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The Low-Balled Lies Of ‘Medicare Part D’

Lest we forget, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (also known as Medicare Part D) was signed into law by President Bush in December 2003, after passage through Congress by a razor thin margin.

And, like so many government programs – especially social programs – it was sold by vastly under-estimating its projected ten year costs.

Moreover, the people in charge of selling the program knew they were lying.

From (of all places) the archives of Salon:

Lies, bribes and hidden costs

By Eric Boehlert

April 5, 2004

… [Robert Moffitt, director of health policy studies at the Heritage Foundation] says fiscally conservative Republicans, who traditionally would have opposed the Medicare bill — the biggest expansion of an entitlement program in nearly 40 years — are fuming that the actual price of the Medicare bill was suppressed by the administration. "They had grave reservations about voting for it," he says. "They were told repeatedly by the Republican leaderships, ‘It’s a fiscally responsible bill, we promise you.’ Now there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse up on the Hill." …

Last November, in an extraordinary vote held open for an unprecedented three hours by the speaker of the House, the Republican leadership, after leaning on its members, eked through passage of the historic Medicare bill by a count of 220-215. (Most Democrats opposed it, calling the bill a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry.)

Pivotal to passage were reluctant yes votes by 13 conservative Republicans who had initially balked at the $395 billion price tag. During the pre-dawn hours of the Nov. 22 Medicare vote, they were eventually persuaded to vote yes. Bush signed the bill into law in December.

The following month, the administration announced the program would actually cost $534 billion to implement, nearly 40 percent more than advertised. "Had people known that real price, the bill wouldn’t have ever made it to the House floor for a vote," says Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill

Then, last month, Richard Foster, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the top independent Medicare cost analyst, revealed he had been threatened by the Bush administration that he would be fired if he told Congress the true cost of the policy. He received orders in June 2003 from his boss, Thomas Scully, the Bush-appointed director of the Medicare program, instructing him to ignore information requests from members of Congress who were drafting the drug bill. In the past, lawmakers had free access to the actuary’s estimates. And they assumed they were getting a true statistic as they considered the bill this time.

The Wall Street Journal first reported March 18 that Foster received a note from Scully’s aide ordering him to answer the Republicans’ questions but warning him not to respond to Democratic queries — "with anyone else until Tom Scully explicitly talks with you — authorizing release of information. The consequences for insubordination are extremely severe."

In other words, the MMA only passed because fiscal conservatives had been assured that its ten year cost estimate would not exceed $400 billion.

But a mere one month after the bill was signed into law, that estimate was hiked to $534 billion, which is a $140 billion over the cost figure presented during the Congressional debate.

Worse yet, as the Salon article notes, this was a matter of administration policy. The point man for the MMAl, Thomas A. Scully, was told not to reveal the true numbers. Indeed, he was threatened with firing if he had revealed them.

(Do note the irony of Mr. Obama’s point man on healthcare, Rahm Emanuel, complaining about these phony cost estimates.)

But the worst was yet to come, for a mere one year later, the Washington Post was gleefully reporting that the White House Budget had increased the 10-year estimate to $1.2 trillion:

Medicare Drug Benefit May Cost $1.2 Trillion

Estimate Dwarfs Bush’s Original Price Tag

By Ceci Connolly and Mike Allen
Wednesday, February 9, 2005; Page A01

The White House released budget figures yesterday indicating that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003.

The projections represent the most complete picture to date of how much the program will cost after it begins next year. The expense of the new drug benefit has been a source of much controversy since the day Congress approved it, with Democrats and some Republicans complaining that the White House has consistently low-balled the expected cost to the government

So the ten year costs of the MMA program skyrocketed from $395 billion to $1.2 trillion, even before it began.

Who knows what the cost estimates are now? Or where they will ultimately end up?

Of course the MMA was a Republican social program. Neither Salon nor the Washington Post would ever deign to report such failings about any Democrat program.

Nor will they even suggest that the Mr. Obama’s healthcare plan might be similarly low-balled.

Still, is there any doubt that history will repeat itself – and with a vengeance?

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, June 27th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

17 Responses to “The Low-Balled Lies Of ‘Medicare Part D’”

  1. bronzeprofessor says:

    This is all part of why it is impossible to discuss the Democrats’ policies with Democrats right now.

    I cannot count how many times my Democrat colleagues say this when I express concern over Obama’s overreaching budget:

    “But you should blame Bush — he did Medicare and he overspent on the war and the government grew exponentially under him. Obama has only been in office for five months.”

