Friday, November 27, 2009

Schumer's Multi-Monopoly Positions Unhealthily Muddy Debate on an Issue With Left, Right and Center Appeal

Global warming, health care reform, complex scams to transfer wealth to already rich politically connected subsidy seekers: It can all get quite complex and the vested interests that oppose the public good know that they can tranquilize the public into soporific political inaction if they confuse the debate sufficiently. Health care reform is a case in poignant point: What should have been a relatively clear dialogue about what was good economics and best for the people has bogged down in confusion, with polls showing a shift. Initial strong support for health care reform has ebbed as Americans are increasingly misled and bewildered by manufactured non-issue, like “death panels.” Democrats like New York Senator Charles Schumer are attempting to interject clarity into the discussion, but politicians who are compromised by their inconsistencies have trouble delivering a clear message. Remember the amount of money spent to create public confusion is immense.

Monopolies: A Chance to Find Evil Left, Right and Center

We bring this up because this week we found Senator Schumer talking about an issue that is near and dear to our economics-loving heart: The evil of monopolies. No dummy, Senator Schumer is apparently quite aware that the issue should appeal “left, right and center” across the entire political spectrum. Problem is that Senator Schumer has a monopoly-supporting skeleton in his closet, one we have been speaking out against strenuously: Forest City Ratner’s proposed mega-monopoly in Schumer’s hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Jeepers, not only is Atlantic Yards in Schumer’s own borough, he might even be able to see it from where he lives in nearby Park Slope. Schumer can’t dodge knowledge of the ugly details of this scam.
(For more on image of proposed Forest City Ratner mega-monoploy above, see: Saturday, November 21, 2009, Mapping Out Forest City Ratner’s Monopolistic Strategy of Subsidy Collection.)

WNYC and Face the Nation on Sunday

Sunday afternoon WNYC’s radio news introduced other significant coverage (on All Things Considered) of the health care reform debate now at a critical juncture in Washington with a report on how Senator Schumer was emphasizing that the public option is an important part of having competition necessary for a functional health care system. We heard this introductory commentary from WNYC (emphasis supplied):
New York Senator Charles Schumer says health care reform that includes a public option can pass the Senate. He stresses a public option is crucial to guarantee competition:
WNYC then inserted a clip from CBS’s Face the Nation where Schumer had made his point earlier in the day. This is what the Senator said on Face the Nation (emphasis supplied):
Here’s the reason we need a public option. And we do, we very much do. The insurance industry is about the most highly concentrated industry in the country. In many states eighty-one percent of the insurance is by one company. In forty states two companies dominate. When there is no competition or very little competition, every economist left, right and center will tell you, the costs go way up. And that’s what’s happened here. So you need to inject some competition into the insurance industry. The best way to do that is a public option. And the program that we’ve put together is set up by the government, but then it’s on its own. There is no intent for it to compete unfairly against private insurance. . . . But I came up with the idea and the HELP Committee adopted it as well of a level playing field public option.
(Transcript available in addition to the video.)

Noting the quote was from the CBS program, WNYC wrapped up commenting:
Schumer says he is assuring his more conservative Democratic colleagues that the public option included in the Senate bill is "modest" and not the first step in a government takeover of the insurance industry.

Schumer is also reminding fellow Democratic senators that the bill would allow states to opt out of the public option.

He asks that they not prevent his constituents in New York from getting the public option they desire.
Schumer: Does He or Doesn’t He?

So does Senator Schumer believe in the evils of monopolies, like almost everyone in their heart of hearts does? Does he believe "his constituents in New York" deserve the protection of competition? If so, why does he support that the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly? In our last post we made the point that “Once upon a time the U.S. Supreme Court went out of its way to say that one of the rare purposes for which eminent domain could be used was to break up land that was overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of a few private landowners” yet public agencies supported by Senator Schumer are “doing the opposite: Using eminent domain to artificially concentrate monopoly ownership in the hands of Forest City Ratner.” (See: Wednesday, November 25, 2009, Picturing What Could Have Been Said If Public Officials Accepted Public Comment at the Atlantic Yards Bond Approval Meeting.)

Consider Who Is Telling You to Believe in Monopolies

Why would anyone believe that Atlantic Yards is good? Not because of the highly suspect studies funded at the instigation of and paid for by the developer. On Face the Nation Senator Schumer pointed out that “studies” bought and paid for by the industry involved ought to be rejected. Here is what he said about the health care reform study that Senator Jon Kyl was trying to promote as persuasive in the same Face the Nation debate:
Let me answer that. First the Lewin study, which Jon cites is widely discredited for one good reason--they’re fully funded by United Health, a health insurer.
Schumer went on to counter that the appropriate study figures to reference should be those of the Congressional Budget Office because “they’re not funded by anybody. They’re impartial and we both go by their readings.” Promoting the study of the CBO because they are impartial (which is definitely a good thing) is like, in the case of Atlantic Yards, promoting the figures of the NYC Independent Budget Office for the same reason: that they are impartial. These findings of the IBO which Bloomberg and the state agencies in service to the developer Forest City Ratner have summarily rejected says that the basketball arena those agencies are about to finance for the developer will be a $220 million net loss to the public.

Objections to the ACORN Endorsement, Left, Right and Self-Centered

That doesn’t leave Schumer with much reason to be supporting Atlantic Yards. It sort of forces one to go back to our story about how when the Senator was cornered about the subject of Atlantic Yards in a neighborhood barbershop he fled, saying that he had just accepted what ACORN told him about the project. (See: Monday, January 12, 2009, The Prospect of Caroline Kennedy as a New York Senator.) We previously discredited the way that ACORN sold out the community on Atlantic Yards but these days reliance on ACORN is not what politicians appealing to the left, right or center should want to be doing, given all the more recent events that have conspicuously brought to fore ACORN’s perpetually self-serving nature.

A Sad Forking Result

“Speaking with a forked tongue” was once frequently used as a term to describe lying. Whether or not it is strictly lying, speaking of the evils of monopoly as you follow a forking path, where sometimes you support monopolies while sometimes you don’t confuses the public dialogue. When the dialogue is allowed to be confused with such inexplicable compromises of integrity the wrong side wins far too often in this world.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Shumer has a tough time keeping his own thoughts straight. He needs to refer to the history of the public option in the United States before trying to figure out which way he'll fall on any certain day.