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What Happened
to Bush's Promised Drug Benefit for Seniors?
b Frank Kaiser
George "Dubya" Bush gives new meaning to the word "Bushwhack."After promising to uphold safeguards against hazardous carbon dioxide emissions, as president he Bushwhacked those protections, allowing US power plants to continue their deadly assault on our planet's terrestrial systems.

He's Bushwhacked restraints on toxic runoff from mining sites.

After legal bribes from the arsenic lobby, he Bushwhacked safe drinking water for many communities.

And against the wishes of most Floridians (including his brother, the governor), he Bushwhacked us all by breaking his solemn promise not to open Florida's Gulf coast to oil and gas production.

Pre-school programs whacked. Homeless services whacked. Here a whack, there a whack, everywhere a whack, whack, whack like a perverse national version of political-corporate Sopranos.

So what are we to think of Dubya's promised "immediate helping hand [with prescription-drug coverage] to low- and moderate-income seniors?"

Since taking office, he's seemed fixated only on tax relief for his rich friends, $1.6 trillion in all. By the way, that's more than enough to pay for full coverage for every one of the 43 million Americans currently without medical insurance. Including us seniors.

What ever happened to "Compassionate Conservatism?"

Here's a hint. Last time a huge tax cut came along, President Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, acknowledged that the primary aim of the tax cut was to make it structurally impossible to fund money for domestic social programs.

Like Medicare expansion.

Medicare tight with taxpayers' money

Today, our zealous Reagan protégé wants to "save" Social Security and Medicare by Bushwhacking them. Citing false crises in the system, George II wants to kill Medicare in favor of private sector HMOs. Of course, as is their right, HMOs will take only healthy seniors. Under Bush's plan, get sick and you're out of the system, Bushwhacked, and on your own.

Turns out that Medicare curbs costs far more effectively than HMOs. That's why drug companies wage war on the idea of drug coverage under Medicare.

Providing drug benefits to seniors might decrease Big Pharmaceutical's massive 18.6 percent return on revenues, a full 3.7 percent higher than the average Fortune 500 company.

Big Pharma's big legal bribes to your congressperson and mine help assure that such greed continues without threat.

Result? Each month, millions of seniors must choose between food and medicine. My pharmaceuticals outstrip my income from Social Security. I'm certainly not alone.

Thirteen million seniors have no prescription drug coverage.

All other industrialized nations pay their seniors' drug bills (at about half the US cost). It's part of the social contract.

In fact, I'm certain most Americans, if asked, would prefer forfeiting their $160 a year — the average Joe's tax cut under the Bush plan — preferring instead to provide the entire nation with health coverage, freeing up emergency rooms for our loved ones when they have an emergency.

But in Bushwhacky Country, where profits come before people, rich before poor, government will never ask the question.

Suddenly Trivia: Social Security trustees have projected revenue shortfalls every year for 10 years now. Each year the date is pushed back. Currently, when is that shortfall predicted to arrive? a) 2010, b) 2017, c) 2029, d) 2037.

To be fair, our new president has promised to cover the drug costs for seniors with incomes of $11,300 or less — $15,200 for couples. Better than nothing.

But when?

Dubya wants the individual states to handle payouts. Half the states have no system set up for such purposes. They don't want to establish one for the two or three years this "temporary" plan will be in place. The states say, "Medicare works just fine. Why reinvent the wheel?"

Why indeed?

State distribution confuses the issue and buys time. Time in which money that was to go into a permanent drug program for seniors is Bushwhacked, the funds subverted to pay for the colossal tax break for the rich.

Dubya is ingenuous when he says he wants to help seniors who can't afford medicine. Public assistance to poor seniors simply is against his basic principles.

Two quotes may help here.

      "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

That was F.D.R., a Democrat when Democrats were Democrats. It's possible that Bush II has never heard of him.

But what about:

      "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

That too must seem like a Bushwhacky idea to this president or he wouldn't insist that almost half of his trillion-plus tax cut go to America's wealthiest 1 percent while most of America's seniors are left utterly Bushwhacked.

© 2001 — Frank Kaiser

Suddenly Trivia Answer: d) 2037. President George W. Bush proposes to kill Social Security as we know it because of something that may or may not happen 36 years from now.