Thursday, March 18, 2004

Congress: "Don't Blame Us, We Just Work Here."

So everyone knows now that the Medicare prescription drug program will cost at least $100 billion more than advertised ($550 billion and counting, instead of $400 billion). And the Bush administration knew this before the bill was passed, told the chief Medicare actuary to keep his mouth shut, and kept quoting the inaccurate lower number. And, as Mark Kleiman notes, it’s well known that the bill would not have passed if the correct figure had been revealed.

Of course, this means that the Bush administration is filled with lying rats. But we already knew that. Here’s what irks me almost as much: the Democrats, and many Republicans for that matter, are quite willing to point fingers at the administration, but what are the chances they will pass a bill to repeal the prescription drug program right now? It’s not too late, you know. The program hasn’t been around long enough to be fully implemented, let alone entrenched, though it will be soon. Congress could vote to repeal that baby this moment. Unless Bush actually dusted off the veto pen and struck down the bill to repeal (thereby putting himself on record as supporting the program even with the $550 billion figure), we would avoid what is widely regarded as a disaster in the making.

But that won’t happen, of course, because even with the exorbitant price tag, most members of Congress don’t have the stones to stand up to the special interests and do the right thing. And that, to my mind, makes them nearly as culpable as the Bush administration.

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