May 10, 2006


G.O.P. Sees Big Voting Bloc Flocking to Drug Program (JIM RUTENBERG and MARJORIE CONNELLY, 5/10/06, NY Times)

A few months ago, President Bush's prescription drug plan seemed to be another White House initiative going wrong. The people it was intended to help complained that the plan was too complicated. Conservatives complained that it was a giant giveaway.

This week, Mr. Bush is storming through this state, rich with older residents, as the main salesman for a plan that aides say is now emerging as a surprise plus for Republicans in a rocky election season.

Rather than angering a crucial bloc, aides say, the plan gives older voters, who go to the polls more reliably than younger ones, something that always endears politicians to constituents — money in the pocket.

"I think it's going to be value added as we go forward," Dan Bartlett, the White House counselor, said at the end of a presidential event here encouraging people to sign up for the program before the deadline on Monday. Asked whether Republicans should promote the plan as they campaign this summer, Mr. Bartlett said, "They'd be smart to."

You can excuse Republicans for being surprised that the program is working so well, both as policy and as politics, after all, we're the Stupid Party. But how can the intellectuals be surprised? Any idiot could figure out that the program -- which enormous majorities of the electorate demanded and the President was elected on in 2000 -- was going to be popular.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 10, 2006 9:49 AM

They were hoping for a repeat of the angry grannies attacking Dan Rostenkowski's limo secnario from 16 years ago, only this time with Bush and the Republicans as the targets of their wrath.

Posted by: John at May 10, 2006 10:14 AM

Yet every story in the media is more negative than positive.

They are out for blood. Every story is spun as doom & gloom. The polls indicate that people are buying it.

Posted by: Bruno at May 10, 2006 10:22 AM

And then they go to the polling places and vote GOP.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 10:28 AM

The polls indicate that Bush is not loved, and that a national majority would prefer a Dem Congress - but Congresspeople aren't elected nationally, and telling a pollster that you're unhappy with Bush's performance IS NOT the same as saying that you'd vote for a Dem candidate for Congress.

If you break down the poll numbers on a district-by-district basis, you see that the GOP would retain Congress if the election were tomorrow.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at May 10, 2006 11:08 AM

He was never loved though. He won two national elections right at 50% in the polls.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 12:18 PM

Subsidies are always popular with the people who get them. They're not so popular with the people who pay for them.

And hey, how come OJ's cheering for Bush on this issue, while slagging Merkel for doing pretty much the same thing in Germany?

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 10, 2006 12:30 PM

If Merkel had introduced such radical reform in Germany there'd be some reason to hope.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 12:52 PM

How is another expensive add-on to a hugely expensive government program due to bankrupt us in XX years a "radical reform"?

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 10, 2006 1:41 PM

It's not expensive, in fact it saves money. But, even more important, in exchange for the program the President got HSAs through Congress after twenty years of Republican futility. HSAs are the radical reform. Indeed, eventually they get rid of Medicare entirely.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 1:49 PM

"Saves money" for whom? For the recipients, not the taxpayer. The current estimated cost over 10 years is $788 billion.

Sure, maybe that helped get HSAs through, but we'll see what happens with those. Currently there's no tax advantage to HSAs in California: the Dems in the legislature don't like 'em.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 10, 2006 4:22 PM


I'm sorry, do you labor under the delusion that not adopting a prescription drug component was one of the possibilities? When 80-% of voters in a democracy decide they'll have something they get it. This plan happens to be a very good one for a government plan and does save money overall. The overall amount spent on prescription drugs will be less under the plan than it would have been otherwise, it just so happens that some more of it will spent under government auspices.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 5:12 PM

Papaya: That expected cost will turn out to be too high, as the program has turned out to be significantly cheaper than expected. But even if it were correct, how could $80 billion per year possibly bankrupt us? If growth over the next 10 years averages 3 percent, then the accumulated growth over 10 years will be better than $21 trillion. If the federal government keeps taking 20% of GDP, the federal government's tax take will increase by a 10 year total of better than $4 trillion.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 11, 2006 12:21 PM

David, as Senator Dirksen is said to have said, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." The Heritage Foundation, this month:

According to the trustees, Medicare’s long-term debt, based on a 75-year actuarial projection, is now estimated to be $32.4 trillion. Of that amount $8 trillion is directly attributable to the Medicare prescription drug entitlement.

And, of course, the long-term projections of the cost of social programs are always low, often just a fraction of the actual cost.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 11, 2006 1:46 PM

Oops, I posted without the link and without this item:

Current and future taxpayers will be faced with enormous burdens in trying to sustain the Medicare program as it is today. According to Dr. Saving, without any change in the program, Medicare will consume a larger share of federal income taxes, rising to 23.1 percent of all federal income taxes by 2020 and 37.5 percent of all federal income taxes by 2030.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 11, 2006 1:51 PM


What was the budget when Dirksen said that? It turned out no number of billions was real money.

Posted by: oj at May 11, 2006 2:30 PM

If something can't continue unchanged, it won't.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 11, 2006 5:17 PM