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— If you were given the responsibility for running our country and you were expect ed to "save" us from ourselves - our greed - what would be your first priority? Who would you surround yourself with as advisors (cabinet members) and do you know enough well-informed, trustworthy people to establish a Cabinet?

Healthcare is an extremely important topic to all of us and a reformed healthcare program is extremely critical to those who have no insurance and just enough in the way of assets to lose everything if they get really ill.

But, if someone is recently unemployed, facing foreclosure on their home and are contemplating bankruptcy due to overwhelming debt, is healthcare reform really the higher priority or is the job market and the economy of greater concern? Doesn't that perhaps help explain why so many people at the town hall meetings have been changingthe topic from health care to the economy?

Now that U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has brought forth his long-awaited and much-anticipated proposal on healthcare reform, the days and weeks ahead are going to be filled with questions and a lot of questionable answers.

When it turns out the chief architect of the reform bill is the second highest recipient of campaign contributions from drug companies, how can we believe he wrote the proposal without them in mind? This is to be yet another Washington proposal where the devil is in the details, and/or the fine print and/or what is not defined or spelled out clearly.

Those are the loopholes or omissions written by lawyers for lawyers.

In the recent Associated Press article "The Influence Game: Health Interests Fund Senators," Alan Fram gives some interesting numbers concerning the campaigncontribution game played by the healthcare industry.

When you look at the total dollars contributed to the senators on the Senate's Finance Committee, it is easy see why none of the elected members want term-limits Congress. There are laws rules about what an elected member of Congress can ac cept and how they can spend that contribution. However, I doubt much of the money given to the senators mentioned in the article was in a Motel 6 as they traveled while campaigning, and I doubt they had their meals at McDonald's or the local drive-in.

According to this article (you can find the entire article by searching Google), the amount of money that come to the six members of the Senate Finance Committee totals $10.6 million since 1989. That is an average of $1.7 million per senator over that span - that provides a lot of "campaigning" and who would want to relinquish that benefit without a fight?

The healthcare industry is not responsible for all of that amount, but the article states they gave nearly $2 million to those senators. The article states that "Health insurers alone have donated at least $42 million to lawmakers." (That would be all members of Congress and the presiden tial candidates.)

I would love to be able to believe that the contributions from the sources that benefit from our nation's healthcare industry - drug companies, hospitals, doctors, etc. - do not affect the way in which legislation is written. The truth is, I am not that naÃive!

There is no way they willconvince me that playing golf with the CEO of a drug manufacturing company at a private country club doesn't influence the guest. Going out on a private (or corporate) yacht for a weekend to fish, swim and tan is a privilege most of us will never enjoy but, corporate interests that can make the kind of campaign contributions mentioned earlier, pay their top executives to provide that kind of entertainment.

As far down the executive totem pole that my position held, I attended an opening of a steel company's new plant.

The entertainment was from Las Vegas, the length of the bar was measured in hundreds of feet, and the guest list included Wall Street bankers and politicians as well as a few lowly people like myself.

Who wouldn't be impressed to be a part of that luxury?

If money could buy it, and it was not illegal, it was available. And for those in powerful positions probably eventhe illegal, immoral and unethical was available. Senators can deny that those perks of their position have any influence on their activities or voting practices, but they will not convince me until all Hell has frozen over. There is an interesting portrayal of a senator in the movie "The Godfather II" which is probably an exaggeration, but the moral of all of this is simply that we are all human. It takes a very strong person of devout character to withstand the influence of the wealth and pleasure of the world.

I believe we are at the point in this nation's development when we need to pay honor to our veteran congressional officials for their service and establish term limits. Failing that, we need to provide a means of electing new leaders at the ballot box by voting against incumbents at some period in their service so the likelihood of lobbyists swaying them toward special interests is reduced.

Opinion, Pages 4 on 09/23/2009

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