opinion web
Conservative Opinion General Opinion
David Sirota
David Sirota
25 Sep 2015
Should Companies Have to Pay Taxes?

Reading companies' annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission is a reliable cure for insomnia. … Read More.

18 Sep 2015
A Fight Over One of America's Most Important Waterways

Environmental groups and Democratic legislators are pressuring New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say that General … Read More.

11 Sep 2015
Prosecution of White Collar Crime Hits 20-Year Low

Just a few years after the financial crisis, a new report tells an important story: Federal prosecution of white-… Read More.

We've Seen This Trigger Before


After a summer of politics marked by esoteric phrases like "co-ops" and "insurance exchanges," the newest kernel of ubiquitous arcana is the term "trigger mechanism." This proposal, which is gaining momentum after President Obama's speech to Congress, would have any national health legislation include provisions only allowing a government-run "public option" if certain future parameters are met. "It's an obscure policy tool that isn't even written," reported the news service, "But somehow, a 'trigger-mechanism' is the talk of Washington right now. How did that happen?"

Such shock is widespread. Pundits, reporters and activists are stunned that an abstruse scheme to halt reform has become a focal point of the health care debate. Yet, considering recent history, the only surprise is that Washington waited so long to again force this legislative cyanide down America's throat.

Recall that over the last decade, a maverick group of progressive and conservative lawmakers pushed bills to let Americans purchase cheaper, FDA-approved prescription drugs from other industrialized nations. It was (and is) a commonsense idea — other countries allow importation, and the practice helps lower health costs by permitting consumers to buy medicines at the lowest world market price, not just at an artificially inflated domestic premium.

As with today's public option surveys, polls on importation showed strong national support for the concept. So rather than murder the drug legislation outright, congressional leaders joined the Clinton and Bush administrations in backing a "compromise": Importation bills were passed, but only those that gave the secretary of Health and Human Services the power to trigger — or not trigger — final implementation. Specifically, the secretary would have to first certify that imported medicines were "safe" (drug companies promote the lie that Canadian medicine is mortally dangerous — prompting Republican Gov.

Tim Pawlenty, an importation proponent, to ask, "Where are the dead Canadians"?).

This trigger provision, of course, was lobbyists' poison pill — and it worked as they planned. Importation has never been implemented, as no HHS secretary has pulled the trigger. Hence, Americans are still barred from wholesale importation of lower-priced medicine — and pharmaceutical industry profiteering continues.

The moral of the story is that triggers are just another version of the old Blue Ribbon Commission trick. They are designed not as good public policy, but as devious political tactics to help dishonest lawmakers look like they support popular measures — all while guaranteeing those measures never become reality.

On importation, triggers gave corporatist politicians a way to seem like they were remaining true to their pro-consumer platitudes and "free trade" dogma at the same time they were strengthening an extreme form of anti-consumer protectionism for pharmaceutical companies. On health reform, a trigger will let those same legislators look as if they support a public option that increases insurance competition, reduces costs and therefore delivers on promises to decrease the deficit. But if/when the bill's final language is inevitably designed to make pulling any trigger impossible, it will preclude a public option from ever existing.

If there is any mystery about the trigger subterfuge, it is how anyone can wonder where the idea came from or why it is suddenly so prominent. After all, the same lawmakers and lobbyists who used it to kill importation are currently working to destroy health reform. As just one example, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff pushing a trigger, was previously one of the key congresspeople who portrayed sham importation bills as real progress (he was also — not coincidentally — a huge recipient of health industry cash).

"The past is never dead," wrote William Faulkner. "It's not even past." As today's trigger proposal shows, that's particularly true when a "change" election preserves the same corrupt forces, cynical tactics and bedeviled details.

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at



4 Comments | Post Comment
"pharmaceutical industry profiteering continues"

Isn't it "funny" how blatant corruption is just accepted as normal? But how could that be, in the land of the free, home of the brave? Obviously, the American people have completely lost faith in their country's "Justice Department." We don't even clamor for justice anymore, we just "look forward." If anything could be more clear about how the American people have been pithed and brainwashed--it's just amazing.

So for those who are to dense to put the pieces together and see the meaning: OUR GOVERNMENT IS HOPELESSLY CORRUPT AND IS ONLY THERE TO PROTECT AND ENHANCE THE VESTED INTERESTS THAT CONTROL IT. This is tyranny, people. Wake up! If we don't have a revolution, peaceful or otherwise, we will have (and almost formally have now) a police state (and then it will get MUCH WORSE). Check your history books! (For example, read Give Me Liberty by Naomi Wolf.) Power corrupts... See Nazi Germany. See the Holocaust, see Stalin, see "The Great Leap Forward," see your future: it will likely be much worse given our current stage of technology, militarization, and globalization.

9/11 was an inside job. This is an indicator of what the future holds. Do your research (for example, take a look at Do not depend on the mainstream media to give you accurate and balanced information. Mainstream media is owned and controlled by those same VESTED INTERESTS. What do you think you will get from them? I hope you're thinking, "well, probably only propaganda and distraction."

Comment: #1
Posted by: Bret Hughes
Fri Sep 11, 2009 9:46 AM
Re: Bret Hughes You are correct, Mr. Hughes. The only "debate" in D.C. is over which party will get the lions' share of corporate money. The Dems are just a softer, cuddlier version of the Repubs, but at the basic level, they are still militaristic and corporatist. Mr. Obama, with his beautfu speaking voice and style is the dessert to the red meat machoism of the phony country boy, Bush. Problem is, most Americans are only to happy to drink the Kool Aid, as being a consumer is so much easier and more fun than the drudgery of true citizenship. Within 50 years, failing real "change', this nation will be populated by an incredibly obese, diabetic populace, laying on their couches chewing they latest conglomeration of sugar, fat and salt known as fast food and watching our latest super duper weapons blowing up the enemy du jour, when a knock will come on our financial door, courtesy of Communist China, and then we will experience an economic shock and awe that will put this an end to this sorry tale of a once great nation. It will happen, and we will have earned it.
Comment: #2
Posted by: michael nola
Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:19 AM
Re: michael nola " Trigger Mechanism" ="KILL HEALTH CARE"!! Health care delayed, is health care denied!!
Comment: #3
Posted by: Robert Wessel
Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:44 PM
I agree. We should really move on the Iraq situation, especially before Afghanistan gets too crazy. The "plan so far" has been to focus on oil and what's best for the oil industry. I think it will soon be found that this strategy was flawed.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Ryan - Political News
Mon Oct 5, 2009 9:22 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
David Sirota
Sep. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
30 31 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 1 2 3
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Froma Harrop
Froma HarropUpdated 11 Feb 2016
Susan EstrichUpdated 10 Feb 2016
Jim Hightower
Jim HightowerUpdated 10 Feb 2016

22 Apr 2011 Beware of Vampire Squids and Their Stadium Schemes

20 Aug 2010 Insanity Is Deja Vu All Over Again

7 Dec 2012 A Picture Worth Far More Than 1,000 Words