Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Entitlements: A story on the local news last night mentioned how a retired couple would be affected my cuts in our state's prescription drug assistance programs. They currently pay about $2500 per year in prescriptions, out of a total bill of $13,000. This means that the state (l'etat, c'est moi, as far as spending is concerned) is picking up in excess of ten grand in drug costs! It's belt-tightening time in Massachusetts, so this is being viewed as a short-term issue (also based on hopes that Medicare will start to cover drugs). But this has to be viewed as a national issue. Think of the Social Security crisis, caused by significant demographic shifts in the past half century. (Politicians like to talk of how they're fixing Social Security, but unless they're causing lots of tax-paying workers to be born, it ain't fixing.) Add to that the drug costs of a baby boom generation that will live well into its 70s and 80s, at least. Drugs are able to do more, and come to market faster, which adds to their cost (partly to pay for research, partly because no generics are available), and the boomers will want them all. The "greatest generation" grew up in the bootstrap, small-government era, yet they have taken to entitlements like ducks on junebugs. Imagine what will happen when the generation weaned on a Great Society-style, cradle-to-crypt philosophy gets ahold of the goose that lays the Social Security/Medicare eggs. Entitlement reform has been a buzzword since the Reagan administration, but any reform has always been cosmetic. The ultimate vote-buyer is government largesse, in the form of tax breaks, pork, and entitlements; thus, if McCain-Feingold really wanted to give government back to the people, it would restrict how much free crap these knuckleheads in Washington can promise us without having to consider the costs of delivery.

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