does no one remember the prescription drug benefit?



Freddie deBoer used to blog at, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar mike farmer says:

    Bush was roundly criticized by many libertarians and conservatives for his part in expanding government, but you are right, there are many hypocrits who said nothing about Bush, but now rail against Obama. The underlying problem, though, is not hypocrisy but government expansion. The hypocrits don’t change the fact that government has been over-reaching for a long time and is bankrupting the country. There are plenty of hypocrits on both sides of the aisle and in the blogosphere, but that doesn’t change the basic problem. These diversions just continue the divide which should be united to get government spending and expansion under control. Who cares if there are hypocrits — what else is new?Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Could I have a list of things that I am allowed to express opinions on?

    Additionally, could I have a list of things that you are not allowed to express opinions on?

    These things will be helpful to me in the future, thanks.Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      Troll mode engaged, I see. Here’s a hint, Jay: criticism != censorship. Crazy, I know.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, it seems to me that the foundation of the argument is not even what the person said in the past, but what he is likely to have said in the past given his current criticism of Obama.

        Here, let me read to you what you wrote:
        was reading this reader email to Andrew and I really had to wonder– was this person railing against cost overruns and budget deficits when the prescription drug benefit was passed?

        From there, you move to:
        If you are blogging or writing politically now, and you weren’t then, you get a pass. If you have some separate reason for resistance to reform other than the expenditure, that’s ok too. But if you are specifically arguing that you don’t like health reform because it’s too expensive or fiscally irresponsible, and there’s no record of you arguing similarly against the wildly expensive prescription drug bill, it’s hard not to see that as hypocritical and partisan. Fair?

        Here is my problem:
        We don’t know what the original author said about the prescription drug program. Not at all… and yet the discussion isn’t about the argument he is making. The argument is about whether people who held an opinion about something related a year ago aren’t being hypocrites if they hold a different one today.

        The argument has *NOTHING* to do with the argument given… only about whether the person making it is a hypocrite or is partisan.

        Instead of dealing with the argument, you’re explaining why we can dismiss the argument when it’s given from certain folks… without engaging the argument.

        So allow me to rephrase my questions:

        Could I have a list of things that I am allowed to express opinions on without being summarily dismissed as being hypocritical and partisan?

        Additionally, could I have a list of things that you are not allowed to express opinions on without being summarily dismissed as being hypocritical and partisan?Report

        • Avatar Freddie says:

          As usual, Jay, you are moving the goalposts.

          First of all, as my post indicates, I was merely inspired to wonder about the emailers complaints. I used that wondering as an introduction to the bare fact, which you don’t bother to dispute, that there are people who dispute health care reform on grounds of fiscal responsibility and did not dispute the prescription drug benefit. This, indeed, is hypocritical, and likely motivated by partisan sentiment– or, really, anti-partisan sentiment, anti-liberal and anti-Democrat. As you say, and as I have said many times, hypocrisy is never dispositive of one argument or another. But it is important in a discourse; the ethics and intellectual honesty of participants in any political debate is indeed a part of the discussion. They help us to understand the integrity of the person arguing and to assign a relative measure of the person’s argumentative worth. Media criticism is part of what I do; it’s part of what we all do, and in fact, you do it all the time.

          Most importantly, swinging wildly from “I’m accusing you of censorship” to just “I’m accusing you of being unfairly critical” is just jaw-dropping disingenuous and dishonest. Accusations of censorship are a far bigger deal than accusations of wrong criticism. Which well you know, and as you further no that I did absolutely nothing resembling the former, you have to backpedal rapidly. Well, look, I think people who say “I oppose this health reform because it’s financially irresponsible” but failed to do the same with another health reform that was far more financially irresponsible deserve to be called on it. There’s nothing illegitimate about that, and indeed, I can’t imagine many who would defend the practice, regardless of their opinion on health reform. But as you are you, and you are So Very Clever, you’ve got to criticize me, and further you want to do so in a way that suggests that I’m censorious, despite the fact that I am not, have never been, and never will be.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Please don’t see it as censorship. See it as a dismissal of an argument based upon the “side” the person is presumed to have been on at a particular point in the past given the “side” they appear to be on now.

            Out of curiosity, what was your opinion of the Prescription Drug Benefit? Surely *THAT* is relevant, is it not?