    Liberals claim they are good at nuance and sophisticated about facts, but really they fall back on endless red herrings. If they hated Bush’s drug plan in 2004, logically, they should be critical of the same mistakes being made by Obama now (and they should also be aware that the Democrats tried to push through something even more expensive.) But don’t hold your breath waiting.

    My favorite exchange between me (in bold) and a feminist colleague in one of the ethnic studies departments:

    I agree that healthcare is a difficult issue, but I think Obama’s plan for an overhaul, as bad as I think it is, might have had a better chance if he hadn’t passed the stimulus bill during his first week. The debt is too big now to handle something like this.

    “But Bush signed onto that huge stimulus last year.”

    True. But Bush is out of office, and as I’ve told you many times, I voted for Gore and Kerry in 2000 and 2004. So I am not here to defend Bush. I just want to point out that Obama has accelerated deficit spending far more quickly than it appears McCain would have. I did vote for McCain. But the point is, I would like it if you looked critically at what Obama is doing.

    “There’s no way you can blame Obama for the huge deficit when he’s only been in office for 5 months. Bush spent a huge amount on the war and gave tax breaks to people, and it’s his fault there’s a huge deficit. Obama should not be penalized.

    But, didn’t I just say, I don’t view Bush as innocent? Obama, as president, has run up a deficit many times greater than Bush’s deficit. So why are still talking about Bush? Can’t we talk about Obama?

    “So you’re saying there’s no value to historical memory. As a scholar in American Studies, that’s frankly shocking. I would expect more rigor from you.”

    I believe in historical memory. That’s why it’s important to point out that Obama signed the huge stimulus bill last September, while most Republicans opposed Bush and opposed the stimulus. And Obama was one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate for the entire 2nd Bush term — for two years, in a supermajority in Congress, and for one year, as the most widely covered figure in the Democrat Party. He inherited many of these problems from himself.

    “So now historical memory does matter? You’re contradicting yourself. You just said you don’t care about historical memory.”

    I give up. You’re an idiot.

    Actually, I didn’t say the last one aloud. I just thought it.

    • Petronius says:

      bronzeprof: “Liberals claim they are good at nuance and sophisticated about facts, but really they fall back on endless red herrings.”

      This is a highly revealing and hilarious bit of dialogue with your colleague, bronzeprof. She changes the subject willy-nilly at every point. Talking to Liberals is like chasing shadows. You really have to laugh.

      Whenever there is conflict between Liberal doctrine and reality, then reality must always be swept aside. This is a characteristic of ideological thinking in general, and of Liberalism in particular. There is no conceivable amount of evidence or logical analysis, no observation, no experiment, no quantity of facts, that will shake a Liberal from his or her doctrine. When the evidence of reality is so overwhelming that it cannot be refuted by a sane mind, the Liberal simply closes his/her eyes and tunes out.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:


      Always appreciate your insight. You have clearly illustrated the convoluted argument many have had with a liberal. I wonder if they had these problems in Constantinople, Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Of course, Rome had its own way with leaders who spent too much.

      But seriously, there appears no way to bridge the logic disconnect. It’s like talking to a very young child in a lot of ways.

      But, in the long run, I have to cling to one piece of wisdom: “Never argue with stupid people. They will bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

      They want what they want, when they want it. And that “when” is always NOW. Telling them that the technology for alternative energy sources is immature and will take time…they go off on a tear about how technology is “magic”. They’ll make an incorrect analogy about some new technology and how quickly it hit the market (say…the iPod) and then extrapolate that into, “So why is it so hard to produce windmills that can power a whole city?”

      And my brain starts to overload. My logical thought-process has just been disrupted by “emotion-speak”, the language of the liberal. So, I try to go about it logically…and try analogies of my own…which takes the conversation into some other direction, veering off the highway onto a goat path that is dark and full of pricker bushes.

      Then, when attempting to steer it back on course, they accuse me of “evasion” on the current subject which….for all I know has de-evolved into “save the rare Tennessee north-facing tree lichen”.

      I reach a level of frustration that gets me to thinking about buying a gun…and using it….on myself just to ease the pain of the white noise now jabbering non-stop to impress upon me how unenlightened I am.

      Usually it ends with, “Fine, I’m an unenlightened, racist bigot who thinks all people who don’t think like me should be shot, burned or otherwise destroyed”.

      And then I say, “FINALLY! We understand one another!”

