A former Cato colleague, Will Wilkinson, made one of the most astute and powerful observations I have ever read when he wrote that, “…the more power the government has to pick winners and losers, the more power rich people will have relative to poor people.”I thought about this statement when I read a column today by muckraking journalist Tim Carney, who discusses how former Republican Senator Bill Frist is advising his fellow GOPers to surrender and give up the fight against Obamacare. But, as Tim warns, Frist is not an impartial observer. He is getting rich (or richer, to be more accurate) by helping special interests line their pockets by taking advantage of the government’s added power over the health care sector.
If you’re a Republican, and you don’t want the media to pry into your financial conflicts of interest, there used to be a simple method: support Democratic big-government policies. The latest Republican to try this rule is Bill Frist. …as I wrote in my column last year:
Frist is a partner in a private investment firm that bets on health care companies — and on regulation…. So Frist gets rich by helping pick the health care companies that will get rich. Now he’s backing Obamacare — and winning praise for it.
Look at some of the language on Cressey & Co’s webpage. “The Cressey & Company strategy applies unique insights and experience to produce extraordinary results” [emphasis added]. What “unique insights” do you think Frist provides? Another page on the site gives us a hint: “With deep expertise in the healthcare reimbursement and regulatory environments, the Cressey & Company team has invested in almost every for-profit niche of healthcare.” Stein noted Frist’s conflicts of interest, but don’t expect the rest of the media to be as thorough — after all, last year, Frist got a free pass as did health-care lobbyist Bob Dole. Sharing the stage with Frist was Tom Daschle, a K Street consultant for many health-care companies. The venue: The Bipartisan Policy Center. That’s a clue — if you hear the word “bipartisan,” there’s a good chance everyone on the marquee is getting paid.
Tim’s work on these issues is first rate, and you should follow what he writes – but only if you have a strong stomach and low blood pressure. Why? Because if you follow his work, you will understand that the worst forms of redistribution in Washington are the ones that 1) take place behind closed doors, and 2) transfer money from ordinary people to the rich and powerful.
This is the essential point of my video linking big government to corruption, though I wasn’t as succinctly eloquent of Will Wilkinson or as exhaustively detailed as Tim Carney.