Stopped consumer protections from HMOs and insurance companies
we all drown in the current media gusher about how the latest GOP
Speaker-to-be Dennis Hastert is "the grandfatherly coach" that Washington
needs, the gentle "peacemaker from the plains," the "anti-Newt" godsend in a
time of "raw partisan cannibalism," the self-effacing "healer," the "Great
Compromiser and Conciliator," the "Consensus builder," etc., etc. -- let's
at least pause to read a bit of the fine print on the guy.
Anyone who enjoys the unanimous backing of Newt Gingrich, Tom "The Hammer"
DeLay, and Dick Armey (not to mention a gleeful K-Street corridor of
corporate lobbyists) deserves a healthy dose of skeptical scrutiny, yet the
media reaction is typified by the New York Times, which hailed Hastert
yesterday as "a lumbering former high-school wrestling coach who brokers
compromises and smooths out differences by bending ears, not breaking arms,
without threats or rancor." How benign. But for whom does Dennis Hastert
lumber, broker, and bend ears -- and at whose expense?
- Even though he had a non-race in the November election (his opponent
raised less than $25,000), Hastert collected more than a million, mostly
from Wall Street financiers, bankers, telecommunications giants, energy
companies, health care corporations, and other special interests that have
been able to count on his consistent and enthusiastic subservience to their
needs on matters that come before his committees: Commerce (energy, health,
environment, telecommunications, trade, etc.) and Government Oversight
(natural resources, regulatory affairs, national security, trade, etc.).
- He was a point man for pushing Newt's "Contract with America," and
especially for defending HMOs and insurance companies from any serious
consumer protections and regulations on behalf of us patients (for example,
he was the chief negotiator trying to kill legislation giving moms a 2-day
stay in the hospital with their newborn babies, rather than the
1-day-and-out rule mandated by HMOs).
- Hastert has been a bulwark of the new Globaloney, actively supporting
NAFTA in '93, GATT (which hung the WTO albatross around America's neck) in
the lame-duck Congress of November '94, Fast Track in '97, and the Caribbean
initiative in '97 and '98.
- He opposed the miserly 90-cent increase in minimum wage in 1996, even though
the increase still means full-time workers are paid about $4,000 less than
the poverty level; yet he pushed hard in this same year to give the Pentagon
(and its weapons contractors) $7 billion more than the generals themselves
- Hastert positions himself as a strict moralist in keeping with his
evangelical Christianity, yet he opposes restrictions on the liberal flow of
corrupt campaign contributions into American politics; he has supported
legislation allowing lobbyists to continue giving junkets, gifts, and other
freebies to members of Congress; he opposes requirements that lobbyists
should at least disclose how much money they are taking from whom to do
what; and he was front-and-center and eager-as-a-beaver to give himself and
his colleagues a pay raise in 1997.
- Among the stances taken by this "gentle grandfatherly figure" are to cut
Medicare by $270 billion in order to pay for Newt's promised tax-breaks to
the wealthy; allow oil corporations to get away with more pollution of our
water; deny small shareholders the right to sue Wall Street firms that bilk
them; and repeal the law requiring that food processors not put
cancer-causing chemicals into their products.
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Albion Monitor January 11, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)
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