We have been hearing for years about economic fallout that will surely result from the coming social security binge, but few could have anticipated the real threat baby boomers represent. Not content to suck resources from a dying system, the Me Generation has formed a massive voting bloc willing to grant itself one-size-fits all benefits. Last month, in an orgy of self-love, the 108th congress (average age: 55) helped itself to the one resource younger generations will always be good for: future earnings.
House and Senate versions of legislation that would add prescription drug benefits to Medicare are now being reconciled in committee. Since both bills will create a massively expensive drug benefit, and President Bush (57 on Sunday; Happy Birthday) promised the same treat in his State of the Union address, a universal Medicare drug benefit is the surest thing Washington has seen since Dick Cheney’s last heart attack.
Every great legislative push needs its welfare queen, and this time around the subject is a hypothetical elderly widow, forced to decide between food and pharmaceuticals. She exists, surely; the small segment of the population too wealthy for Medicaid yet too poor to make ends meet is more than a trick of rhetoric. Unfortunately, she is being used to extort benefits for everyone over 65, the vast majority of whom don’t need them, many of whom are active voters. The elderly are easily the wealthiest segment of society, with a poverty rate little more than half that of the under 18-set who will help foot the bill.
While there is bi-partisan support for drug benefits, no one is happy with the bills currently being discussed in committee. Democrats claim this is all a veiled attempt to privatize, Republicans warn of a slippery slope to socialization. But everyone can agree that it will be enormously expensive. The administration is projecting $400 billion over the next ten years, a number that appears to be rooted in thin air. Scholars at the American Enterprise Institute note that the number fails to anticipate even the obvious