[Mb-civic] Where's the Budget Outrage? - E. J. Dionne - Washington
swiggard at comcast.net
Tue Jan 31 04:01:20 PST 2006
Where's the Budget Outrage?
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006; A17
This week the Republican Party hopes to escape its immediate past. House
Republicans will elect new leaders. They hope that the party's
corruption scandal will be forgotten and that the names Tom DeLay and
Jack Abramoff will become as unmentionable in their world as Lord
Voldemort's is in Harry Potter's.
President Bush hopes for a new start with his State of the Union
address. The words from last year he wants to wipe out of the political
lexicon include "Brownie," "Katrina," "heck of a job" and "Social
But there is an uncomfortable bit of business left over from the
Republican disaster year of 2005 that will test the seriousness of the
party's supposed commitment to change. The cut-the-poor,
help-the-big-interests federal budget passed last year needs final
ratification in the House. The vote could take place as soon as tomorrow.
Let's be clear: Anyone who votes for this fiscal mess will be standing
for the bad old ways of doing business in Washington. Those who do so
will have no claim to being "reformers."
At least one Republican, Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut, has had a
change of heart, thanks to laudable grass-roots pressure -- which, to
his credit, Simmons acknowledged.
"I voted for it in December," Simmons said of the budget in a statement
released last week. But after consulting with constituency groups,
Simmons decided that the bill "remains unsatisfactory" and that "the
budget, as it stands, falls short." Moderate Republicans who had no
business voting for this bill in the first place should be challenged to
What was known when the budget was last approved was bad enough: that in
merging the fiscal plans passed by the House and Senate, Republican
leaders dropped Senate provisions that would have sought savings from
drug companies and preferred-provider organizations and instead imposed
new burdens on lower-income Americans who rely on Medicaid. The theme of
this budget was: Protect the well-connected, bash the poor.
But since the last vote, new information has emerged that would more
than justify a change of heart by Republicans who voted "yes."
It's worth citing in full the first paragraph of an important piece of
investigative reporting last week by The Post's Jonathan Weisman: "House
and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to
complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to
Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance
industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office."
What's wrong with this picture? First, a group of legislators who claim
to want to reduce the deficit gutted a provision designed to save
taxpayers money, after heavy lobbying by the health insurance industry.
Second, a Congress saying that it really, really wants to change the way
it does business ratified a backroom deal in the wee hours of the
morning that almost nobody who voted on it knew anything about. Many on
the right have been waging war on "earmarks," those special projects
that members of Congress insert into bills, often at the last minute --
and that have proliferated since the Republicans took over the House.
But secret special-interest deals can be at least as costly, often more
so, than many of those earmarks.
And yesterday the New York Times reported on a Congressional Budget
Office study of the impact of this budget on the health coverage of
poorer Americans. As the Times's Robert Pear reported, the study found
that "millions of low-income people would have to pay more for health
care under a bill worked out by Congress, and some of them would forgo
care or drop out of Medicaid because of the higher co-payments and
How strange it is that while the president claims he wants to help
people get health coverage, he and his party would support a budget that
could force some poor Americans to walk away from care.
It's hard these days to get the media to pay attention to budgets and
their impact on the lives of citizens. Budgets are complicated and easy
to spin. It's much easier to generate immense moral outrage over a
memoir writer who tells lies.
But long after we've forgotten the name of that writer, a mother on
Medicaid will be deciding whether she can afford to take her sick child
to see the doctor. Can we please spend at least a tiny bit of our moral
outrage on her behalf?
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Mb-civic