The Prescription Drug Cost Program

Ok, time to put on my anti-Bush hat.

This NY Times op-ed by David Brooks has me pretty annoyed at Bush.

In the past months we have learned that the prescription drug benefit passed last year is not going to cost $400 billion over 10 years. The projections now, over a slightly different period, are that it’s going to cost over $700 billion. And these cost estimates are coming before the program is even operating. They are only going to go up.

That means we’re going to be spending the next few months bleeding over budget restraints that might produce savings in the millions, while the new prescription drug benefit will produce spending in the billions.

That means that as we spend the next year trying to get a grip on one entitlement, Social Security, we’ll be launching a new one that is also unsustainable.

Over the next few months we will be watching a government that may be millions-wise, but trillions-foolish. We will be watching a government that sometimes seems to have lost all perspective – like a lunatic who tries to dry himself with a hand towel while standing in a torrential downpour.

And much of this new spending will go to people who have insurance to pay for their drugs.

In Congress, some are taking a look at these new cost projections and figuring that maybe it’s time to readjust the program. In the House there are Republicans like Mike Pence and Jeff Flake (whose predictions of this program’s actual cost have been entirely vindicated by events). In the Senate there are people like Judd Gregg and Lindsey Graham. These fiscal conservatives want to make the program sustainable.

Perhaps the benefits should be limited to those earning up to 200 percent of the level at the poverty line. Perhaps the costs should be capped at $400 billion through other benefit adjustments. These ideas are akin to what the candidate George Bush proposed in 2000.

But the White House is threatening to veto anything they do![Emphasis Mine] President Bush, who hasn’t vetoed a single thing during his presidency, now threatens to veto something – and it’s something that might actually restrain the growth of government. He threatens to use his first veto against an idea he himself originally proposed!

Now, it’s possible that there’s more to this story than is apparent, and there are some good reasons for Bush to behave this way. But, I doubt it.

I suspect he views attempts to control this program as threatening the integrity of his promises. Well, I think he is his integrity’s own worst enemy in this case.

And the harder he opposes reform, the less integrity he’ll have left.

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