I am shocked. Robert Samuelson, in an op-ed title “A Costly Freebie,” writes:
Just about every American politician, regardless of party, favors adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. It’s a bad idea. The Senate will soon begin considering the latest proposals. We can only hope that bickering among politicians and interest groups — retiree lobbies, drug companies, health insurers — creates a deadlock. A Medicare drug benefit would simply worsen the country’s central budget problem: the huge retirement costs of the baby-boom generation.
I want to kiss him.
The crusade for a drug benefit is mostly a shameless competition for retirees’ votes. It’s democracy in action, because the elderly are the nation’s most powerful voting bloc. In the 2000 election, almost 70 percent of those 65 and over voted; turnout was only slightly lower (64 percent) for the near-elderly (45-64). By contrast, only 35 percent of those 21 to 24 voted. Who cares about them? The elderly vote more, and their lobbies focus single-mindedly on protecting and enhancing Social Security and Medicare benefits.
The perverse paradox is this: Although Social Security and Medicare shape the long-term budget outlook, budget debates largely exclude Social Security and Medicare. Congress should have long ago tempered retirement costs by gradually raising eligibility ages and trimming benefits for wealthier retirees. Congress did slightly increase Social Security’s eligibility age in the 1980s; but the subject hasn’t been revisited. No one wants to upset retirees — present or future.