November 13, 1995 in Nation/World

Mielke Spurns Public Service With Vengeance

Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revie
 
Tags:column

To me, the name Johnson & Johnson has always shone as a beacon of corporate enlightenment.

A quarter of a century ago, heads of the family-run giant corporation made a huge impression on me during a lengthy interview in Spokane.

They were disarmingly gracious, candid, informed and hospitable.

Since then, I’ve followed the company’s ups and downs in the glittering world of the Fortune 500, and always they exhibited exemplary intelligence, integrity, involvement.

A few years ago, in a column that looked back two decades at the Johnson & Johnson legacy, I recalled, “They told me they cared about their people. And the environment. And the country. And when they screwed up, they admitted it, and made amends.

“They urged me to keep track of them. And if they didn’t measure up, to write it down.”

Well, here it is: I wonder did they know what they are getting when they hired State Rep. Todd Mielke?

The 31-year-old Republican from Spokane, hailed by the powerful Association of Washington Business lobby as a “rising star,” abruptly cashed in halfway through his term to join Johnson & Johnson as a health care lobbyist.

That might not be quite so sick, if Mielke hadn’t just finished gutting health care reform in this state.

The baby-faced chairman of the House Republican Caucus, dubbed “Mr. Fix-It,” personally engineered destruction of the 1993 landmark law extending health care to all. An acknowledged novice in such matters, the GOP’s hatchetman actually brought in insurance lobbyists to help legislators rewrite health care reform.

Critics - myself included - compare that to welcoming a wolf into the flock.

Now he’s joining the wolfpack. This guy knows no bounds.

Either I am wrong about Mielke - whom I do not know personally, only by his actions - or Johnson & Johnson is a different company today.

Or just maybe I am mistaken on both counts.

Sen. John Moyer of Spokane, a go-between for House and Senate lawmakers during the dismantling of reform, sticks up for Mielke. The Spokane doctor credits Mielke with coming to the rescue of some key reform provisions that moderates managed to preserve.

If not for Mielke, Moyer claims, hardliners might well have obliterated every trace of reform.

“I can’t fault Todd at all,” says Moyer.

As to the ex-lawmaker Mielke’s new job of health care lobbyist, Moyer says, “In working on the other side now, I hope he can bring more recognition to those people who provide coverage that you can’t run roughshod over people and get health care to work.”

Fat chance. Insurance companies already know health care won’t work that way. And they PROFIT from it.

Contrary to what “free enterprise” purists preach, unbridaled competition is not a solution to every societal problem.

Given the opportunity, any insurance CEO worth his multimillion-dollar bonus will exploit to the maximum any wrinkle or loophhole that exists. It’s his job to divide and conquer. That’s the law of the health insurance industry. And anyone who professes otherwise is either naive or whistling Dixie.

Small business owners are in line for a much-deserved tax break, with Senate approval of an amendment to the budget reconciliation bill that increases health insurance deductibility to 55 percent.

It’s not nearly enough.

But it’s far better than the 30 percent deduction that currently is allowed to self-employed owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, subchapter-S corporations and small professional practices.

Incorporated businesses are able to deduct 100 percent of the cost of providing health insurance.

“This deduction is an incentive for employers to buy health insurance for themselves and their families and to offer it to their employers,” says Jack Faris, president of the National Federation of Independent Business lobby. “It also reduces the disparity between millions of self-employed business owners and big business.”

Last Monday’s column on the state-subsidized Basic Health Plan for the working poor neglected to include the free phone number to call in Olympia for an application. It’s 1-800-826-2444.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review


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