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If You Voted for the Medicare Drug Benefit, Shut up about Health Care Reform

In Forbes Magazine, Bruce Bartlett (an advisor to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official under Bush I) points out the staggering hypocrisy of any politician who is criticizing the Democratic health care reform bill as socialist or deficit-busting, but who voted for the Republican Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit in 2003 (which the US Comptroller called “the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s”).

It astonishes me that a party enacting anything like the drug benefit would have the chutzpah to view itself as fiscally responsible in any sense of the term. As far as I am concerned, any Republican who voted for the Medicare drug benefit has no right to criticize anything the Democrats have done in terms of adding to the national debt.

A case in point is Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, who is fighting health care reform, saying “I would remind my Democratic colleagues that their children, and every generation thereafter, will bear the burden caused by this bill. They will be the ones asked to pay off the incredible debt.”

As Bartlett puts it:

Maybe Franks 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. We truly live in a world only George Orwell could comprehend when our elected representatives so easily conflate one with the other.

What makes Franks doubly hypocritical is that he is blatantly lying about health care reform increasing the debt burden, since the current bill is deficit neutral, when he himself voted for a bill that actually did dramatically increase the deficit, and cost more than health care reform.

But Franks isn’t the only one. By Bartlett’s count in the Senate alone there are 24 Republicans who voted for the Medicare Drug Benefit, including such supposed fiscal conservatives as Jim Bunning, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Orrin Hatch, and Jon Kyl.

Of course, the Medicare Drug benefit was a “pure giveaway” to the drug companies, while Health Care Reform is opposed by these same companies. So I guess that makes everything OK.


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