I had a dream last night and it was very strange. You see, I fell asleep and landed in a conference room in early January of 2009, at some big health care, or maybe it was a pharmaceutical corporation, I’m not sure which, but what matters is, I was one of them. Suddenly, like watching myself sleep walking, I could see myself speaking in this room to the other executives. I told them, “We have a problem. We have a new president and he’s stated that he would give all Americans ‘the same kind of health care’ he has as a federal employee. Well, we can’t allow that to happen now can we?”
Addressing the stern faced executives I lead the conversation forward. “People, we have a deal already in place with Federal Health Services, which provides health care to all the federal employees. The services and products we sell them are over-regulated, which doesn’t allow us to make reasonable profits. We can’t let that system keep expanding into our profits.” Then I told everyone “that isn’t going to happen, because in the end, we’ll get our government to not offer that health care, while at the same time we get the people to vote against the idea.” One of the other executives cynically asks: “How are you going to do that if this was one of the president’s main campaign promises?” I quip, “It’s easier than you think.
“First, we’ll have a bunch of meetings with the president right after he takes office.” An older gentleman, sitting near the head of the table, says in a smoker’s voice: “You’ll have a hard time getting private meetings set up. This president has figured out we used that trick the last time with the Clintons. He’s demanding that all meetings have CSPAN televising them to the world.” Without missing a beat I answer: “We’ll tell him that we’ll make a whole bunch of concessions. But, we’ll only do it in private. Once in the room with him, we’ll promise him the moon, and that we’ll work with Congress to integrate our private, non-binding, informal agreements into the larger healthcare reform bill.”
Then I say: “How about we convince him this is complex stuff, and far beyond the scope of a president, who’s also having to deal with a financial a crisis. We’ll recommend that he turn the project over to Congress.” Well, the cynical executive then asks, “With one party owning both houses of Congress, and both being behind the idea, how do you plan on stopping them?” I laugh and tell him, “The old fashioned way, of course. We’ll buy their votes. Then each one of us has only to recommend a different plan to our representative to divide and conquer. Lets face it, the Democratic representatives will spend at least a year fighting over what to name the plan.” This causes everyone to break into laughter.
Mr. Cynical, then says, in his loud booming voice, “The media will catch on to that quickly.” I casually respond by telling him, “Nope. We just need to run more ads for our products on every channel to buy their silence.” At this point some of the other executives start to enter the fray. A quiet, gray-haired man, sitting on the other side of the room looking out the window, speaks up in a soft but authoritative voice, “You can’t stall them forever. What then?” Being the dashing, young orator that I am, I take a moment to look out the window as I think through this dilemma. While still looking out the window, I tell the gentleman, “We must give the Democrats and the president a way out; a chance to blame someone else.” The only Latina executive in the room quickly points out the obvious, “Gentlemen, we can’t get them to blame the Republicans — they lost the last election. The Democrats have the ability to pass any legislation they want without having to ask for even one Republican vote. Who will they blame this time?” She was right.
One of the other executives who hadn’t spoken yet says, “It’s not public knowledge but our sources tell us Sen. Kennedy will not survive the year. If we can hold out until he drops, we can make sure a Republican who’s against healthcare reform gets elected.” Mr. Cynical breaks into laughter and yells, “Are you mad? Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one in Massachusetts.” Without missing a beat, I answer, “No. It’s perfect! Not only will it break the Democratic super majority, but it will scare the pants off of the rest of the Democrats running for office in the November mid-term elections in 2010. By the time we’re done with them the Democrats will tell you that the people don’t really want health care. Let’s donate $20 million for his memorial center and thank him.”
In closing I tell the other executives, “Once we get that Senate seat, the Democrats and the president can blame the Republicans again, and everything is back to normal. The worst case scenario is we help them create a healthcare bill that is profitable for us, at the same time get the voters to force it on public employees so we can get rid of that federal system as well. Either way, we win and none will be the wiser. Let’s go drink some scotch and smoke some Cuban cigars.”
David Alsabery is a high performance driving instructor, closet pharmaceutical/healthcare executive and all around nice guy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.