Saturday, August 29 I had the good fortune to speak at a community rally for health care reform in a city park in downtown Portland, Oregon. It was a broad-based and diverse group with many signs and placards supporting the 'public option' being debated by Congress, and others calling for 'single payer' reform like that working effectively in other countries such as Canada. Here is what I said:
I would like to begin by apologizing to all of you for the role I played 15 years ago in cheating you out of a reformed health care system. Had it not been for greedy insurance companies and other special interests, and their army of lobbyists and spin-doctors like I used to be, we wouldn't be here today.
I'm ashamed that I let myself get caught up in deceitful and dishonest PR campaigns that worked so well, hundreds of thousands of our citizens have died, and millions of others have lost their homes and been forced into bankruptcy, so that a very few corporate executives and their Wall Street masters could become obscenely rich.
I am very pleased to announce that Mary Bottari is joining the Center for Media and Democracy. She is the Director of a new project we are calling the "Real Economy Project." (You know, the "real" economy, as opposed to the faux Wall Street-driven economy?)
For those of you who don’t know Mary, she really is a powerhouse — she’s an exceptional public interest advocate with tremendous communications and campaigning experience. For the last ten years, she has served as a senior analyst for the Washington, D.C.,-based consumer group Public Citizen.
She started in its Global Trade Watch division in the months before the World Trade Organization’s Seattle Ministerial meeting. Mary was deeply involved in planning for Seattle, and she ran the NGO press center to help communicate the disillusionment of labor, farm, and environmental groups with the corporate trade agenda.
A short time ago, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a report focusing on the bank bonuses paid out by the biggest banks in 2008, the same year they were bailed out by federal taxpayers. The report notes that in many instances the bank bonuses exceeded bank profits, the implication being that taxpayer dollars were being used to subsidize the salaries of the ace banking executives who created the financial crisis in the first place.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce "has emerged as a multitasking, multimillion-dollar defender of the private sector against presidential initiatives," reports Associated Press. It's launched a $2 million campaign to oppose a "public option" in the healthcare reform plan, but -- to further the interests of the insurance industry -- wants "to work with the White House to mandate coverage for all." It's slamming the public insurance option in "newspaper and online ads ...
Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (a.k.a. the SIGTARP ) caused quite a stir in Washington last week when he released a quarterly report that attempted to tally up the total dollar amount of federal government commitments related to the bailout. Those commitments include federal government programs that spend taxpayer money or issue loan guarantees in an attempt to rescue financial services institutions and support the economy. While the administration and the media have focused on the $700 billion in bailout funds explicitly authorized by Congress, Barofsky tried to bring a little transparency to the complex array of federal programs including those of the Treasury and the opaque Federal Reserve. His report put the potential outlay of taxpayer dollars of the combined 50-plus programs at an astonishing $23.7 trillion.
Key to the Obama administration's proposal for financial industry reform is the establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The proposed agency would "have a broad mandate to cover the spectrum of consumer financial products and to fill gaps in current regulations." Not surprisingly, big business is fighting back.
From March 2008 to January 2009, the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) spent $7.6 million on public relations and marketing, to "instill confidence in the stability of the insured banking system" and mark the agency's 75th anniversary.