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March 28, 2004

Why I Supported Medicare Bill

Bush thought passing the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill would be a slamdunk for him politically-- a Clintonesque move of triangulation that would steal from the Democratic base. Instead, it's been a disaster, alientating conservatives with its costs and alienating many seniors with it's bait-and-switch provisions that seem to benefit drug companies more than seniors.

And I was betting on this result when I advocated Dems supporting its passage.

At this point, the Democratic criticisms have essentially won the public debate-- it's too much money going to drug companies, too little to seniors. So a new bill can be proposed that spends no new money, but reallocates the existing projected spending away from the subsidies to big corporations to expanding the benefits for seniors. That kind of bill is a slam-dunk politically and, assuming Kerry wins in the fall, even the GOP would have trouble filibustering it.

But if the Medicare bill had never passed, can you really conceive of the GOP allowing a new $600 billion entitlement from passing? They would be crying about the deficit and accusing Kerry of promoting a "shadow tax" to sell everyone's first child into slavery to pay for it. It wouldn't have passed.

So here's the reality-- we won the fight over the Medicare bill. There's still some struggles left, but Bush doesn't look to be getting any political bounce from it, and we have almost $600 billion new money allocated to Medicare and the principle that all seniors should have prescription drugs provided by Medicare. That's a much better position to organize from than before passage of the bill.

Posted by Nathan at March 28, 2004 07:40 AM