Is WMC, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Lock on the GOP Going to Stop Health Care Reform Again?

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As One Wisconsin Now showed at our comprehensive warehouse of information at WMCWatch.org, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has an ungodly lock on conservatives in the state legislature. In the 2005-2006 session, the legislature had 76 members (or 57.5%) score 80 percent or higher on the WMC scorecard. This included 19 legislators who never veered from the WMC pro-corporate agenda, scoring 100 percent.

Last session it was even more appalling. More than half of the then-GOP caucus, 28 members, had a 100 percent fealty to WMC.Over half — 52 members of the the state Assembly scored 90 percent or higher. This included every single Republican member of the state Assembly (Note: Mark Gundrum was only there for one vote and Roger Roth only there for five, but both went 100 percent for WMC’s anti-working family agenda. Note II: Jeff Wood, started, but did not end the session as a Republican.)

In the state Senate, 12 Senators — all Republicans — scored 85 percent or higher. The exceptions: Mike Ellis at 78 percent, Dan kapanke at 76 percent and Carol Roessler who retired and wasn’t listed by WMC.

The final tally: Of 66 legislative Republicans, 32 had 100 percent, one under half. Wow.

That said, with WMC and their benefactors at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, continuing to do everything they can to prevent affordable healthcare for all, our hardworking friends at SEIU put together this list of the Top 10 Historical Chamber of Commerce Quotes Against Healthcare.

Read and then ask yourself about the character of so many conservatives in the state legislature and the U.S. Congress who suckle at the Chambers’ teats like starving hyenas. And yes, we would be talking about the same hyenas who get the world’s best “socialized” healthcare, i.e., a single-payer program financed by the public.

Top 10 Historical Chamber Quotes Against Healthcare

10. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Denounced Patients’€™ Bill of Rights As Special Interest Giveaway To Trial Lawyers.  Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that 2001 of the Patients’€™ Bill of Rights ‘€œshould be called the Trial Lawyers’€™ Right to Bill…adding new mandates and expanding liability will only serve to increase insurance costs and undermine employers’€™ ability to offer this valuable benefit.’€ [U.S. Chamber of Commerce Press Release, 6/12/01]

9.  U.S. Chamber Spokesman Said OSHA Is a ‘€œBlatant Denial of Fundamental Fairness.’€ When describing the structure of the Labor Department within the Executive Branch rather than the Judicial Branch of the government, Richard Berman, director of labor law for the United States Chamber of Commerce, said “This has a chilling effect on an employer’s exercise of his right to appeal and is thus a blatant denial of fundamental fairness.’€ [U.S. News & World Report, 11/24/75]

8.  U.S. Chamber President Called OSHA ‘€œAn Abysmal Failure.’€ In 1980, Richard L. Lesher, President of the U.S. Chamber of Congress, charged, “OSHA at best has been a major disappointment, at worst an abysmal failure.” “To date, there has been no solid documentation that OSHA has yielded any gains in safety or health,” said Lesher. [AP, 4/1/80]
 
7. U.S. Chamber Spokesman Compared Employer Mandates to Jumping on a ‘€œRunaway Train.’€ In 1989, U.S. Chamber Spokesman Frederick J. Krebs was asked by the Washington Post about employer mandated coverage and said, “Health-care costs are out of control — so being forced to provide these benefits is like being told to jump on a runaway train.” [The Washington Post, 4/13/89]

6. Referring to Mental Health Parity Legislation, Chamber Officials Said Personal Tragedy is a ‘€œPoor Way to Make Legislation.’€  Complaining that opposing Republicans on mental health parity legislation put them in an awkward position, Neil Trautwein, manager of health care policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “It’s tremendous to have someone with the stature of Pete Domenici or Alan Simpson get up and describe these personal tragedies, but it’s often a poor way to make legislation,” says Trautwein. “An emotional argument late in the night is not the way to make policy.” [The Washington Post, 6/19/96]

5. U.S. Chamber VP Said Business Community Would Wage ‘€œAll-Out War’€ Against Paid Family Leave. Randel Johnson, vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the business community will wage “all-out war” against paid family leave for two reasons: First, “someone’s got to pay for it,” and second, paid leave will give employees an incentive to use it.’€ [Austin Business Journal, 9/10/07]

4. U.S. Chamber Opposed Family and Medical Leave Because Government Shouldn’€™t Be ‘€œPersonnel Administrators.’€ Discussing the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1991, Richard Lesher, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, ‘€œWe think most Americans don’€™t want the federal government to be their personnel administrators.’€ [Washington Post, 5/15/91]

3. U.S. Chamber Opposed Family and Medical Leave, Saying if Set a ‘€œDangerous Precedent.’€ Discussing the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1987, Virginia B. Lamp of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, ‘€œSometimes an issue is lobbyist-driven or Washington-driven, but this is absolutely grass roots,’€ adding that business sees the bill as creating a ‘€œdangerous precedent’€ of federally mandated employee benefits. [New York Times, 2/3/87]

2.  U.S. Chamber President: Universal Coverage is ‘€œA Very Unrealistic Goal.’€ Discussing universal health care in 1994, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Richard L. Lesher said, ‘€œWe have put that on the shelf for now.’€ He added that universal coverage is “a very unrealistic goal.” Lesher ‘€œsaid the chamber decided to reverse its policy on universal coverage because it was hard to separate that goal from an employer mandate. Since there was strong disagreement on employer mandates, universal coverage also had to be reconsidered, he said.’€ [Hartford Courant, 3/1/94]

1.  U.S. Chamber: Pregnancy Is A ‘€œVoluntary’€ Condition.  A 1978 article described the fight against the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as lead by ‘€œthe Chamber of Commerce of the U.S., the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups. They argue that pregnancy, as a “voluntary” condition, should not be equated with illness’€¦’€ [U.S. News & World Report, 7/10/78]

Here in Wisconsin, WMC has done everything it can to oppose heathcare reform — demonizing last session’s historic health care reform package out of the Senate and dispatching its lackeys in the legislature and in the conservative movement to stop it at all costs. Even if this meant racist appeals, like those from All Children Matter.

Are we really willing to tolerate our elected officials paying even a scintilla of attention to these ghouls at the Chamber of Commerce and WMC?

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Scot Ross served as Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute from 2007 to 2019.