Did Big Pharma Buy Senator Sinema A Fluff Piece In The Washington Post? – OpEd


That’s what readers of the paper must be asking after seeing this piece on Friday morning. The headline of the piece features her quote, “no one tells me what to do,” when in fact there is ample evidence that the pharmaceutical industry and rich contributors tell her exactly what to do.

Sinema has made herself famous this year by refusing to go along with tax hikes on rich people and corporations or limiting the patent monopolies given to prescription drug companies by negotiating prices. As a result, it is much more difficult for the Democrats to find offsets for the spending increases in the Build Back Better (BBB) bill.

The piece allows Sinema to tell her story on taxing the rich with zero pushback against obviously untrue statements. Sinema had voted against the Trump tax cuts when she was a member of the House in 2017, but now is refusing to go along with Democratic efforts to take back most of these cuts.

The piece tells readers:

“Sinema said her goal had been to ensure that any revenue-raising measures in the bill [BBB] are focused on ‘maintaining American competitiveness and ensuring that businesses of all sizes in America, and particularly in Arizona, have the ability to grow and to compete.’”

It would have been worth mentioning here that there is zero evidence that the Trump tax cuts had any notable effect in boosting the competitiveness and ability for growth of businesses in the United States or Arizona. This means that Senator Sinema is either completely ignorant of recent economic history, or lying. In this context, it might have been worth mentioning that Senator Sinema has been engaged in some recent fundraising efforts from very wealthy donors.

It might have also been worth mentioning Senator Sinema’s contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. Incredibly, the piece does not mention at all Senator Sinema’s successful effect to block negotiations on most drug prices to bring our prices more in line with the rest of the world. Reducing drug prices could have paid for much of the cost of the BBB bill. Senator Sinema had campaigned on reducing drug prices in her 2018 senate race.

The piece also allowed Sinema to make contradictory assertions about her concerns with deficits and inflation. After boasting that she had warned about inflation from the spending in the American Recovery Act, which was approved in February, the piece quotes Sinema:

“When we were drafting the bipartisan infrastructure law, we specifically took care to include shovel-ready projects that would be ready to start moving as quickly as possible.”

If Senator Sinema is actually worried about the current inflation then absolutely the last thing she should want are “shovel-ready” projects. Such projects would mean more spending now, further increasing demand at a time when Sinema is complaining that we have too much demand and that it is causing inflation. To be consistent, Sinema should want spending that will take place several years down the road, when presumably inflationary pressures will have eased.

The piece also noted Sinema’s opposition to ending the filibuster. She argued her case in a Washington Post column earlier this year.  Incredibly, the column never acknowledged the filibuster’s origins as a legislative tool to protect slavery, or its more recent usage to protect Jim Crow laws and to block civil rights measures. Other democracies don’t allow a minority to block measures that are favored by an overwhelming majority of a legislature and an even larger majority of voters, given the structure of the Senate. It would have been reasonable for the Post interviewers to press Senator Sinema on this issue, if this had been a serious interview.

Most members of the Senate cannot get this sort of fluff piece to present themselves as brave political figures standing up to their party and the political winds. It is hard to see a good reason why the Post felt that it should let Senator Sinema present herself this way.

This first appeared on Dean Baker’s Beat the Press blog.

Dean Baker

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy.

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