- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2009


If only we could abolish corporate greed and replace it with caring government programs and public-spirited non-profit service providers, our health care problems will be solved. That’s the plan anyway, but those who are depending on it might need to remember one thing: Corporations aren’t greedy. People are. And unfortunately people are a necessary ingredient in all the intricate plans being hatched in Congress and shaped by the White House.

Western Virginia’s Roanoke provides a perfect example of how health care, non-profits and government can run amok in ways that feature all the ills Democrats blame on corporations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Roanoke’s nonprofit Carilion Clinic launched mergers to increase market share, gave a multimillion lump sum retirement package to one executive and million dollar salaries to others just like a for-profit company, only Carilion’s activities benefited from a nice tax exemption worth around $50 million a year. Carilion’s clout grew just like a big business as it became a top regional employer and expanded dozens of subsidiaries as far from nonprofit health care as a venture capital group.

And that expansion brought in the government. With a billion dollars in assets, Carilion is just the kind of powerful corporate citizen to which local governments often cater. So when Carilion decided it wanted to expand into an area surrounded by other businesses, the city was willing to do almost anything to help them do it. Launched in secret meetings code named “Andy’s Warehouse,” the city put in motion plans to hijack the land using the power of eminent domain.

With the scheme in place, an “independent” consultant conveniently declared the land blighted so that the city housing and redevelopment authority could start stripping property from more than two dozen of its rightful owners. Most of the landowners didn’t have the money for a fight and accepted buyouts. A few fought back, and disputes over the land between the housing authority and the property owners are still in court with another ruling expected before the end of the year.

State law requires that eminent domain only be used to take property for important public purposes. But since Carilion is a non-profit, the city and the redevelopment authority can argue that handing over the land to such a public-spirited organization is a public purpose. But if the court rules that the Roanoke plan can move forward, there will be a road map for more. Virginia’s recent eminent domain reforms aimed at preventing just such takings of non-blighted land to benefit other private interests will be gutted.

So yeah, getting rid of greed would be great, but none of the Democrats’ health care plans will have any effect on that deadly sin. We’ll still have all our current problems and more. Not only do the people of Roanoke face a dominant health care provider with the power to hike their bills, the non-profit in-name-only corporation gets the benefit of government property confiscations cloaked in the public good.

This is the change we’re being sold - a change in the malefactors we get to blame for health care problems that will remain. Instead of corporations pursuing a profit being the source of problems, our new old problems will be caused by organizations that can claim they’re working for our own good.

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