector companies. Then the companies return the favors, giving staff members cushy jobs.
One of the chief Amgen lobbyists, for example, had been an employee of the aforementioned Senator Max Baucus, head of the Senate Finance Committee. Jeff Forbes was the senator’s chief of staff. Amgen has given the politicians $5 million since 2007… with $68,000 going to Baucus.
But poor Elekta AB. The Swedish maker of radiation tools got stabbed in the back by the same last-minute legislation. That’s the way zombiedom works: The rewards go to the people who are best able to pervert the political process.
Elekta was at a distinct disadvantage. A foreign company, it couldn’t give money to the politicians. Varian, its competitor, could. Plus, Varian put 18 lobbyists on the case and managed to get Elekta’s payments cut in half.
Of course, Zombieland stretches far beyond the health-care industry…
Tune in tomorrow for more on how the zombies are taking over the rest of the economy too…