Friday, April 10, 2009

Who Are Washington Elites and Who are Real People?

There's a really moving story in the Nation today by Kate Michelman who is a former president of NARAL, which is the nation's leading pro-choice organization - except, I'm not sure how much of it is true.

Read the piece, she tells us that her family faces a horrible health care crisis because her daughter, who was uninsured at the time, had an accident on a horse, and her husband's Parkinson's is bankrupting the family, despite the fact that:
He purchased quality health insurance, including long-term-care insurance, so he would not be a financial burden to others. He enjoyed a long and steady career at an institution that would pay healthcare costs and a modest pension for life. Between his salary and mine, we achieved a reasonable degree of economic comfort--never wealthy but independent, self-sufficient, responsible.
The problem is that later she claims that the long-term care insurance pays only a "fraction" of her care for her husband who has Parkinson's. She also says that she can't work taking care of him, and that she struggles to make ends meet. It's a tough story, and very tragic.

But something here just smells funny. I know I shouldn't feel this way, but OK, I had to do this. So I pulled the 990's from the NARAL Foundation, which is affiliated with NARAL USA (and full disclosure I'm not sure which one is the lobbying arm) and Ms. Michelman was making more than 200k per year from the lobbying and foundation end of NARAL in 2003 after her husband was diagnosed.. So she wasn't starving, at least not what most people would call starving. And I'd be shocked if NARAL didn't give it's president some pretty darn good health care benefits.

And what's stranger, she claims in the article that "she had already stopped working" when they "recently" decided to bring her husband home. But that doesn't seem to square with this 990 from 2007, that shows she still draws more than 100k per year from NARAL for "program services" (check out page 25) even after she stopped working there. Now I mean it could be that they are helping her out in a time of crisis, or maybe she's had to stop working just this year (more on that below), but program services means she was supposed to be working.

But her story now TOTALLY doesn't square with her other part-time work as she struggles along barely making ends meet. Well first off, she does speeches, for money, with this organization who, as you can see from their homepage, are the same people who represent, Bono, Dick Cheney, and Bill Clinton, and Al Gore. Wow, a bunch of down on their luck people if I've ever seen it.

And here's her vita/bio. So as you can see she's listed as important by all of these prominent places like Forbes. She's "close friends" with Bill Clinton. And she's been making 6 figure salaries, in addition to book sales and speaking fees for a long time.

And this is even weirder - according to her story in the Nation, her husband's horrible fall appears to have occurred in October of 2008, but just two years earlier, in 2006, as President of NARAL, and after the dianogsis in 2002 of her husband and her daughter's accident she was contemplating running for the Senate. I guess the health care benefits of being a Senator outweighed her concerns about spending time taking care of her family.

And one more thing - while caring for her husband at home and her daughter, and starving, she still had time last year to endorse Barack Obama, appear on Hardball, and write about the experience in Salon. She was also a senior adviser to John Edwards (and not as a volunteer) and attacked Hilary Clinton, reported here, on gender grounds and accused her of "playing the victim card." Victim card, ummmmmmm Kate, can you talk about that Nation piece?

So my question is this - is our health system really screwed up so badly that someone who played by the rules, makes a lot of money, and has powerful friends still has challenges? Or she is bullshitting all of us? I'm open on this point, and would like your thoughts and comments. Since she's got a picture of herself in front of the capital, has worked in lived in DC forever, and worked for a lobbying firm you can guess my predisposition.

If she's bullshitting us, and playing politics, and maybe lying, then she should really be ashamed of herself. It's one thing to make a policy point, it's another to lay it on thick with personal stories and duplicitous actions in public outlets. A lot of people, a lot of decent people without her resources, overcome challenges and obstacles everyday in terms of family care. Public therapy designed to manipulate is a favorite move of political types - even if it's more like borderline fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, $200,000 is barely a living wage. Do you know how much money it costs to control the executive and both houses of Congress. Don't be a hater, Fundman.