Representative... of Big Industry

By Gus Tyler

Published December 24, 2004, issue of December 24, 2004.

After 24 years as a prominent member of the House of Representatives, Billy Tauzin left for what was another and much more lucrative job. However, the underlying truth is that he did not change his true job at all. While in Congress, he represented the pharmaceutical industry sub rosa, and now he will represent the same industry — in full view of the American people.

In the former capacity, he was the chief architect of the new Medicare drug law that might just as well have been a decree of the drug makers themselves. It is a law that would give those on Medicare a chance to buy a drug at a discount, but since it does not allow the import of drugs from Canada, it eliminates that competition, and since it does not allow for price control, all the drug makers have to do is raise the price and then allow the drug to be sold at a discount. That, in effect, is no discount at all. In short, as a member of Congress, he was in truth a representative of the drug industry.

In his new capacity, he will be the president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the chief lobbyist for the brand-name drug companies of the country. While some folks think he is doing it for the pay increase, which — it is speculated — is likely to run into the millions annually, Tauzin offered a more altruistic motive. “This industry,” he said, “understands that it has a problem. It has to earn the trust and confidence of consumers once again.”

The great irony in this statement is the fact that Tauzin’s behavior in Congress and his present move into a far more lucrative job are bound to give many the impression that he was “bought” while in Congress and is now being paid his well-earned fee.

Tauzin is not alone as a representative who specialized in “representing” an industry. Another prominent member of the House Commerce Committee, James G. Greenwood, will be leaving Congress to become president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

None of this would have come as a surprise to James Madison, one of our Founding Fathers. In his eternally fresh Federalist Papers No. 10, he notes that all governments are beset by special interests that favor personal wealth over the public weal. “The most common and durable source of faction,” Madison wrote, “has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”

And what can be done about that? Madison wrote: “The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation.”

And what do we do when the legislature itself is dominated by the greediest who care not for the neediest? Unfortunately, Madison is not around right now to give us the answer.



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