Political Doublethink…Again.

The epidemics of amnesia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, self-hypnosis, and intellectual doublethink are on the rise in Washington—rising faster, by the calculation of some spectators, than our national debt.

It goes without question that there are things on record some would prefer to forget or never have mentioned again. Republican lawmakers, influenced by political expediency or historical confusion, presented themselves in the latter part of this year as the champions of Medicare. The glaring absurdity of GOP Medicare scare-tactics somehow passed under the radar of the majority of critics, who most certainly had their eyes fixed on the Democrats.

Just recently Senator Hatch (R-Utah) decided that he would not let the year close without displaying one more case of Republican intellectual doublethink—one so incredible that is absolutely mind-boggling to the habitual political observer who realizes that the GOP is going to ride to victory in 2010 not just on the failures of Democratic leadership, but on the sweeping epidemic of American political amnesia.

Here is a reminder: six years ago, President Bush and the Republican-majority Congress successfully passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act [216-215 in the House; 61 to 39 in the Senate], which, from a conservative perspective, constitutes the biggest expansion of government into the health care industry since the founding of Medicare in the 1960s. The Medicare drug program was passed with no new taxes or spending offsets accompanying it; in other words, it was entirely deficit-financed—who would have thought Republicans today with their fiscal hawk rhetoric ever supported such a disaster?

Just a month after President Bush signed the Medicare drug program into law, the ten-year cost estimate was boosted to $534 billion, up more than $100 billion over the figure presented by the Bush Administration during congressional debate—as it happens, the inaccurate figure secured a few more Republican votes. By January 2005, the White House Budget Office increased the ten-year estimate to $1.2 trillion—within the same range as the unequivocally evil health reform legislation that passed in the U.S. House this November!  The scores coming out of the Congressional Budget Office were just the same.

Estimates of the ten-year cost of the Medicare drug benefit ballooned as the baby boom generation began to retire and join the Medicare rolls—just as some observers had predicted. The alleged-fiscal conservatives did not roll back the program or rethink it in a way that could save taxpayers billions while assisting seniors who are in need of assistance.

The result was a huge giveaway to private industries, accompanied by inadvertent, but nevertheless, negative effects on millions of American seniors, at the price tag of at least a $1 trillion paid for entirely by adding it to the national debt for future generations to pick up the tab. Moreover the bill included advanced care planning, also called end-of-life counseling, with legislative language very similar to the supposed “death panel” language previously in the Senate health care bill (Did the Republicans forget this year that they support “death panels?”).

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office claims—not without criticism— that the Senate health care proposal would pay for itself and require no borrowing. The Medicare drug program was never even deemed budget-neutral or “paid for.”  Yet the universal opposition of Republican lawmakers in the Senate included 24 senators—over half the caucus—who voted for the budget-busting Medicare expansion in 2003 with little trouble.

These same Republicans were there for the deficit-spending spree, which include trillion dollar (the most conservative estimate) wars. So how might Republicans explain their budget-recklessness and how they can be credibly coined the party of fiscal sanity contrary to the current fiscal insanity of the Democrats?

Senator Orrin Hatch has the answer: it was a different time then. In fact, “…it was standard practice not to pay for things…We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question,” but it was justified because it has “done a lot of good.”

What if a Democrat lifted his argument and used it. Could he reply in the negative with any sort of credibility? The GOP allegedly governed in an era where it was indeed “standard practice not to pay for things” and now, with some imaginary sense of credibility and integrity, Republican lawmakers who were actually in office during the Republican-majority—including Senate Republican leadership Senators McConnell, Kyl, and Alexander who re sharp critics of the Senate health care plan— can rail against their political opponents as irresponsible?

Then again, considering the political amnesia going around, this is not surprising.

12 Responses to Political Doublethink…Again.

  • jh says:

    As to the DEATH Panels. I think we need to get straight what that is mostly in reference too. That is rationing and this scary Independent Medicare Advisory Board. Even President Obama realized that was the underlying issue when he addressed it just days later.

    We can debate the pro and cons of the Prescription Benefit. For the record I supported it and dont wish to repeal it. Also a difference is the PRescription beneift has some level of public support. This Health Care Bill does not.

    But the fact is people are worried now worried about debt. I also hate to infom folks but this is not just the FEDS giving Free “Health Care”. A nice chuck of this bill will have to be picked up by the States in the future. That is why Nelson made the deal he did. To shelter his State from what we done to the rest of us.

    THis is why you even have Democrat Governors and State legislators screaming. The Feds pass Health Care well that is great. Maybe the propenents can come on down to my State and tell us what programs to the poor, higher ed, secondary ed, and roads we have to cut to pay our part of this mandate. That is a issue now with State Budgets stretched to the breaking point.

    Besides that I think the huge issue here is not even the cost. I think it is HEALTH care is about to be turned upside down and that scares people to death.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    You are quite right in taking the Republicans to task over the Medicare drugs bill Eric. Of course many grassroots Republicans, including yours truly, vehemently opposed it. It was precisely this type of spending under Bush that convinced many Republicans that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans on spending. The current administration is proving how erroneous that belief is.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Eric, you’ll get no arguments from me on this. Hatch and his cohorts in the Senate, along with President Bush, rightly deserved to be raked over the coals for this boondoggle. As Donald says, it’s part of the reason the GOP eventually lost its majority (no, not the only or main reason, so let’s not repeat that argument from a few weeks ago).

  • Blackadder says:

    The result was a huge giveaway to private industries, accompanied by inadvertent, but nevertheless, negative effects on millions of American seniors

    What are the negative effects to which you refer?

  • I have a feeling that the “huge giveaway to private industries” rhetoric is what will be dusted off in 2014 when insurance premiums are higher than now and insurers report record earnings after the first year of enforcement of the health care mandate.

    At that point, there will be calls for price controls.

  • I do agree it’s hypocritcal of Republicans to apply budget hawkishness now but not under Bush (in that I wish they’d kept the budget balanced then as well) but at the same time I think it would be highly unrealistic to accept Senate bills CBO projections when they’re based on projections that no one really believes (cuts in MediCare payout rates that simply won’t/can’t happen). Once/if we get to implementation, we’ll get the real bill, which will probably make the prescription drug benefit look downright cheap.

  • Pinky says:

    Credit where credit is due: Senators Ensign, Graham, Gregg, and McCain voted against both bills. Richard Burr and Jim DeMint voted against the 2003 bill as Representitives and the current bill as Senators. (MS Word crashed while I compared the list of congressmen who voted against both. Feel free to look up your members and REMEMBER their votes in November.)

  • Tony says:

    The GOP allegedly governed in an era where it was indeed “standard practice not to pay for things” and now, with some imaginary sense of credibility and integrity, Republican lawmakers who were actually in office during the Republican-majority—including Senate Republican leadership Senators McConnell, Kyl, and Alexander who re sharp critics of the Senate health care plan— can rail against their political opponents as irresponsible?

    If course they could. They would be a tad hypocritical, but they would be correct. It would be like President Clinton railing against adultery. The truth of what he speaks is not changed by any of his past actions to the contrary.

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