Rick Sanchez who's show is generally a mixed bag between trying to act like an actual journalist and just the usual CNN hackery, did something I don't see enough of on CNN, or any of the cable "news" networks for that matter, when interviewing Rep. Anthony Weiner. He asked him about the money flowing from the health care industry into the campaign coffers of politicians.
I'm sorry the conversation didn't lead to a discussion about public financing of political campaigns, which would put a stop to politicians feeling the need to chase after money from wherever they can get it to continue being re-elected. If our system of legalized bribery doesn’t change, I don’t see things getting any better for the average citizen out there any time soon.
SANCHEZ: I don't know what to say.
It appears that you, as a Democrat, as a guy who likes this public option, who likes getting the government involved in this thing, you're losing. And it may be because you began five yards behind the finish line. I mean, didn't you give the health insurance companies a huge big start by beginning the debate with universal health care off the table and the public as something we might do, but we really don't want to do it?
WEINER: Well, one thing for sure is, everything the health insurance industry has asked for in the Finance Committee up to now, they have gotten. It's a good playing field for them. We in the House are going to keep pushing for a public option. And frankly the president, who's our cleanup hitter, ultimately I believe is going to wind up mediating this dispute, and he says he wants a public option.
But you're exactly right. The real easy answer here is Medicare for all Americans. We give it to people who are 65. Why not 55? Why not 45? Why not do it? It's a low-overhead program. Sure, it has a financing problem, but so does all insurance at this point.
But at least we know it has very low overhead. We're not putting any into profits or advertising. So, that really was the smart place to start. We didn't. But we are going to try to get closer to that in the final product.
SANCHEZ: Let me just be real blunt with you real quick.
Hey, Dan, you there? Put that side panel back up. As the congressman was talking, I was looking into how much -- you mind if I do this? I want people to know how much money you have gotten from the people who contribute to your campaigns.
I want them to know how much money you have gotten. In fact, I took the figures out. I'm doing this all the time now, because I'm seeing this -- maybe it's a coincidence, but I'm just seeing this thing where people who get a lot of money from these corporations, they tend to vote one way.
People who don't get a lot of money, they kind of vote another way. I don't know. Call me crazy. So, let me just go through what you get, right? This is you. This is Anthony Weiner. Health insurance corporations gave you $21,000. Health professionals gave you $131,000, health institutions, $46,000. PhRMA gave you $7,000.
All in all, you have gotten $207,439. And that's according to what? Angie, is that Common Cause we got that from? Common Cause.
All right. That's probably right, right? That's probably about right?
WEINER: Who, me? I have no idea. You didn't up what I got from Time Warner. Did I get money from you guys?
SANCHEZ: Oh, stop that.
WEINER: Why didn't I?
WEINER: Listen, whatever it is, if I'm getting money from the health insurance companies, they're not giving it to me anymore, because no one can accuse them of influencing me.
SANCHEZ: Hold on. Hold on. I'm on your side here. I'm about to show viewers the difference between a guy who fighting them -- because it looks to me -- we have checked -- just about everybody gets money. It's a question of how much money you get.
I want to show you somebody else now. I'm going to show you somebody on the other side. Let's pick Representative Eric Cantor. He seems to be the antithesis of you. English is my second language, by the way.
SANCHEZ: Ready? Eric Cantor, let's check him.
He got $478,000 from health insurance companies, $535,000 -- let me put my glasses back on -- $535,000 from health professionals, $218,000 from health institutions. PhRMA gave him $278,000, for a whopping $1.5 million.
I don't know, call me crazy, but here's a guy who says let the health insurance and the corporations handle this. Then I'm talking to you, a guy who's saying, no, we in the government should step up.
And is it just a coincidence that the guys who are pushing for health insurance to deal with this are getting a lot of money from the health insurance companies, or am I nuts?
WEINER: No, look, you aren't nuts. The fact of the matter is, the health insurance industry has enormous sway in Washington because, frankly, they donate a lot. But also, they represent the status quo. What we're trying to do here is shake up the status quo a little bit.
You want to monitor something interesting? Take a look at how health insurance stocks have done and how they're going to do now that the Senate has voted down the public option in their committee. You can almost see a direct correlation. But frankly...
SANCHEZ: You mean they're running -- if you and I were to go to a health insurance company right now, they would be walking around in their underwear high-fiving each other?
WEINER: Well, I'm not sure...
SANCHEZ: Or with underwear on their heads? You know, celebrating, lampshades, whatever it's called in those commercials?
WEINER: I'm not sure they're not wandering around in their underwear anyway. But putting that aside, look, there is no doubt about it, on a serious tip here. There is no doubt that the public option is not going to make health insurance wealthy. So, that's why they're lobbying so hard to stop it.
Up until now, we have made remarkable progress, all things being equal. The health committees in the House of Representatives have all pushed for a public option. Nancy Pelosi said she's going to have one in. And the president of the United States, if he gives the word and puts the finger on the scale, we're going to wind up having that and all American citizens will benefit.
SANCHEZ: The problem it, it really tends to be something that a lot of Americans want. So, Americans don't have as much -- their pockets aren't as deep as the people who don't want it. Let's just leave that at that.
By the way, I heard you say 30 percent of the money that I pay -- I think I heard you say this on Bill Maher the other night. Thirty percent of the money that we, as Americans, pay for health care goes to the insurance companies.
If we're giving them 30 percent, then they must just be doing a bang-up job, right? I mean, they have got to be giving us the best damned health care system in the world, because even Tony Soprano, even Gambino doesn't charge 30 percent juice for protection.
WEINER: Well, let's remember something about that number. They're not doing any checkups. They're not operating on anyone. They're not actually providing any health care, they're just taking our money and giving it to doctors and hospitals, and pocketing some on the side.
SANCHEZ: So they're charging 30 percent o move the money from here to there?
WEINER: Yes. It's not always 30 percent, but that's about the range.
It's about $300 billion each and every year that doesn't go into health care or doesn't go into cutting taxes or building roads. It goes into health insurance profits.
But make no mistake about it, that's their job. They're doing what their shareholders want them to do, taking in as much money as they can and paying as little out as they can. The only issue is whether or not we in Congress should be advocating for the shareholders of those companies, or whether we should be advocating for the taxpayers and the patients. That's why a public plan that has about a four percent overhead is a much better deal for taxpayers.
SANCHEZ: Wow. I could talk to you for a while.
By the way, did I really just say a little while ago that they were running around with their underwear on, high-fiving each other?
WEINER: Well, like I said, you have no idea what goes on in health care companies nowadays.
SANCHEZ: Can we erase that, by the way?
Congressman Weiner, thanks for being with us. We'll do this again. OK?
WEINER: Muchas gracias.