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White House ‘Official’ Bad Mouths Labor Leader For Expecting Obama To Keep His Promises

Gerry McEntee is president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). He leads one of the largest unions in America and has been one of the most vocal advocates for progressive health care reform. He is one of the few establishment figures willing to openly challenge Obama for repeatedly breaking his word in regards to health care reform.

Apparently, demanding that someone at least attempts to keep his promises is an unacceptable slight, according to a cowardly anonymous “senior White House 0fficial.”

We have had just about enough of his gratuitous slaps,” said a senior White House official Friday, calling the politically charged language “outrageous and unacceptable” from an ally — even from one that had, the official noted, devoted substantial resources to health care efforts.

“He’s doing his members a real disservice,” said the official, who said that while all other labor leaders had been careful to keep their opposition to elements of health care proposals modulated and largely inside the tent, McEntee was “beyond the pale.”

That’s interesting because the progressive community thinks Obama’s broken promises and secret deals are the real gratuitous slaps. Having a top progressive reform priority, allowing Medicare to save billions by directly negotiating drug prices, sacrificed in a backroom deal for campaign ads from PhRMA is beyond the pale.

Looking back at Obama’s campaign health care plan, it is shocking how many promises he broke without a fight. Obama promised:

  • A new national health exchange open to all Americans
  • A new public plan available to all Americans to compete with private insurance
  • An employer mandate to provide health insurance
  • A minimum medical loss ratio for insurance companies
  • To allow people to import cheaper drugs from Canada or Europe
  • To repeal the ban that prevents the government from directly negotiating with drug companies

Note none of these promise are part of the Senate Finance Committee bill. Obama has made no effort to fight for the inclusion of some of these (public option, employer mandate, minimum medical loss ratio) and months ago even made secret deals vowing to actively work to kill drug re-importation and direct drug price negotiation.

During the election Obama actively campaigned against two policies. One was the individual mandate favored by Hillary Clinton (and the health insurance industry) and the other was a tax on employer-provided health insurance which was also supported by John McCain. These two issues are now part of the Baucus bill. Since taking office, Obama has spent dramatically more time and political capital fighting hard to include these two provisions that he opposed than he has spent trying to include top progressive/labor union priorities that he supported, like the public option.

And in a double whammy, during a series of secret back room deals (breaking his promise for complete and open transparency) he has promised different industries he will actively oppose the very ideas he once claimed to champion, drug re-importation, and direct drug price negotiation.

The question is who is gratuitously slapping whom? Is it the Obama administration, which with repeated broken promises stabbed labor unions in the back? Or is it McEntee for simply calling bullshit when he sees it?

*Correction – The story originally state that AFSCME was the largest and not one of the largest unions in the country.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at