End Purple State Stalemate
Combined, Trump, Sanders and Carson now outpoll their establishment rivals, lopsidedly in New Hampshire. We are at the leading edge of a national political revolt, driven less by ideological litmus testing, far more an expression of open disgust for the Washington insider class who give lip service to average Americans and enrich and aggrandize themselves by selling power and economic privilege to the high bidder.
Into the weeds with a blatant case in point …
… which is the Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) safe harbor exemption, an obscure one-paragraph law written by medical industry lobbyists and snuck into a 1987 Medicare/Medicaid reform bill. The six dominant GPOs are middlemen, supplying most of the $300 billion in generic drugs and medical equipment and supplies used by U.S. hospitals.
The GPO safe harbor is unique in federal law, permitting GPOs to pay kickbacks to hospitals and hospital executives in return for sole-source contracts. This legalized banana republic corruption warps traditional free market incentives that give us continuously improving products and services at lower cost.
Combined with lax anti-trust enforcement, legalized GPO kickbacks have sharply suppressed competition, manufacturing capacity, and innovation in the generic drug and medical equipment and supply industries. Additionally, American healthcare costs are increased by at least $30 billion annually, $17 billion of this paid by taxpayers. Doctors are stuck with periodic shortages and price spikes for commodity anesthetics, antibiotics and even bagged sterile saline. Patients are subjected to unnecessary risk.
For fifteen years, doctors, healthcare entrepreneurs, muckraking journalists and a handful of Senators (Grassley, Coburn, Kohl and Leahy) have fruitlessly pressed Congress to end this corrupt, crony capitalist market distortion by simply repealing the GPO kickback safe harbor law.
Why no action by Congress? Leadership barons in bothparties get millions in campaign contributions from GPOs, hospitals, manufacturer cartels and their lobbyists. The Democrats’ lead handmaiden and recipient of GPO campaign money is Chuck Schumer, who went ballistic during a 2006 Senate hearing because GPO kickbacks were even being discussed in public.
What to do?
Repealing the GPO kickback safe harbor is but one of thousands of discrete and widely supportable reforms that would end crony capital corruption and restore government of, by, and for the people. But Congressional party barons use their hammerlock over procedure to block reform bills like these on behalf of their donors.
One simple solution is to break procedural gridlock by allowing every member of Congress to do what every member of the New Hampshire legislature can do: bring bills to the House or Senate floor for a straight up or down vote.
Under U.S. Senate rules and custom, only Senate majority leader McConnell can offer a motion to proceed to floor debate on a bill. I propose a change to Senate rules allowing a simple majority of 51 Senators to agree to allow floor debate and a vote on specific, single-subject bills. Under this special rule, debate time limits would be agreed to by sponsors in advance, only germane amendments permitted, and the right to filibuster retained. Specific, broadly-supported legislation could come directly and promptly to the Senate floor for open debate.
Subject to heightened public attention on open floor debate, wavering Senators would break from Chuck Schumer’s grip and be embarrassed into voting for a stand-alone bill to repeal the GPO kickback safe harbor.
As in the New Hampshire legislature, this procedural change would not grind Congress to a halt. It would force debate and votes on more issues. Senators would spend more time on our nation’s backlog of pressing and unresolved issues. They would stop spending half their time groveling for money from the crony capitalists who have corrupted Washington and stifled the general prosperity that would otherwise flow from free market competition.
Every citizen in our first in the nation primary state should be asking the candidates what they will do to break Washington gridlock and end crony capitalist corruption.
I’ll be speaking tomorrow in Rochester
How an Article V convention to propose constitutional amendments can save America from national bankruptcy and political corruption
Rochester 9-12 Group
Monday the 14th, 6:30 pm
Church of Christ, 336 Salmon Falls Road, East Rochester
Drug War Rethink Long Overdue
By GEORGE LANDRITH
Before the United States was a country, even before it declared its independence, the United States maintained a letter delivery service. In fact, the very first “long distance” route went between no other than Williamsburg, Va., and Portsmouth. Though the makeup of the service, which employs 600,000 workers nationwide, including almost 3,100 in New Hampshire, has changed greatly between then and now, its core function has remained the same – to provide a letter mail delivery service to every American, no matter where they live, at a reasonable rate.
Yet due to constantly evolving technologies and lack of effective leadership from the U.S. Postal Service, the quasi-government agency continues to stray far from that function. While this ultimately hurts all Americans, it especially threatens states with large rural populations, such as New Hampshire.
Today, we have other means to share information. But rural America lags behind more urban areas in internet use, which only makes the USPS that much more important in many areas of the country.
“Federal law requires the Postal Service to provide ‘a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services’ to rural areas and small towns,” the Washington Post reports.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Postal Service seems to be increasing service and product offerings in metropolitan centers like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York, while they are shutting down mail processing facilities and decreasing service in other areas.
This past January, the U.S. Postal Service announced its intention to close 82 mail processing facilities across the country, reducing post office hours, and increasing delivery times. From this proposal, the areas that would be hurt most by these closures are small towns and rural areas. “Some of the nation’s poorest communities, many of them with spotty broadband Internet coverage, stand to suffer most,” the Post analysis found in 2012 when closures were only rumored.
Because of these closures, mail sometimes travels 90 miles out of the way before it reaches its intended recipient on the other side of town. Many have questioned the strategy to close the processing facilities in light of the resulting decline in service standards, which have steadily deteriorated over the last three years. “The postmaster general doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on in rural America, and it shows,” Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of the very rural state of Montana recently said.
Examples are the elimination of overnight delivery for local first class mail that would arrive the very next day and the lagging delivery times for first class mail. According to the USPS, first class mail, which is supposed to reach its recipient within 3-5 days, failed to meet that standard for over one-third of all mail delivered in the first seven weeks of 2015.
While service is languishing throughout most of the country, urban areas are seeing a bump in services from the USPS. Recently they expanded a service called Metro Post to other cities even though it earned $1 for every $10 invested – a 90 percent financial loss. Add this to other new ventures like grocery delivery – now expanding in New York City – as well as a potential move into banking services, and it’s clear that the trend has been to cut back on standard mail service, which everyone relies on, in order to move into other business ventures in big city markets.
All told, customers may not be getting what they pay for. Considering the stamp price increases, we can’t help but wonder if we are subsidizing their ill-fated experiments.
While the USPS will fail to elicit attention from the 2016 Presidential field, the issue is still important. The tentacles of the USPS touches too many corners of this nation to ignore its problems. Now is the time for the USPS to refocus its mission and remember its rural customers.
(George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a think tank in Fairfax, Va.)