            For the record, it’s my opinion that it’s not relevant, really… your arguments for health care reform are pretty independent of the PDB and ought to be weighed in their own right and comparisons to you saying (and please understand that I am *NOT* quoting you here but making up an opinion that seems reasonable given your writing and comparing your opinion today to it now) “Bush’s Prescription Drug Benefit is a cynical ploy to move seniors, a historically Democratic constituency, into the Republican column.”

            Now given my theory of your opinion of Bush’s Prescription Drug Benefit, wouldn’t your support of Obama’s plan be questionable?

            According to my theory, it wouldn’t be. Your arguments are arguments in their own right.

            I want to state, for the record, that the arguments against your arguments are also arguments in their own right.

            And, again, allow me to apologize for the implication that you were censoring. I meant nothing more than “allowed to be stated without being waved away as hypocritical and partisan”.

            Given that waving an argument away as “hypocritical and partisan” is not censorship, it is not censorship that I was hoping to avoid with my use of the word “allowed”. I apologize for the sloppiness on my part.Report

            • Avatar Freddie says:

              You’re right, as I said– arguments are independent of each other in many ways. But I don’t think that they happen entirely in a vacuum. It’s a balance. And I would say that this comes in a context where I have written at length about more substantive elements of the health care debate. This just rankles, that’s all.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I understand, don’t get me wrong. When Obama signs a bill and uses a signing statement and the Republicans begin to clear their throat and ask about the Constitutionality of signing statements, I see red too (signing statements are one of the reasons I thought Bush ought to have been impeached).

                I want to yell “WELCOME TO THE FRIGGIN PARTY!!!” and “WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU FROM 2001 TO 2009??????” and then I start to see red and wake up downtown.

                But I remain no closer to getting rid of signing statements.Report

      • Avatar mike farmer says:

        Who are you calling a troll?Report

  3. Well, I’m rather pleased I wasn’t around back when the drug bill was being debated. For the record, I was against it, but that’s only because I’m in favor of a single-payer plan that I know won’t happen.

    I do get rather irked seeing the Right finally “rediscovering” their conservativeliness after the better part of a decade of just rubber-stamping whatever nonsense Bush put in front of them, and damn be the costs. I suppose it’s fair to say, at times, that Democrats are “tax and spend”, but I’ll take that any day over the GOP’s position which seems to be “spend, but don’t tax!”Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    A somewhat more zinfandelier response:

    I feel a great deal of bile rise into my throat when I hear people make an argument for reasons that (I suspect, anyway) have to do with the fact that they believe that I believe them, rather than that they believe them.

    That said, the *END* of the argument in question is one that I agree with. Let’s say “balancing the budget and even paying down the debt” is the argument in question. When the Republicans were in power, they did little (if anything?) to take this issue on. I mean, not even lip service was given.

    The first time Bush used his veto pen? To veto a bill that would authorize federal funding for stem cell research. I was told, I shit you not, that I should be pleased that Bush was doing what he could to deal with federal spending issues.

    After the steel tariffs. After the farm bill(s). After the budgets… I was told that I should be pleased with this *FIRST* (!!!) use of the veto pen… because he was addressing “my” issues.

    Well, lemme tell ya. What irritated the hell out of me was *NOT* that I was being lied to. I am used to being lied to, after all. What I was irritated by was the fact that the person who was giving this lie thought so little of me as to put such a shoddy lie together and thought that I might be satisfied by it.

    I understand, absolutely, the intuition that “you aren’t using this argument because you believe it, but because it’s convenient for you and you think I might buy it”. I do.

    That said, if it is *POSSIBLE* for someone to look at, say, Obama’s health bill and say “wow, that’s a lotta money” and not be disingenuous about it, for them to say “wow, that’s a lotta money” and for them to not have merely picked up the most convenient club for them to have picked up and start flailing about… then it’s an argument that deserves being addressed in it’s own right.

    Yes, there are PUL-ENTY of people who would wield such an argument because it’s merely convenient and, if their own guy was in office (as someone recently was), they’d explain how politics is the art of the possible, etc… sure. There are far, far, far too many of such people. (I got banned at Redstate by some people like that!)

    There are, however, those out there who read those arguments who did stuff like scream about Bush’s spending from the first steel tariff. Saying “you know what, I don’t see any evidence that you opposed Bush’s other spending… I get to wave you away” in absence of any evidence at all will result in, well, intemperate posts.

