Some marriages are made in heaven, some in hell. The matrimony of Billy Tauzin and Big Pharma was definitely hellish – especially for us innocent bystanders.
Tauzin, who was a longtime Louisiana congresss critter, is a wheeler-dealer of the old school, reminding me of a Texas politico who always skated on the thin ice of ethics, candidly explaining that, “I seen my chances, and I took ’em.”
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Elected to the U.S. House 30 years ago from Louisiana, Tauzin was a Democrat who rose to become chairman of a powerful committee, where he was a faithful servant to industry interests. But, in 1994, Republicans took over the House, and Billy’s star was about to fade. But, seeing his chances, he cut a deal with the GOP to switch parties in exchange for becoming chairman of the house committee that handles legislation affecting drug corporations.
From that position, Tauzin engineered a Medicare boondoggle in 2004 that gives the drug giants a fat subsidy costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Big Pharma, grateful for the windfall profits, asked Billy that very year to get hitched. Seeing his chances, Tauzin became the drug industry’s chief lobbyist, drawing an annual paycheck of $2 million. Using his insider connections, he’s been effective at killing various proposals that would’ve stopped the ripoff prices that drug companies make us pay for our medicines.
Last year, however, Billy cut one deal too many. He agreed to support President Obama’s health care reform in a trade-off that really didn’t please anyone, especially his own industry leaders – so they have rather rudely dumped him.
So, Tauzin’s out of work, but don’t forget him. Next time you’re gouged by the drug giants, remember – it wouldn’t happen without the work of self-serving hucksters like Billy.
“One Grand Deall Too Many Costs Tauzin His Job,” www.nytimes.com, February 13, 2010.