      Also, liberals tend to discuss that which is popular and of course, to vomit the popular sentiment. Green, global frikkin warming, save the children, pedophiles are people too, abortions save lives, drug addicts deserve more understanding, feed, clothe, give money to the poor with more tax dollars.

      And on and on. And for each one, they have a Utopian idealistic, yet completely irrational solution to it all and it usually comes down to something like “it takes a village”. God, how I wish that freak had never written/said those words. Equally mundane is Bush’s “no child left behind” plan.

      But the elephant in the room is…..to tell the government to get the hell out of my kitchen and I’ll cook the way I damn well please. That means teachers teach. Parents parent, drug dealers go to prison forever, drug addicts might get some help…but that’s it. No passing out condoms at school….not letting the kids run the menus at school….not letting the kids dictate what classes they will and will not take. As was told to me, “you’re not 18….you don’t HAVE any rights but the ones I give you”.

      Of course, never should abuse or cruelty be allowed…but here again, discipline in the liberals mind is confused with cruelty. Thus the kid is allowed to “explore”…code word for “screw up royally” and get themselves in a corner that NO ONE can get them out of except with more permissiveness.

      I have found that young kids actually LOVE rules. They like the challenge. They try very hard to concentrate on doing it right.

      I won’t go on about the obvious problems in education…but you, and Pro and Jobeth have made a real statement as to the problem critical, analytical thinking has to face.

      Me: So….you gave loans you know people couldn’t afford”

      Them: Well, we HAD to.

      Me: And YOU…you bought a house that was 800 dollars more a month than you KNEW you could afford?

      Them: Well, I HAD to.

      Me: Well the both of you….no, you didn’t. You have to breathe, you have to live (maybe) and someday, you HAVE to die. There are very few HAVE TO’s in the world. Everything else is your responsibility..and even the living/dying part…that’s 90% you as well, give or take.

      If you want STUFF…you listen to the wise people older than you, note how they make money to get that stuff and find your particular talent that you can capitalize on and make some money and then you can have STUFF too.

      My Father: “I work my ass off so you and your brother can have a roof over your head, food to eat, clothes to wear. If you sit on your ass and do nothing all the time….you will have nothing.”

      I thank him for that. It’s true. Except in obamaland where doing nothing is your first qualification for getting STUFF.

      After all, look at him…he’s done absolutely zero and look at the stuff he has.

      “Once you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”.

      *sigh* again…..I would like a do-over and I want to have a time machine to put me at 1900. That way I can die before seeing the end of the world as I know it.

    • take_no_prisoners says:

      I used to believe that there were only 2 things in life that you had to do–die and pay taxes. The pay taxes part is less and less applicable to a large portion of the population. We are dangerously close to the point where slightly more than 50% only have to die, where the sky becomes the limit for the slightly less than 50% who pay taxes as far as the politicians are concerned. (Apology to proreason, I hadn’t gotten down to the next post where he makes this point before my post of this piece of obvious wisdom.)

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      Take_no_prisoners said:

      “We are dangerously close to the point where slightly more than 50% only have to die”

      If I lived the way they do, I’d consider myself dead already…

  2. proreason says:

    you have to multiply the cost estimate of every government program by a factor of 5 to 10.

    There are about 100 reasons why that’s true, but a few of them are:

    – not one would ever pass if the true cost was known
    – there is nothing to constrain government spending on existing programs
    – government beaurocrats increase their income an power by growing their programs
    – Congress always adds tons of junk that is never brought to light

    Everybody knows all of that.

    The problem is that more than 50% of the voters either don’t pay taxes or have been told they won’t be paying any taxes in the near future.

    And they are too stupid to know that these programs are destroying the country.

    • Petronius says:

      Pro: “The problem is that more than 50% of the voters either don’t pay taxes or have been told they won’t be paying any taxes in the near future.”

      Exactamundo, my friend! I am afraid that the old political system really is broken beyond repair. Having divided the country into two castes––taxpayers and tax-eaters––the Dems are about to make themselves a permanent majority via open borders and amnesty, enticing never-ending waves of migrants and new voters with wealth transfers like nationalized medicine, cap and tax, etc.

      Pro: “And they are too stupid to know that these programs are destroying the country.”

      Most of them really are too stupid. But then again, many of them just plain don’t care about this country. Many are like Nerobama himself––recent arrivals who lack any rootedness or loyalty to America, or to Western Civilization as a whole, and who welcome the process of dissolution, so long awaited––dare I say, so fervently wished for––pleased, really, to see America and Americans about to get their comeuppance.

