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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: If you want to control a Flexian infestation, don't leave food out in the open

From an earlier discussion of Flexians at work and play:

[Janine R.] Wedel's two key concepts [in Shadow Elite] are "flex nets" and "flexians" (I like "flexian" because it sounds like a breed of alien reptiles that I, for one, welcome, except not). I think the strength of the book will come in the examples of actual flex nets, but since I'm not all the way through it, I'll just quote the introduction on the concepts. Page 15 and following.

Beyond old boys

Like interest groups and lobbies, flex nets serve a long-established function in the modern state--negotiating between official and private. But while flex nets incorporate aspects of these and other such groupings, they also differ from them in crucial ways--and those ways are precisely what make flex net less visible and more accountable.

Four key features define both flexians as individuals and those influencers who work together as a flex net. Flexians functioning on their own exhibit the modus operandi embodied in all four features discussed below, as does a flex net as a whole. Because members of a flex net benefit from the actions of the collective, pooling resources and dividing labor, not all members of the flex net must exhibit these features individually.

Before getting to the four features (below), a pause to note that Flex Nets/Flexians arguably subsume/supersede notions like corruption, "money in politics," "the revolving door," and so forth. (Nancy DiParle is, I think, the candidate for Flexianhood we might be most familiar with: Wellstone VP -> Baucus CoS -> White House -> Big Pharma, leaving a trail of ruin and destruction, if you're a citizen or a patient, that is. We'd need to know more about her network, though).

And the four features:

[#1] Member of a flex net... form an exclusive informal network that serves as an intricate spine -- the corresponding (first) feature of flex nets. Flex nets draw their membership from a limited circle of player who interact with each other in multiple roles over time, both inside and outside government, to achieve mutual goals. While their roles and environments change, the group provides continuity. .... Members of what I call the Neocon core, an informal group of a dozen or so members and a successful flex net, have worked with each other in various incarnations for some thirty years to realize their golas for American foreign policy via the assertion of military power...

When such influencers work together in a flex net, they [#2] exhibit shared conviction and action -- the corresponding second feature of flex nets. ... Members of a flex net act as a continuous, self-propelling unit to achieve objectives that are grounded in their common worldview, and to brand that view to the public.

The corollary to flexians' juggling roles and representations is that [#3] members of a flex next form a resource pool -- the corresponding third feature of a flex net. The influence of a flex net derives in part from its members' effort to amass and coordinate both material and interpersonal resources. ... The Neocon core, for instance, is an example of how a ready-made network of players with its own private agendas can straddle a state-private seesaw...

Collectively, [#4] members of a flex net help create a hybrid habitat --- their corresponding fourth feature. A flex net's strength lies in it coordinated ability to reorganize governing processes and bureaucracies to suit the group's purposes.... As flex nets infuse governing with their supple, personalized, private-official networks, they transmogrify their environment, whether temporarily or more lastingly. While these groups might call to mind old notions such as conflict of interest, they illustrate why such labels no longer suffice. As a Washington observer sympathetic to the neo-conservatives aims told me, "There is no conflict of interest, because they define the interest." ....

(The key to spotting a Flexian, it seems, is to watch for the way they blur public and private and create a hybrid habitat; that what makes their Flex Nets different from the kind of personal network one sees on LinkedIn. It feels to me like spotting a Flex Net is a research project; I welcome suggestions from readers on how to do it, because I don't see how, right away.)

The excellent Health Care Renewal shows Flexians in transition , listing Robert Gibbs (Obama's former press secretary -> "consultant"), Daniel Fabricant (FDA -> dietary supplement shill), Brendan Buck (House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman -> AHIP), and Rachel Sherman (FDA -> drug consulant). Note that, as good Flexians, these people will all return to "public service" at some future date, even if we can never be quite sure which public they serve. HCR summarizes:

[M]aybe it has become so routine for middle and upper level FDA managers to go to work for consultancies that help industry to deal with the FDA that no journalist found this revolving door transition interesting.

Again, there appears to be constant traffic among health care corporations and the government bodies that regulate them and make policy that affects them. The traffic may be so heavy and routine that it no longer appears to be news, unless accompanied by an ironic detail or two.

However, as we have said many times before, the constant interchange of health care insiders among government, large health care corporations, and the consultancies, marketing, public relations, lobbying and legal firms which represent them certainly suggests that health care, like many other sectors, seems to be [is] run by an amorphous group of insiders who owe allegiance neither to government nor industry.

Yep. Flexians. But here is HCR's remedy:

However, true health care reform would require curtailing the severe sorts of conflicts of interest created by the revolving door.

Real heath care reform would require multi-year cooling off periods before someone who worked in the commercial world can get a job in a government whose work has direct effect on his or her previous employer or industry sector, and before someone who worked in government whose work had direct effect on a particular economic sector can accept a job for a company in that sector.

No. That's penny ante stuff. The food ObamaCare leaves out in the open is the rent extracted by the health insurance industry. Take that food away with single payer, and a great many Flexians will, I hope, shrivel and die, although some of them will doubtless display adaptability and find other food sources.

NOTE To be fair, some parasites are benign! But not the health care insurance industry, and not those who feast of the rents they extract.

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Submitted by hipparchia on

No. That's penny ante stuff. The food ObamaCare leaves out in the open is the rent extracted by the health insurance industry. Take that food away with single payer, and a great many Flexians will, I hope, shrivel and die, although some of them will doubtless display adaptability and find other food sources.

they'll all just move into the pay-for-performance and aco-management and shared-decision-making and health-IT and customer-satisfaction spheres (i've probably missed a few other, mostly dartmouth-atlas-inspired, spheres).

Submitted by lambert on

nt. If they're Flexians, they'd try to infest an NHS anyhow. What I'd really like to do is... Just have lots and lots of individual family doctors. Screw these weasels.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi