Joe Lieberman, health care and Judaism: behind the point?

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

All this talk in the Blogosphere about Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Jewishness as a factor in the health care debate strikes me as just about as off the mark as you can get.

Seems to me the point here isn’t whether Jewish values compel him to support any particular health care reform proposal or not, but the details of his stance: his last-minute 180 on lowering the age for Medicare buy-ins; his strong ties to the insurance industry in Connecticut; his testy relationship with a Democratic leadership he seems to enjoy stiffing.

And it would be a mistake to single out Joe Lieberman. In Congress,  Democrats and Republicans, Jews and Christians, liberals and conservatives, all  are heavily influenced by lobby groups that are as effective as any pro-Israel lobby group – and a lot better financed.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the stocks of big health care and pharmaceutical companies are soaring. More and more, it’s looking like their incredible lobbying investment will pay handsome dividends  in the form of health care reform that may well represent a small step toward addressing a national crisis – but which is also likely to be a big step toward greater health care industry profits.

We can argue forever about whether Jewish values and tradition compel any particular position on health care legislation, and it’s never going to get us anyplace, since different groups of Jews see those values and traditions through radically different lenses.

We’d probably do a lot better talking about how these critical public policy decisions are made and how groups with a huge financial state in the outcome and the cash to score points on Capitol Hill – and to back them up with millions in campaign contributions – are able to affect outcomes.

If we want to talk about Joe Lieberman, maybe that’s where we should start.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.