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Guest Editorial

Party politics overshadow Medicare gains

BY DANIEL B. KLINE

George W. Bush's government passed a Medicare prescription drug program. It might be confusing. It might not provide every benefit imaginable, and it might not accomplish every goal those in favor of government health plans wanted. That said, Bush got something done in an area where Democrats have repeatedly failed.

This has not stopped the Democratic National Committee, a variety of left-leaning political action groups and countless Democratic candidates from attacking Bush's Medicare plan in campaign ads. These ads vilify Republican candidates for supporting it. They make no mention of the idea that if you support a drug benefit for seniors, a confusing program has to be considered better than no program - which is exactly what we had before the Bush plan was enacted.

I'm no fan of Bush. He has clearly mismanaged the war in Iraq and seems generally unable to run a Taco Bell, let alone the most powerful nation in the world. I'm also not a fan of entitlement programs and government-sponsored healthcare. If, however, you support taxpayer-funded healthcare, then Bush and the Republican party must get credit, no matter how odious you find them.

Bill Clinton had a grand vision of universal healthcare, but most doctors won't accept payment in big ideas. Countless Democratic congressmen support government-provided health benefits, but they have been unable to get a bill providing even minimal coverage passed.

President Bush, while he may not be the smartest man in Washington, got something done. Call his program flawed, or say it doesn't go far enough. If you attack the program because it's complicated or because it's Bush's plan, you're simply playing politics.

All government programs require an endless amount of paperwork, which results in the public getting confused. This should not happen, but bureaucracy and needless paperwork go hand in hand with having a giant government run by people more concerned with keeping their jobs than serving the public.

Anyone who pays taxes knows that our government specializes in making relatively easy things ridiculously complicated. Every aspect of dealing with the government involves enormous confusion and unnecessary hassle, so that hardly seems unique to the Medicare drug plan.

Basically, the Democrats hate the Bush plan because the President stole their issue. Having Republicans pass a program that involves an entitlement shows that compassion isn't purely the domain of the Democratic party.

One especially misleading campaign commercial shows Democratic candidate for Congress Chris Murphy standing with a retiree who acts baffled by a variety of different drug prices scrolling behind him. This befuddled older fellow simply can't understand the differing discounts used under the Medicare drug plan supported by Murphy's rival, Republican congresswoman Nancy Johnson.

Murphy conveniently leaves out the fact that before the so-called confusing plan was offered, his elderly friend would have paid full price for every drug. Instead of needing help understanding how much he might save, he'd simply have to pony up the full amount. That might be easier to follow for the addled elderly man, but I fail to see how it could be considered better.

The most ridiculous statement in the left-wing ads attacking Bush's Medicare drug plan is the claim that the program "puts hundreds of millions of dollars" into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. While this is most certainly true, how precisely could a program giving people money to pay for prescription drugs not benefit pharmaceutical companies?

Medicare puts millions in doctors' pockets. School lunch programs benefit farmers. Housing supplements aid landlords, and road improvement projects benefit "big asphalt." Attacking a drug subsidy program for enriching pharmaceutical companies would be like attacking heating assistance because it helps oil companies.

Democrats have more than enough fodder to attack Republicans and President Bush, without resorting to going after him for being better with their ideas than they are.

Daniel B. Kline's book, "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do," is available in bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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