Populist rage

On Aug. 12, 2009, The New York Times ran a story alleging that the Obama White House made a backroom deal with hospital lobbyists that assumed there would be no public option while the president publicly claimed he was fighting for such an option.

I believe the story is correct, but I can’t prove it. I am one of the 300 million Americans who are not allowed to know what happened in the backroom meetings we are not allowed to attend.

There is a populist rage in the land, a rage I share when I see factories shut down, jobs destroyed and homes foreclosed while those who brought our country to a near-depression make millions of dollars, hire lobbyists to promote their greed and attend closed meetings with a Congress in the grip of special interests and a president who compares bank CEOs to baseball players and says they deserve huge bonuses because they are shrewd businessmen.

There is a populist rage in the land. The 2010 elections will be won by those who express it, but the price of victory at the polls will be integrity in public office.

Voters aren’t stupid. Polyester populism will fool no one in November. We are a nation of voters who believe we have been played for suckers once too often. We are madder than hell. The president, his chief of staff and both parties in Washington continue business as usual and ignore this overwhelming public revulsion at their peril.

When a healthcare bill is written around the paradigm of more profit for every sector that makes healthcare costs so high, to win their support in backroom meetings following endless campaign fundraisers, of course the bill fails to cut healthcare costs dramatically and draws distrust and discontent from voters.

It does no service to hold secret meetings in Washington with lobbyists and then hold public meetings in America with victims. At the end of the day the victims go home, the secret meetings continue, the abuses remain and the populist rage grows wider from the left, right and center.

Given the options:

1. I would vote for the healthcare bill.

2. I would fight hard for a compromise public option that would give states the right to opt in, and for a federal authority with ironclad authority to roll back unfair premium increases.

Members be warned: With or without the pending bill, insurers will be ruthless, relentless and aggressive raising premiums. There is no safety in hiding. Contrary to most pundit wisdom, incumbents who oppose the bill will also be punished at the polls for not preventing premium increases. Those who receive campaign money from insurers will be punished most of all.

President Obama and Democrats in Washington need to have a serious heart-to-heart discussion about what went so dramatically wrong after two great mandate elections in 2006 and 2008.

Realignment is dead. 2009 was wasted. The landslide mandate was lost. Virtually nothing in Washington has changed. The populist rage that brought down Republicans now threatens both the Democratic majority in Congress and Republican incumbents who fail to realize that populist anger is coming for them, too.

The third straight change election is coming, and nobody in Washington is safe. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.