No one who has reviewed the changes in Medicare proposed by the Bush administration and the Republican leadership in the Congress has any doubt regarding the motivation behind the legislation. Corporate-tied conservatives made a commitment to begin the process of privatizing Medicare and they are now delivering on that commitment.
Under the guise of creating a prescription drug benefit, the proponents of the legislation that stands on the brink of final passage in the Senate today have, in fact, crafted a scheme designed to enrich pharmaceutical companies while saddling seniors with high co-pays and costs that will continue to make needed medicines unaffordable for millions of citizens. Worse yet, the legislation seeks to use billions of taxpayer dollars to break up the Medicare program and hand the pieces over to the same for-profit concerns that have made the U.S. health care system one of the costliest and most inefficient in the world. So corrupt is the legislation that it actually bans initiatives to lower drug prices.
The facts are clear. No member of Congress can claim not to have recognized the corrupt and excessively costly nature of this legislation. For that reason, a number of principled Republicans in the House opposed it, as did most Democrats. As a result, the Medicare bill was defeated in the initial House voting. Unfortunately, the House leadership and its Bush administration allies were unwilling to accept that result. So they rigged up an extended voting period - which lasted through Friday night - and used the extra time to twist just enough arms to secure a 220-215 "victory."
Many House Republicans, some of them fiscal conservatives, others responsible moderates, refused to buckle. It is embarrassing to report, however, that Wisconsin's Republican representatives were unwilling to stand up for themselves, or for programs that are vital to seniors and the disabled.
Wisconsin Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, Gerald Kleczka and David Obey were steadfast foes of the assault on Medicare. But their Republican colleagues chose to follow the dictates of their party's leadership, rather than the dictates of conscience.
It is deeply disturbing that Wisconsin Republicans Paul Ryan, Mark Green, Tom Petri and James Sensenbrenner voted against the interests of the seniors and disabled citizens they are supposed to represent. It is even more disturbing that they proved themselves to be incapable of independent thinking.
Ryan, Green, Petri and Sensenbrenner should be ashamed. And, with the 2004 congressional elections approaching, voters who live in their districts should be actively looking for better representation.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times