Wednesday, November 23, 2005
From the Washington Post's Robert Samuelson ("Drug Benefit Disaster"):
Good policy can make for good politics, and bad policy can make for bad politics. Republicans may be about to discover this truism with their Medicare drug benefit, passed by Congress in 2003 and scheduled to take effect in January. As policy, the drug benefit is a calamity. It worsens one of the nation's major problems (paying baby boomers' retirement costs) while addressing a nonexistent "crisis" (allegedly oppressive drug costs for retirees). Its purpose was mostly political: to bribe the elderly or soon-to-be-elderly to vote for Republicans in 2004. Now it may backfire on Republicans.
Samuelson's bill of particulars is familiar to many of us, but he neatly summarizes the problems: (i) unnecessary complexity, (ii) conservative outrage over the biggest expansion of the Medicare program since 1965, and (iii) the blatant political calculation that produced a plan that will produce higher out-of-pocket expenditures for many seniors (courtesy of the infamous doughnut hole) and that is still so bleeping expensive that the costs of the program will be covered by future taxes and borrowing. [tm]