    Though, to be sure, they are likely to be linked to by Andrew Sullivan as well. So it’s got that going for it.Report

    • Some of us only dream of Andre Sullivan linking to our blogs. 😉Report

    • Jay, to be fair, I think Freddie is perhaps the one blogger on this site who writes what he writes without any care as to who may or may not choose to link to it (save perhaps Yglesias). This I know for a fact from many, many interactions with Freddie on a variety of topics. Agree with him or not, like him or not, think he has good arguments or not, deBoer is sincere about what he writes, intemperate or or otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I was more saying that *I* was the intemperate one in this case.

        That said, a lack of sincerity is the *LAST* thing I associate with him. If he wrote something that I thought he didn’t mean that wasn’t him saying something to the effect of “in the heat of the moment, I said something that could have been interpreted as a 9, when my true feelings are closer to a 7.5”, my jaw would hit the floor.

        Indeed, my problem with him is that he sincerely believes that people who do stuff like write letters to say “what about the cost of this stuff?” to Andrew Sullivan, of all people, are people who are likely to have remained silent during Bush’s term. He sincerely has the thoughts “hypocritical” and “partisan” float to the front of his head when reading fiscally conservative arguments written to Andrew Friggin’ Sullivan.Report

  5. Avatar Kyle says:

    Perfectly fair, really.Report

  6. Avatar Sam M says:


    Maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, yes, the prescription plan was wildly expensive. And we are still paying for it. The new plan, whatever it is, will come IN ADDITION to those expenses. And at some stage, you can’t handle new expenses any more.

    For instance, let’s say I come home tomorrow with a new car. My wife says, “Hey, wait. That looks expensive.”

    I say, “Sure. It cost $20,000. But the other car was a clunker. This one gets better mileage, too. And we needed it.”

    “OK,” she says.

    The next day, I come home with another new car that also costs $20,000. The wife goes wild, of course.

    Would it be legitimate for me to respond: “I don’t get it. I spent $20,000 on a car yesterday and you were fine with it. I bought another car for $20,000 today and all of a sudden you’re mad? You are being an inconsistent hypocrite.”

    Or would the fact that I already spent $20,000 of the family budget one day impact the advisability of spending another $20,000 of the family budget the following day?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      at some stage, you can’t handle new expenses any more.

      This is a country we’re running here, a big one. There are going to be expenses.Report

  7. Avatar Mike P says:

    Sam M,
    What you say is true to a point, if you assume that the purchase of the first car was necessary (i.e. that we needed a prescription drug benefit for seniors). If you don’t believe that’s the case, then the purchase of the second car changes: say that dad buys a Porche one day; it’s sounds and looks good, but it’s wildly impractical. It’s expensive to maintain and fix, the mileage sucks and it can only carry two people.

    Then, say, mom goes out and buys a Volvo station wagon; you might say “why the hell do we need another car? I just bought a Porche!” And mom might reply that the station wagon is going to give the whole family more bang for the buck, even if it’s less flashy. It can carry (cover) more, it’s more dependable and it cost a bit less. Yes, it’s an additional expense, but one that will probably pay for itself in the long run. The Porche, however, probably won’t.

    Perfect analogy? Not even close, but the point is that if you’d considered the first purchase a little more carefully, you probably wouldn’t have to make a second.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      If you don’t believe that’s the case, then the purchase of the second car changes,

      This is an excellent point. Additionally, we’re dealing with the fact that the reasons given for the Drug Benefit are being echoed today. “Seniors are being forced between buying food and buying medication… between rent and medication… between electricity and medication.”

      One would assume that, whatever car it is that dad brought home, he didn’t put enough gas in it for grandma to borrow it.Report

  8. Avatar Sam M says:


    Excellent point. But at some stage, it doesn’t matter if it was dumb to buy the Porsche. Or start a war in Iraq. The money is spent either way. You took out the loans. The bank doesn’t care.

    So to get the minivan, you need to cut back somewhere. You ned to get the money. Somehow. But during the campaign, we were promised no tax increases on the middle class.

    You either have to go back on that, or be more modest in your proposals.Report

  9. Avatar Sam M says:

    I might point out that it’s also true that the Porsche… er… the prescription drug plan… was not a wildly ridiculous plan foisted upon one party by another. It was something both sides of the aisle were pushing for. In fact, a lot of Dems wanted MORE.

    But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Let’s say that, rather than the prescrition plan, we used that money to buy ACTUAL Porsches as government vehicles for everyone in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And filled all the trunks with high-gollar meth, porn and clove cigarettes.

