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Archive for November 18th, 2009

President Obama has stated repeatedly that we need to eliminate the “special interests” in Washington. However, he seems to be relying on these “interests” to carry his water. Unfortunately, members of his own Party want to throw those special interests “under the bus”.

From an LA Times article (The original article can be found here):

Congressional Democrats’ intensifying efforts to pay for their healthcare overhaul and provide more relief for consumers are threatening to unravel a White House deal with the pharmaceutical industry and turn one of Washington’s most powerful lobbies against the legislation.

Drug makers, which have already spent $110 million lobbying Congress this year, are preparing to make a stand in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is working to unveil a healthcare bill this week.

And senior administration officials, including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are warning members of Congress not to antagonize the deep-pocketed industry at a time when a major victory appears to be within reach, according to Democratic aides. [emphasis added]

Under the White House deal struck in the summer, companies pledged to support an overhaul and provide limited discounts to Medicare patients in exchange for a promise that no other controls would be imposed on pharmaceutical prices.

It has long been conventional wisdom that the left views the drug companies (aka “Big Pharma”) as an enemy of the people. Now we find out that President Obama has cut a deal with “Big Pharma” to protect their “outrageous” profits. In return, “Big Pharma” is spending over $110 million to help the cause (BTW, that $110 million in cash is coming out of the price of selling drugs – wouldn’t a drug discount have been a better expenditure?).

While the Administration/”Big Pharma” deal has been in effect,

a new AARP survey that showed prices for the most popular brand-name drugs rising at their fastest rate since the seniors group started tracking the data in 2002.

So, once they received Administration “protection”, the industry raised its prices. So, now Senator Reid is going after the industry to pay for his $1 trillion escapade, except that,

In the last two election cycles, drug companies have donated more than $24 million to members of Congress, according to data analyzed by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. That is almost as much as the combined giving of the hospital, nursing home and health insurance industries.

“Big Pharma” is a bigger “special interest” than the Health Insurance lobby, and they used their leverage:

When Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) moved to force drug makers to provide deeper discounts to Medicare — much as the House bill does — he got a call from deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who warned him that the proposal threatened to undo the healthcare campaign, according to Nelson’s office. [emphasis added]

…”Somehow there seems to be a focus only on the pharmaceutical industry,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who helped defeat Nelson’s amendment in the Finance Committee. “Before you ask someone to give more, it seems to me that everybody needs to be at the table.”

I guess that despite campaign rhetoric, Washington DC is same-old, same-old. The “special interests” are calling the shots.

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Readers of this blog know I have written about passenger/commuter rail issues frequently in the past. Today, I’m going to turn my attention to what one blog commenter previously referred to as “the low hanging fruit”- freight rail.

Unlike our neighbors Maryland and Pennsylvania, Delaware does not, to my knowledge, at present have a comprehensive freight rail assistance program of any sort.  I think this is a critical omission.

It’s a mistake to think of freight rail transport as antiquated; as something from a bygone era. On the contrary, it is a key ingredient in stimulating economic growth and development. For example, both Maryland and Pennsylvania have used their freight rail assistance programs to help entice in new industries, and to help existing businesses switch from truck to rail transport, thus reducing highway congestion & maintenance costs.

In particular, Maryland’s rail siding initiative provides public funds for the construction of rail sidings for businesses that make specific commitments to utilize freight rail transportation (i.e. it sets minimum carload requirements).  Pennsylvania’s Rail-Freight Assistance Program is more expansive and, in addition to rail sidings, also covers rehabilitation of existing rail lines and grade crossings.

I think Delaware would benefit by adopting a formal program similar to those in Maryland and Pennsylvania.  A Maryland-style rail siding initiative, for example, would give us additional leverage when attempting to attract new businesses to Delaware as well as a mechanism for moving freight traffic off our highways, and on to our existing rail system.

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