Monday, June 17, 2002
Drugs for old-fogies: Adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare has been a topic of debate since the 2000 election. Both parties, in order to pander to the vast majority of senior citizens who vote, have said they're for it.
The Democrats have a plan.
The Republicans have a plan.
The Republican plan is cheaper.
The Democratic plan is better.
At least, that's the analysis from the New York Times' most "enlightened" columnist, Paul Krugman. But Krugman isn't really too concerned about the prescription drug coverage debate. What he is concerned about is taxes.
My wish is this: That Krugman would go on Crossfire and answer the Bob Novak question(tm). (For the record, the question is: Do you believe Americans are overtaxed or undertaxed?)
I suspect Krugman's answer would be "undertaxed," but someday I'd like him on the record anyway.
In Tuesday's piece, Krugman proposes reinstating the estate tax and rolling back the big Bush tax cut (again) to pay for the Democrats' prescription drug plan.
The Senate Democratic plan would cost about $500 billion over the next decade; if we could afford that $1.35 trillion tax cut, we can afford prescription drug coverage — and if we can't afford both, why not reconsider some of the tax cut? Just by canceling future cuts for the top income tax bracket, and retaining current taxes on estates over $3 million, Congress could save enough revenue to pay for the Senate Democrats' plan — and adversely affect only a handful of very affluent families.
Of course, it's a good thing we don't have Krugman in Congress, because just last month he spent the same money on increased aid to Africa. I hate to presume, but Krugman really needs to brush up on the whole opportunity costs principle.
To be honest, when it comes to this issue I couldn't care less. Krugman says that despite the fact that both parties say that they want to provide prescription drug coverage, when the dust settles seniors will get nothing.
Oh, well. I know, I'm a heartless bastard. But would someone answer me this: Why haven't I seen any stories about some little old lady dying because she couldn't afford drugs that would keep her alive? I know that we're not supposed to suggest this, but where are the private charities? Isn't this a need that they could provide for? I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect that the reason we haven't seen a "60 Minutes" or Times piece on some poor little old lady who died because she couldn't afford her pills is because some charity does step in before it gets that far.
I suspect that the seniors yelling loudest for prescription drug coverage are the ones who are outraged that they won't be able to spend 6 months a year on the road in their 60-foot recreational vehicle and afford their medicine.
How is this for a possible solution/middle ground -- I can go for the Democrats' plan (actually there are two versions, one from House Democrats, one from Senate Democrats) with one caveat -- means testing for Medicare. Krugman's always so keen to stick it to the rich, why don't we have means testing for Social Security and Medicare? Seriously, why should I be funding Ken Lay's retirement? Or Ted Turner's?
But I do have to give Krugman credit, he does have at least one good line in his column:
Why should we have prescription drug insurance in the first place? One answer is that the voters want it.
If that's all it takes to get the heels in Congress moving, that the voters "want" something, then I have some proposals:
1.) Two girls for every boy.
2.) Money for nothing (and your chicks for free).
3.) Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam and spam.
4.) Subsidized vacations to Hawaii for everyone with the last name of "Hoy."