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Part D Republicans

Bruce Bartlett tees off on the Republicans who voted for the deficit-busting Medicare part D but now say their concern for the debt prevents them from supporting the deficit-improving health-care reform bill.

Just to be clear, the Medicare drug benefit was a pure giveaway with a gross cost greater than either the House or Senate health reform bills how being considered. Together, the new bills would cost about $900 billion over the next 10 years, while Medicare Part D will cost $1 trillion.

Moreover, there is a critical distinction -- the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers; 100% of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit, whereas the health reform measures now being debated will be paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, adding nothing to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (See here for the Senate bill estimate and here for the House bill.)

Maybe [Trent] Franks (R-Ariz.) isn't the worst hypocrite I've ever come across in Washington, but he's got to be in the top 10 because he apparently thinks the unfunded drug benefit, which added $15.5 trillion (in present value terms) to our nation's indebtedness, according to Medicare's trustees, was worth sacrificing his integrity to enact into law. But legislation expanding health coverage to the uninsured -- which is deficit-neutral -- somehow or other adds an unacceptable debt burden to future generations.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 20, 2009; 1:37 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Someday Ezra should explain why he supports repealing the drug benefit, since attacks on this benefit are what he seems to enjoy doing most in his blog these days. At least then he could show some intellectual honesty.

Posted by: lancediverson | November 20, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh those wacky Republicans! Eh, Ezra? You know, they've supported a lot of things that increase the deficit over the last few years. The rule of thumb seems to be, "If it will increase the deficit but WON'T hurt wealthy Americans and profitable companies, then we'll allow ourselves to forgo the principle of 'fiscal conservatism.'"

Posted by: Bertilak | November 20, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

lancediverson, speaking of intellectual honesty... how on earth you read this post as attacking Medicare Part D when in point of fact the post simply points out republican hypocrisy given that they inserted *zero* funding mechanisms for Medicare Part D, yet lament a bill that *has* ample such funding mechanisms?

Posted by: MyrtleParker | November 20, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Anything to keep from raising taxes on those who might actually be able to pay them seems commendable to the GOP, anyway--because who wants to help people who make less money? Jonathan Chait explains it all in The New Republic:

Posted by: Bertilak | November 20, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

so the democrats answer to the HUGE giveaway to PharMA by the Republican's is to give them MORE via the biologics 12 year time frame to generics as opposed to 5 (original) or 7 years (obama's request).

To allow them to basically skate by with the report in the NY Times earlier this week about how they've raised prices prior to their FAKE savings in reform???

Its help like that the American public don't need and no wonder Democrats AND Republicans are hated by Americans.

Posted by: visionbrkr | November 20, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but Bayh and crowd who cut taxes on millionaire's inheritances are way, way worse.

Posted by: AZProgressive | November 20, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, the guy's sounding more and more like a liberal -- I guess you can't avoid it the moment you learn how to count.

Posted by: leoklein | November 20, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr: "Its help like that the American public don't need and no wonder Democrats AND Republicans are hated by Americans."

Actually, if we do get through some form of HCR and the economy starts getting better in the jobs department, I think the Dems can look forward to New Deal style majorities for as far as the eye can see.

I feel more optimistic with every passing day.

Posted by: leoklein | November 20, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse


actually in regards to HCR I'm more worried about getting it right. I'd rather do something rather than nothing because Obama is right that almost anything is better than the status quo and pre-ex needs to end but the problem is that this bill is garbage when it comes to cost control. They could and should do more in this regard. Its a bailout plain and simple. To insurers, to Pharma and so on.

The problem is that IF you're going to do a bailout, at least call it a bailout and get something for it. All they're getting for the bailout is access to care. Any average negotiator would have gotten more.

And as far as the economy you'd better hope it starts soon because Dems are already on the way down.

also Obama's under 50%. Unless you're delusional enough to think the economy's getting better sooner than ANY OTHER economist your prediction will remain false. I'm thinking we'll be at about 10-11% unemployment and 20% TRUE unemployment around November 2010 when Democrats will absolutely lose their senate supermajority. It will take longer to lose the house but unless they start fixing things it'll happen. ANd when people start getting taxed and don't see benefits in healthcare they'll be really ticked off and look to take it out on who did it to them in their eyes, Democrats.

Posted by: visionbrkr | November 20, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to second visionbrkr on political fortunes.

Looking at the two other nasty postwar recessions (1973-1975/1981-1982), the one year reduction in unemployment from the peak was 1.6% (9.0% to 7.4%) in 1975 and 2.5% in 1983 (10.8% to 8.3%).

