Ben Nelson is Deserving of Darts for two important reasons:
1) Health Care Law: Providing the 60th vote for cloture on the health care law and the attendant “Cornhusker Kickback”
2) Hypocrisy: Saying he voted “No” on the debt debacle because he was concerned about cuts to the Medicare program
In November 2012 – Ben Nelson should be resoundingly voted out of office.
Some votes should result in an elected official’s loss of position because they destroy their constituents’ trust and there is nothing they can do to recover it. Providing the 60th vote for cloture on the Health Care bill in return for a now-infamous closed-door sleazy deal was, without a doubt, just such a vote. That means, after December 2009, it doesn’t matter if Ben Nelson votes “the right way” every time.
Despite the fact that very many of its negative effects have yet to be felt, periodic opinion polls consistently show opposition to it nationwide. This phenomenon is significant because it is not historically what usually has occurred regarding controversial legislation. While the health care “reform” law was being debated, many Americans knew in their gut, if not in detail, that the bill was bad news. There have been a steady stream of reports, almost universally negative, about what provisions of the law have been implemented, what the bill actually included, many negative effects, and the special favors granted the chosen few (waivers). As the facts continue to be revealed, they are simply confirming those earlier gut instincts.
Added to the long list of problems with the bill’s content, there is of course, the entirely separate issue of the tactics attempted or ultimately used to ram the bill through Congress, which only added to the majority of Americans’ outrage.
And this, in particular, is why Ben Nelson was at the time and remains, both “Deserving of Darts” and far more importantly, being voted out of office. The behind-the-curtain dealings which involved Nelson and Democratic party leadership, received the infamous and deserved moniker “Cornhusker Kickback”.
Most Republicans and right-leaning Nebraskans know the most publicly embarrassing part of the deal; the $100 million tab for Nebraska’s increased Medicaid costs which was to be handed to the rest of the country to be paid. What most people on the right do not really understand is that “the Kickback” had a double pay-off and significantly gutted the Medicare program of funding, which is simply idiotic, considering the program is already insolvent and will see a dramatic increase in enrollees going forward.
The OTHER Kickback
The universal scorn directed at Nebraska generally, and Ben Nelson in particular, resulted in the removal of the $100 million handout to Nebraska from the final version of the bill, but there is no indication that the other payoff, which is actually far more troubling, was ever removed.
It’s simply a fact that the Cornhusker Kickback was not popular with either the left or the right. The left was up in arms because of the second payoff Nelson’s brokered deal included. There was a kickback by way of significant tax breaks for particular insurance companies in Nebraska.
People on the right have labeled the bill a “socialist takeover of health care”, but that is not correct. It is actually much more correct to state that it was corporatism. Health insurance companies, at least those who are willing to position themselves to play ball with government, are guaranteed business under the health care law. All Americans will be forced to buy their product. It is a little acknowledged fact by too many on the right that the health insurance companies were the leading advocates for what many people see as the most odious aspect of the health care bill: the individual mandate.
Health Insurance Industry Influence
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying group for America’s 1300 health insurance companies, can be tracked, dating back to at least 2008, as advocating for that individual mandate. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m more than troubled by the fact that the health insurers were not only not fighting against government’s intrusions on their industry, they were out front in advocating for government to force all of us to buy their product.
My own frustrating experiences over the years in dealing with my husband’s employer-provided health insurance has been confirmed through my research as simply examples of industry-wide problems. When I add the game playing to dodge payment of claims to the hand-in-glove relationship with government in imposing an unconstitutional mandate on all Americans through the health care law, and importantly, the history of insurers’ influence on state insurance laws, I’ve become increasingly curious regarding the whole topic of health care costs.
It’s important to understand that one of the primary drivers of cost comes directly from the mandates that each state has imposed. It’s these requirements which determine what kinds of health insurance policies can be purchased within each state. The fact is, insurance companies have had significant influence on state laws and provides an explanation for such phenomenon as why Nebraska was among the first states to require auto insurance coverage in order to obtain a driver’s license.
Nebraska’s insurance laws make it virtually impossible, just as one example, to purchase a major / catastrophic policy at anything like affordable rates. If we think of health insurance policies as analogous to a car purchase, even if you would like to buy a Ford Escort, you are forced to buy a Cadillac.
Ben Nelson and Nebraska’s Insurance Industry
And this brings us back to the matter at hand; Ben Nelson and the Cornhusker Kickback. Nelson has a long history with the insurance industry. What portion of Nelson’s career that has been spent in the private sector has been working in various positions for Nebraska’s Central National Insurance Group. In between working for Central National, Nelson was the Director of Nebraska’s State Department of Insurance.
Ben Nelson worked in the private and public sector during the period when the number of health insurance policy mandates passed by the state would have experienced the most significant number of increases. As the Council for Affordable Health Insurance reports, there were a handful of state mandates in the 1960s. By 2004, there were 1,823.
Ben Nelson’s Largest Contributors
In addition to working in the insurance industry both in the private and public sector, the industry sector that has contributed, by far the largest amount of money to Nelson’s political campaigns since 1989, is insurance, finance, and real estate, at $3.5 million. This amount is far more than double any other sector ($1.6 million lawyers / law firms, $1.5 health professionals, $1.2 agribusiness, $1.2 miscellaneous business).
Clearly, the insurance, finance, and real estate sector has invested significant sums in Ben Nelson. When looking at the sectors of contributors, when the insurance industry contributions and the health professionals contributions sector are added together, Ben Nelson has had 5 million reasons to be very interested in health insurance.
And, moving into Nelson’s effort to get re-elected in 2012, these industries’ interest and investment in Ben Nelson has not abated. In fact, for the upcoming 2012 election cycle, Ben Nelson is listed as the top recipient of the Insurance industries’ contributions to date in OpenSecret.org’s list Top 50 Industries Giving to Congress.
Nelson the Hypocrite: Gutting Medicare
Among the many things people had to find out after the health care law passed was that it guts $500 billion in funding from the Medicare program. Considering that the program was already projected to fail due to the number of retiring baby boomers that will become enrolled in the program, this provision is idiotic and spells serious troubles in future.
In this video clip, former Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey explains, in stark terms, what such gutting of Medicare means for senior citizens. (Note that it has been reported that the “end of life” elements explained beginning at time marker 7 minutes 50 seconds were not included in the final version of the bill.)
Nelson “NAY” on Debt Deal = Pure Politics
Ben Nelson’s explanation for voting against the debt debacle bill included the prominent profession of concern for potential cuts to the Medicare program. Considering Nelson’s support for the health care law – absolutely essential for its passage – professions of concern about Medicare have ZERO credibility. Shame on him.
“Gentle Ben” knows his political goose is cooked and that is all.
I will end as I began…
There is NO question that Ben Nelson should be removed from one of Nebraska’s two seats in the United States’ Senate in November 2012. The only questions that remain are…
1) Will Nebraskans finally see through Ben Nelson?
2) Will they elect someone to the Senate to take his place who will be any different?