February 27, 2006

Problem Solver

Chris, over in Craigorian Chants's computational linguistics division, points me to this Michael Kinsley article on the new Prescription Drug Benefit Plan:

The hideous complexity of President Bush's prescription-drug program has reduced elderly Americans, and their child, —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."

This is what happens when people who don't believe that government can help solve problems try to have the government solve problems. Conservatives think the government is complex and useless, so they design a drug benefit that is complex and useless. This is a basic philosophical problem. The effort is just a cynical effort to buy off seniors and enrich drug companies at the same time. There's no effort to solve the real problem. Even worse, because deep down Conservatives don't beleive in the program they make no attempt to pay for it:

What's shocking about this, more than the numbers (hundreds of billions of dollars are hard to fathom), is that Bush's drug benefit comes without even a theory about how it will be paid for. Even after nearly three decades of Republican abracadabranomics, this may be a first. A transparently phony theory at least pays tribute to the hypothesis that money doesn't grow on trees. Not even to bother coming up with a phony theory is an arrogant insult to democracy. It raises "because I said so" to a governing philosophy.

The classic Republican phony theory is, of course, supply-side economics. Every proposed tax cut from before Reagan until Bush's own has been defended on the grounds that it will pay for itself by stimulating new economic activity. This is a theory based more on faith than on evidence, but at least it's a theory.

But the good news is that seniors, who this program was aimed to make happy in the first place, are pissed. The drug benifit will hurt the GOP come November. For running commentary on the subject, check out Drug Bill Debacle.

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