1983 had a lot of favorable tailwinds, particularly from significantly easier monetary policy relative to 1981/1982. GDP grew about 8.5% over that time period, easily 5% above trend. It is difficult to imagine that the U.S. economy sees that type of growth, but let's say it is possible. A 2.5% reduction in unemployment is the Dems' best possible scenario. That would put them at 7.7% on election day - not bad given the circumstances, but still a fairly high number. If they actually hit this number, the Dems might have a shot of holding on.

However, I think that even a 1.6% reduction will be tough, especially if 10.2% isn't the peak rate of unemployment. I think there is a high probability that unemployment will be 9%+ by October 2010, and that will be a disater for Democrats.

Some private sector forecasters, such as David Rosenberg (Gluskin Sheff, formerly Merrill's North American Economist), think that deleveraging and the amount of furloughed labor (those working part-time for economic reasons and those on shorter hours) could allow the official unemployment rate to hit 12%-13%. Admittedly that's fairly bearish and I don't expect 13% unemployment a year from now. That said, 11% is plausible, especially given the reasons Rosenberg lists.

Posted by: justin84 | November 20, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Plus it burdens future generations with always having health insurance, instead of having a 1 in 3 (and rising) risk of going without it for some period of time every two years.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | November 20, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

It's just like when they enacted Medicare in 1965, it was a great burden to the future generations of seniors. The seniors of 2009 can't stand it. They really wish they had to buy health insurance in the free market at their advanced age, paying four million dollars per year in premiums, if they could get it at all.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | November 20, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

--"[...] while Medicare Part D will cost $1 trillion."--

Over ten years.

I guess that answers the question in the debate about Richard Foster's expertise concerning the costs of sundry bills that took place here three days ago. His prediction was, what, half that? So, double his latest trillion dollar plus guess for our new health are fiasco.

And Bartlett has turned into a disgrace, too. I enjoyed reading him in the Wall Street Journal two decades ago, but whatever sense he had has dissipated over the years.

Posted by: msoja | November 20, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

A main point of health reform from an ideological perspective was to show that progressives policies can benefit everybody. This was to have created a constituency for other progressive change in the future. Well, that goal was shot to hell.

Today's Republicans are about cutting taxes for the rich and giveaways to corporations. Today's Democrats are about corporate giveaways and raising taxes to pay for them. Together they're the evil twins destroying our country. The health reform debacle suggests it's too late to do anything about it.

Posted by: bmull | November 20, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

The link to Bartlett's article also links to the vote. The RX drug vote should be a "case study" on why politicians are so despised. Look at who supported this new entitlement that had no pretenses of being "paid for"; and the ironies are startling! Here are some of the "yes" votes for a TOTALLY unfunded trillion$$$ entitlement: KENT CONRAD - Mr "Paygo" who constantly pontificates about "fiscal discipline". Conrad's vote is hypocrisy to the tenth power!... BEN NELSON - Another guy who rants against "government takeovers". Mr "Conservadem" himself!.... MARY LANDRIEU & BLANCHE NIXON - Did they give a fraction of the "serious study" for that entitlement as they have regarding HCR?... BRADY & BURGESS - Who are they??? Well, these are the Congressmen who blasted Tim Geithner for the looming deficit. They demanded that he resign. Geithner's retort was that they had left this POTUS with a "mess". Well, the mess can be traced to these losers voted FOR that monstrocity!.... SENATORS KYL,HATCH,BUNTING,CORNYN,GRASSLEY - These are ALL prominent GOP members of the Finance Committe. We've heard them lecture everybody about "fiscal discipline" and "the burden of the deficit that's being left to our children!". I guess the "burden" didn't really start until Jan, 2009??...CANTOR,BOEHNER,MCCONNELL,KYL - ALL voted FOR the bill. ALL are members of the GOP Congressional Leadership (?)..Includes the ranking members of both Chambers.

This vote was pure comedy. What a bipartisan bunch of losers without any semblence of a conscious!

Posted by: TruthHurts2 | November 21, 2009 4:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure what your point is here Ezra. It's all well and good to talk about the hipocrisy inherent in the Republican's positions but what about the Democratic response to this *now*. Neither side gets any points from me as far as dealing with Part D on this go around.

Instead of attacking the costs associated with Part D, the Democrats have focused on closing the doughnut hole -- which increases the government's costs for the program. I have yet to hear of a credible attempt to rescind the ban on pharmaceutical negotiations by Medicare.

Why not?

Posted by: Athena_news | November 22, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

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