The insufferable Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) now is demanding that insurance companies
bend over so that he can have a close look-see. (See story here.)
Waxman, who finds villains hiding behind every tree, under every rock and deep up inside--well, you know what--has tersely instructed the big insurance companies to turn over detailed information about their conferences, retreats, executive pay, board compensation, claims, revenues, and on and on. (Follow this link to Waxman's website to view the letter and a list of the companies that received it.)
So, what's wrong with that. Aren't insurances companies today's villains and isn't the more we know about them the better? Let's put it this way. Much of this information already is available publicly. And if it were anyone else asking, maybe this kind of witch hunt could be stomached. But Waxman, chairman of the
House Energy and Commerce Committee, is perhaps the most cynical
politician in the House, which is really saying something. (The letter
also is signed by Rep. Bart Stupak ((D.,
Mich.)), who heads the panel's Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, who isn't known to crawl as close to the ground as
letter doesn't mention the debate about health care reform, but it is
very much a part of the issue. The Democrats are finding that their
unpalatable health care concoction is getting barfed back up by an
increasingly nauseated public, so no they're looking for a way to
divert attention away from the smelly miss. So, the strategy is to make
the insurance companies look as bad as possible.
As a Wall Street Journal story noted:
Mr. Waxman has a long history of using Congress's investigative
powers to turn a critical eye on industry and government. Late last
year he ousted Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.) as chairman of the Energy
and Commerce Committee, and he has been overseeing legislation on the
Democrats' two top priorities, health care and climate change.
As Congress's August recess kicked off, Democrats made it clear they
would respond to Republicans' warnings about government intervening in
patients' private medical decisions by arguing that insurers already do
so. Top Democrats have blasted the insurance industry, and they now
refer to their initiative as "health-insurance reform" rather than
insurance companies have until Sept. 14 to respond, which considering
the huge amount of information that Waxman wants, is probably a
difficult deadline to meet. But Waxman isn't concerned about that;
Congress will be back in session then, and Waxman is preparing his PR
blitz to slay the dragon.
Polls show that most Americans
are satisfied with their insurance companies, a high hurdle for the
Democrats to leap. So if the Democrats want to pass their health care
package, the only choice they'll have is to chip away at that
satisfaction. And why not? Americans are simmering over the Obama
administration's rescue of the financial giants and auto companies.
Democrats would love to leverage that public anger against management
bailouts by carrying it over to the insurance companies.
only problem is that the Democrats (with some help from the outgoing
Bush administration) were the ones that pushed those bailouts on the
public. And that's s a hard one to dodge.