Not all campaign promises are made equal.
On the stump, Barack Obama was adamant that he would conduct his negotiations with Big Pharma in a radically transparent forum -- broadcast on CSPAN.
He was equally clear that these open-air negotiations would undo the sweetheart deals of the Bush era that bar Medicare from using its purchasing power to negotiate for lower drug prices, and bar the re-importation of cut-rate drugs from Canada.
Now, in a closed-door White House meeting -- strikingly similar to Dick Cheney's dealings with big polluters -- Obama has horsetraded with Big Pharma. Seniors get promises of an $80 billion discount exclusive to brand name drugs not covered in the "donut hole" in the Medicare Rx benefit. Obama gets a $150 drug-industry-funded ad blitz in favor of his reform package. And Pharma receives a continuation of Bush's don't-fight-for-lower-prescription-prices dogma.
Is this a fair deal? It's impossible to evaluate because the details were worked out in secret and not C-SPAN.
And that, perhaps more than the pragmatic particulars of the swap, is the outrage. This definitively is change only a Dick (Cheney) could believe in.
Huffington Post helpfully serves up the candidate-Obama flashback:
We're going to do all these negotiations on C-SPAN.
The American people will be able to watch these negotiations so if they start seeing a member of Congress who is carrying the water for the drug companies instead of for their constituents and says, 'Oh, you no. we can't negotiate for the cheapest available price on drugs because the drug companies need these profits to invest in research and development', I'll say, 'OK, let me bring my health care expert in here'. And on TV, we'll ask my health care expert, 'What do you think about what the drug companies are saying?'
And what that drug expert will undoubtedly say is 'Well, drug companies do need some profits to invest in research and development but a lot of what they're calling research and development is actually marketing costs for some of these TV ads you see' ... where everybody is, you have all these people dancing in fields, looking all happy. You don't know what the drug is for. Right? Except for that one drug, you know what that's for. You know what that one is for.
Anyway, you get my point. Openness. Transparency. You will hold me accountable....