The Medicare prescription drug benefit was a base political ploy, as everyone knew. Not only was it the sort of big government initiative that Republicans had been condemning for decades, but after it was written into the law books, we learned that the Bush administration had hidden the initial cost estimates of the program from Congress. The price tag has risen considerably since then, to no one's surprise.
Well, now that the benefit has gone into effect and senior citizens have begun to enroll in the program, it turns out that the benefit guidelines are so poorly written that many people can't understand how to sign up for the benefit. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this debacle of a rollout is imperiling support for the GOP among the elderly.
Here's what Michael Kinsley has to say about these aspects of the benefit:
The hideous complexity of President Bush's prescription drug program has reduced elderly Americans -- and their children -- to tears of bewildered frustration. The multiple options when you sign up, each with its own multiple ceilings and co-payments; the second round of red tape when you actually want to acquire some pills; the ludicrously complex and arbitrary standards of eligibility, which play a cruel and pointless game of hide-and-seek as they lurch up and down the graph paper like drunks. Suddenly a mystery is solved: So this must be what he means by "compassionate conservatism."
Thus Bush's only major domestic accomplishment in six years as president has not achieved its intended purpose of cementing the affection of senior citizens for the Republican Party. Many Republicans are sobbing with frustration, too. It is one thing to put aside your principles and spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on the largest expansion of the welfare state since the Great Society if it is going to help you win elections (so you can pursue your dream of smaller government). It is another to sell your soul and not get anything for it. No one looks more foolish than a failed cynic.
But, continues Kinsley, the genuine novelty of the prescription benefit is the willingness among Republicans not even to bother to pretend to be able to pay for it.