    IT DOESN’T MATTER. You still need to pay that moeny back. And that obligation has a real impact on your ability to pay for things you really do need. This is neither hypocritical nor partisan. It is the reality of budgeting.

    Anyone who lives with a spendthrift knows this. If your husband gambles the rent money away at the track, and later the kid needs braces… the kid can’t have the braces. You can yell at the husband all you want. You call him a jerk. Complain about him. Divorce him. Whatever. What you can’t do is go to the orthodontist and write a check. There’s no money in the bank.

    Now, consider a situation in which BOTH parents gambled the money away at the track.Report

  10. Avatar Robert says:

    Where was the outrage? Actually, I expressed my own outrage – far more effectively than I expected – by voting against the Republican party all the way down the ticket. Of course the opposition has interpreted my vote to mean the opposite of what it did, so I will likely not indulge myself in this manner twice. (I was voting for fiscal responsibility and for dismantling the Patriot Act takeover of our airports, not for even further expansion of government control and expense)Report

  11. Avatar Mark S says:

    There are plenty of people who believed that the prescription drug plan was a good thing, but that the resulting bill was a massive transfer of wealth to the drug industry. Nobody said at the time we were spending out last dollars – in fact quite the opposite as the transfer of wealth continued. Nobody said I bought this car now we need to stop eating for 30 years to pay for it….

    It is also valid to criticize the democrats today for appearing to be ending up with a bill that will have the same result — the rich get richer (no cost control) as new enrollees are forced on board and paid for by you and me.

    It is not, given the tone of the debate, illegitimate or out of line to suggest a bit of hypocrisy. Unfortunately where things are heading today suggests there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around…Report

  12. Avatar jean power says:

    Was Bush black?
    Sorry its just that simple.Bush stole the election, lied us into war,tore up the constitution and collapsed the international economy.And now republians are worried?Please.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      This is an argument that I had never considered.Report

      • Avatar mw says:

        But you must admit – pretty compelling.

        It seems obvious when you really think about it.

        If you oppose bankrupting the country, devaluing the currency, and dumping trillions of dollars of debt, new entitlements and unfunded liabilities on future generations, you are a racist.

        I just don’t see how you can argue with that.

        After all, Joe Klein – The intellectual foundation of the Democratic Party – agrees.Report

  13. Avatar mw says:

    I love this post. It is like an open invitation to pimp my blog. Thanks, Freddie.

    I wasn’t blogging when the the Prescription Drug Benefit was passed, but the fiscal irresponsibility of that very bad bill was a big part of the reason I started blogging, finally recognizing that divided government was the only hope for restraining the growth of spending and big government.

    My usual technique on the blog (pre-2006 midterms), was to quote conservatives critical of the bill. I expect this should earn me my “Freddie Pass” to criticize ObamaCare on fiscal grounds, as well as document Mike’s assertion about widespread conservative dissatisfaction with the prescription benefit. Some examples:

    In GWB vs. LBJ Redux I am approvingly quoting David Lightman “…then there was the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit — the biggest single expansion in the program’s history — whose 10-year costs are estimated at more than $700 billion.and then conclude the post:

    Let’s not kid ourselves. A single party Democratic government in 2009 will be every bit as bad as the single party Republican government of the last six years. The only difference will be which special interests and lobbyists will be the beneficiary of the increased spending of our tax dollars. The logical vote in 2006 was to vote for a straight Democratic ticket to divide our government. The logical vote to avoid LBJ Redux in 2009 is to vote for a Republican president in 2008 to keep it divided.

    In Divided government ? Bipartisanship I am approvingly quoting Lew Rockwell:

    “My congressman is a Republican who calls himself a “conservative” but voted to give King George unconstitutional authority to pursue war at his whim, and voted to bankrupt Medicare still faster with the prescription drug plan – the two most destructive votes in the GOP Congress. I don’t even know who his Democratic opponent is, but I’ll be voting for that Democrat. It’s the true-conservative thing to do.”

    Here approvingly quoting David Walker:

    “But the last six years of Republican rule have produced tax cuts, record spending increases and a Medicare prescription drug plan that has been widely criticized as fiscally unsound.”

