Under a headline declaring, "Waxman Convenes the First Death Panel," The Wall Street Journal's John Fund suggested on March 30 that Rep. Henry Waxman is holding a hearing looking into several corporations' assertions about prescription drug costs related to health care reform because Waxman "is furious that large companies such as AT&T, Caterpillar and Deere are obeying SEC disclosure laws that Congress passed in the wake of the Enron scandal." Fund wrote:
Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, is furious that large companies such as AT&T, Caterpillar and Deere are obeying SEC disclosure laws that Congress passed in the wake of the Enron scandal. The three companies were the first of many to take sizeable write-downs because the heath-care bill effectively poses a new tax on retiree drug-benefit plans. Benefit consultants say the new tax could reduce corporate profits by as much as $14 billion.
But Mr. Waxman will have none of it. He wrote to the heads of the three companies summoning them to testify at an April 21 hearing: "The new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs, so your assertions are a matter of concern." The letter reminded one business reporter of Darth Vader's famous line in "Star Wars" that he found an underling's actions "disturbing" -- just before he strangled him. The Waxman letter was accompanied by a lengthy request for documents that he demanded be produced for the star-chamber hearing.
The subhead of Fund's post similarly states that Waxman "is denouncing businesses for complying with the law." But Fund's suggestion that Waxman is conducting a hearing simply because these companies "are complying with the law" is ridiculous.
Fund himself quotes from a letter Waxman wrote to several CEOs requesting their testimony that makes clear the intent of the hearing isn't to probe why these companies released these figures, but, rather, to discuss the figures themselves. As Media Matters has noted, Waxman wrote in his letter to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson that AT&T's recently announced write-down is "a matter of concern" because "[t]he new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs" and that AT&T's numbers "appear to conflict with independent analyses," such as those estimated by the Congressional Budget Office and the Business Roundtable.