Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lieberman’s possible secret deal

In politics, the name of the game is ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours.’ Most members of Congress, except for the very rich or very safe, are for sale. So what does Joe Lieberman expect to receive in exchange for betraying the party who foolishly handed him their vice presidential nomination in 2000 and gave him the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee? That question has been on the minds of just about every person in America who cares about passing healthcare reform. Everyone knows that if President Obama signs a bill requiring all Americans to purchase the expensive products from a handful of private insurance giants, it will indeed be his Waterloo.

There are a lot of theories out there as to why Lieberman is doing this: He is doing it for the attention, or to boost his own influence in shaping the final bill, or he is still mad at Democrats for defeating him in the primaries in 2006, or maybe he is just an egotistical jerk. (I’ll go with all of the above.) Newsweek says that Lieberman is just demonstrating how a person behaves when there has been no price to pay for disloyalty – and I agree. But if he cares little about what the citizens of Connecticut want or the people of America want, then that just leaves the insurance companies.

Richardson of the LA Times speculates: “Lieberman, who isn’t seeking office again, doesn’t care if most people in Connecticut want a public option. Nor does he care if most people in America want it. He doesn’t care if he shoots down healthcare reform entirely and destroys the best hope for reform in decades.”

Lieberman’s narcissism and vindictiveness toward the Democrats suggests that he is not running for re-election in 2012. What he is doing right now is called “securing his golden parachute.” If he rigs the game so that all Americans have to purchase insurance but insurance companies do not have any competition, he will have surpassed the industry’s wildest expectations. I am betting that he finds a cushy job with a Connecticut insurance giant when he is out of office.

Ron Williams, the CEO of Aetna, one of the many insurance companies headquartered in Lieberman’s home state, earned $24,300,112 in total compensation last year. Lieberman’s net worth, which is somewhere just under $2.5 million, makes him the 54th richest Senator out of 100. And since his last book deal was back in 2001, there is currently nothing that will give Lieberman a boost into a wealthy retirement.

When members of Congress leave office for good, those who aren’t Kennedys or Pelosis or Rockefellars do it hoping to finally make some real money. Why should Lieberman be any different? In supporting John McCain, Lieberman was probably hoping to become a high ranking cabinet member, giving him more access and potentially unlimited future income opportunities. Since that failed, Lieberman is likely hanging his hopes on the big insurance companies to give him a golden parachute.

So…now, we wait. If Lieberman has an insurance industry lobbying job offer on the table, he won’t be able to keep it secret forever. If this turns out to be true, then somehow he needs to pay a big personal price for trading the best interests of Americans for a cushy job with an insurance company.