    And in these mini-reviews approvingly quoting Ryan Sager:

    “The Bush administration, steered by the thinking of Karl Rove, has adopted a philosophy of big-government conservatism, which joins unrestrained government spending to an aggressive appeal to religious conservatives. It is a philosophy that has led Bush and the Republican Congress to create a $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription drug benefit, making Bush the first president in a generation to create a new federal entitlement program.”

    Finally, while not mentioning the Prescription Drug Benefit specifically, it still figured prominently in the numbers prompting this 2006 screed Big Spending, Big Deficit, Big Government Republicans.

    I hope this sufficiently establishes my bona fides for criticizing the insane spending in the Obama administration generally and the specific Obamacare bills being flogged, as well as giving me a Freddie license to make the following statement:

    Of all the arguments I hear from Democrats, Obama flacks, or Obama himself – the one I think the very dumbest, the most intellectually dishonest, the one that creates the most head shaking inducement of cognitive dissonance, is when they rationalize the gross fiscal irresponsibility of the Obama administration quadrupling the deficit (pre-health care reform), by pointing at the bad GWB administration that doubled the deficit. How are we supposed to take that? Bush was bad, so Obama can be worse? Bush committed a venal sin, so Obama can commit a mortal sin? What is it? If you accept the premise that the Bush administration was fiscally irresponsible, bad on spending and deficits -AND THEY WERE – Then you must accept that the Obama administration is far far worse in a much shorter period of time.Report

  14. Avatar Brian says:

    The worry is that Democrats will raise taxes to cover the health plan. The Republican prescription plan was fine because the money would just be borrowed (devaluing the U.S. currency, thereby lowering the U.S. standard of living), and still maintain the greedy tax cuts for the super rich (who are not invested in U.S. dollars, anyway). Simple, an America-first mentality vs. a me-first mentality.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      When I see something like “we’re not going to spend any more money than we’re spending right now”, I wonder if some shell game isn’t going on… is “we’re spending right now” inclusive of Iraq?

      I mean, if we’re transferring the money that we’re spending right now on Iraq to the health care thing, we’re transferring money from “thing that we won’t be spending money on for forever (in theory, anyway) to something that we would be spending money on for forever.”

      What would I need to have written about a couple of years ago for me to make this argument? I can go through my correspondence.Report

  15. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    But unlike so many of these tea-partiers, I also realize that in real politics, you have to construct a solid coalition for all this and make arguments for it consistently (as Reagan did for decades) and have some credibility. But the GOP has been doing he opposite, fighting wars – cultural and military – instead of attending to basic fiscal responsibility and limited government. You cannot just pivot on a dime without some accounting of the recent past. Well, you can, but you look so partisan and so two-faced you’ll only persuade people by ratcheting up fear and hysteria to drown out the actual issues.
    But there’s something else here and it has to do with a view of constitutional politics. I don’t believe in politics as warfare.
    While I adhere to most of the principles of the small government right, I am aware of the important balancing act of a liberal coalition in keeping this country on an even keel. I come from the Oakeshottian school that supports what he called “civil association” but also understands the necessity for the other strain in Anglo-American thought, “enterprise association.” I do not want either party to have total power; and I do not believe every political argument has to be zero-sum. I loathe the cynicism that prefers trashing a new president over solving a serious social problem for people in real need.
    And look: while I would like all the things my reader does in an ideal world, none of them was seriously on the table in last year’s election. And the candidate who was closest to them was soundly beaten. It’s perfectly proper – even admirable – to demonstrate and argue against the new administration’s ideas, but it’s also worth recalling that this plan in its essentials was an integral part of the president’s campaign platform and his party’s effective manifesto. It was debated ad nauseam last year, and Obama won by a hefty margin. The tone of these protests suggests that this is some wild power-grab. It isn’t. It’s a centrist and not-too-ambitious plan to fulfill a clear campaign pledge as responsibly as possible within a sensible fiscal framework.
    The protestors keep saying that they want their country back. Sorry, my fellow small-governmenters, but this country is a democracy, and you didn’t lose your country, you just lost an election. You had your chance for eight years. You blew it, and you lost. What Obama is doing is what he was elected to do. The principled response is not a massive, extremist-riddled hissy fit a few months in, but a constructive set of proposals to build on universal care for a more market-friendly and cost-conscious system in the future. You have to win some political credibility for that; and then you have to beat the man you lost so badly to last year. That’s the civil and civilized way forward for the right. It also seems, alas, to be the one they are currently refusing to take.

    Andrew Sullivan, 9/14/09Report