President Obama serially wages pretend wars against the special interests. It’s his thing.
Currently he’s pretending to battle Wall Street. Recently, he pretended to battle the health sector. Last year, he pretended to battle the banks on credit cards. But my favorite episode of Obama pretending to take on industry might be his regulation of tobacco.
In the Rose Garden, Obama declared, “Today, despite decades of lobbying and advertising by the tobacco industry, we’ve passed a law to help protect the next generation of Americans from growing up with a deadly habit. …”
At the same time, the largest tobacco company in America issued a press release declaring “Philip Morris supports federal regulation of tobacco.”
Philip Morris at the time was not merely the biggest tobacco company in America — it was half of the U.S. cigarette market. It also was a majority of the tobacco lobby, spending more on lobbying than every other tobacco company combined according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. So we can debate the virtues of FDA regulation, but Obama can’t honestly claim he passed this bill “despite” the tobacco lobby.
Critics called the bill the Marlboro Monopoly Act, arguing that restrictions on production and advertising would further boost the market share of the industry leader, Marlboro. So far, the critics are right. From Altria’s quarterly earnings report:
Marlboro achieves record retail share of 42.7% in the first quarter of 2010
If they’re looking at these numbers, I’m sure Pfizer and Goldman are drooling over how Obama is sticking it to them, too.