Topics: Obamacare

Obama's corporatist contraceptive mandate

By |
Politics,Timothy P. Carney,Columnists,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Lobbying,Analysis,Pharmaceutical Industry,Contraception

The audacity and mendacity with which the Obama administration defends its illegal contraception mandate is standard fare for politics. What's distinctively Obamian in this fight is the insidious corporatism underlying it all.

Look at the contraception mandate from almost any angle, and you see the corporatism. Sometimes it's on the surface, and sometimes it's implicit in the arguments.

The contraception mandate is nakedly a huge subsidy to the industry that most firmly supported Obamacare: the drugmakers.

The drug industry has spent more on lobbying under Obama than any other industry. Top lobbyists at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in 2009 met behind closed doors with the White House and Senate Democrats, promising political support for Democrats in exchange for friendly provisions in Obamacare.

Top Obama bundler Sally Susman oversees the lobbying shop at drug giant Pfizer, which sells $7.6 million a year in name-brand birth control pills, while also selling contraceptive injections and generic drugs. Pfizer's CEO during the Obamacare debate was Obama donor Jeffrey Kindler. In a corporate filing, the company justified his salary increase by pointing to his Obamacare lobbying.

Obama's contraception mandate requires all employer-sponsored health care plans to cover 100 percent of the cost of all FDA-approved contraception. That gives customers incentives to choose Pfizer's name-brand pills, because the entire cost is passed onto employers and thus onto customers and colleagues. And of course, this means more profit for Pfizer.

Merck, which also makes birth control pills, deployed top lobbyist, former Democratic congressional staffer and major Democratic donor Mark Raabe to Capitol Hill and the White House to lobby on “efforts to gain coverage of preventive services,” according to company lobbying filings. The administration uses the “preventive services” provision of Obamacare to justify the contraception mandate. Merck sells implants and other contraceptives -- if “sells” is the right word for products that many customers now get for “free,” sticking colleagues and taxpayers with the bill.

Conceptus, a company that sells a sterilization procedure, lobbied Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services on “implementation of the preventive services provisions of the Affordable Care Act,” according to lobbying filings. The mandate covers this patented procedure.

This is just a brief taste of the corporatism that went into creating the mandate. The corporatism underlying the law's defenses is more telling in some ways.

Under the battle cry “corporations aren't people,” liberals argue that the owners of the privately held store Hobby Lobby are not protected by the First Amendment from intrusions of the “free exercise” of religion -- and so it must cover the morning-after pill, which can cause a very early-term miscarriage.

Hobby Lobby is not a publicly traded company. It has five owners: David and Barbara Green and their three children. The company's official statement of purpose includes “[h]onoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”

Hobby Lobby is closed on Sunday. It doesn't sell materials that promote alcohol consumption. The company takes out newspaper ads encouraging readers to “know Jesus as Lord and Savior.”

But Hobby Lobby also makes a profit, and so it is organized under federal and state law as a for-profit corporation. For that reason, the Obama administration argues that it is a “secular company,” and thus excluded from the First Amendment's free-exercise protections.

It's not a novel claim, but it's still a scary one: A person gives up his First Amendment rights when he is acting as a businessman.

The underlying logic here is this: A for-profit corporation -- even a privately held one -- cannot be permitted to serve a religious purpose, or presumably any other purpose besides profit. In other words, the administration is arguing that the only legitimate aim of a corporation is profit -- and, interestingly, the Left is rallying behind this viewpoint.

For megacorporations, this isn't a problem. General Electric and Pfizer basically operate strictly for profit already. Publicly traded corporations have so many shareholders that it would be pretty hard to discern any shared aim other than profit.

So this Obama administration crusade for separation of commerce and conscience restricts the freedom only of family businesses, which is good for their bigger competitors.

The contraception mandate is corporatist in the way much of Obama's regulation is corporatist: it imposes costs --both financial and moral -- on anyone who dares to go into business for himself. You're better off being a local manager of a Walmart than trying your own hand at entrepreneurship.

Sometimes people think politics is about the collective versus the individual. Most of the time, though, it's about the state versus civil society. It's coercion versus voluntary association.

Government's growth almost always comes at the expense of its rivals -- and that's good news for the corporations willing to mind their own business and leave all that morality stuff to our politicians.

Timothy P. Carney, the Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at His column appears Sunday and Wednesday on

View article comments Leave a comment