  3. Petronius says:

    duplicate post deleted

    • proreason says:

      “There is no conceivable amount of evidence or logical analysis, no observation, no experiment, no quantity of facts, that will shake a Liberal from his or her doctrine.” – Petronius

      That’s because they are brainwashed.

      It’s not the type of brainwashing where China locks you in a room for months, but it is brainwashing nevertheless.

      It’s the type of brainwashing where you hear the same thing over and over until you just accept it as fact. And it’s quite insidious:

      – educators teach the lies to children beginning at a very young age
      – “journalists” repeat the lies
      – the lies are shaped to appeal to your emotions
      – books and tv programs are written to appeal to different age groups to propogate the lies
      – the other side of the issue is rarely presented, and if presented, it’s done with scorn
      – the liars constantly repeat how the “argument is over”, the “science is complete”, the “proof is in”, even though none of it is true.
      – they make stuff up to support the lies….”news”, “polls”, imaginary “data”, “expert” witnesses.
      – show business personalities are recruited to repeat and reinforce the lie
      – an aura is created that anybody who isn’t a true believer is twisted, stupid, greedy, etc., etc.

      A lie repeated a million times in a million ways becomes the truth.

      And it doesn’t happen by chance.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      A lie repeated a million times in a million ways becomes the truth.

      To them. But to me and to many others, it will always be a lie.

    • bronzeprofessor says:


      Your run-down of all the tools of brainwashing is very good. Here is a list of some of the lies that my colleagues with PhDs constantly repeat. If I ever point out the reality behind their misconceptions they always change the topic to something else, accuse me of justifying Bush and Cheney, or say we have to agree to disagree.

      The lies are in bold, my understand of reality is below in plain text.

      Bush was heartless and cut social programs left and right.

      Social spending in all categories grew during Bush’s presidency.

      Bush only gave tax breaks to rich people and never cut taxes to the poor.

      Taxes went down on many income categories during Bush’s two terms, and he issued multiple stimulus checks, which were criticized by Democrats as pandering at the time.

      Clinton amassed a surplus, while Bush squandered it.

      The Republicans swept Congress in 1994 on a platform of reducing wasteful spending. The resulting pressure on Clinton was to defend himself against Republican criticism by working with Gingrich to cut spending. The Constitution assigns budget powers to Congress. Most of the 1990s surplus resulted from a gridlock between Clinton and Republican congressmen, including two instances of congress shutting down the federal government to halt spending.

      Bush slashed funding for education.

      No Child Left Behind was one of the most drastic federalizations of education ever authored, and Bush worked with Ted Kennedy to pass it. Education spending by the federal government increased during Bush’s terms. As a result, test scores among blacks and Latinos increased. The number of Latinos with college degrees doubled during Bush’s eight years, which helped Obama, since Latinos tend to become liberalized in college.

      Bush and the Republicans were in the pocket of oil companies and therefore purposefully sabotaged hybrid auto technology.

      In August 2006, when Bush was in office along with a Republican-controlled Congress, my wife and I bought a Toyota Prius for $27,500. There was a 4-month waiting list for the Prius. Based on the tax code passed by the Republicans, my wife and I received a tax credit worth almost $4,000.

      The Republicans are all rich people who don’t have to work.

      In 2004 and 2008, the wealthiest Americans donated disproportionate amounts of money to Kerry and Obama. The wealthiest member of Congress is John Kerry. Polling is difficult among the wealthy, but all the major polls showed Obama defeating McCain by appreciable margins among people with PhDs, lawyers, doctors, investors, Wall Street professionals, and people generally earning more than $250,000 per year.

      Bush viewed the war on terror as a war of Christianity against Islam.

      A cursory review of Bush’s major speeches reveals that he consistently called Islam a religion of peace, called on Americans not to discriminate against Muslims, and appealed to Muslim populations directly by telling them Americans wanted them to be free of oppressive dictatorships. In Afghanistan, where the US invaded with a clunky coalition, the installation of democracy has been slow and spotty. In Iraq, where the US took initiative, a democratically elected government arose based on Islamic principles appropriate to the values held by Iraqis.

      –Well, those are just a few that I’ve documented over the last 5 months. These particular arguments have been brought up over 10 times in conversations I’ve been in, since January.

    • proreason says:

      Professor, good list and responses.

      BTW, Clinton never had a budget surplus. He came real close one time. The surpluses he claimed were due to the government’s funny-money accounting, which can easily convert 1 into 3.

      But having said that, he appeared to be more fiscally conservative than other recent presidents. But, just a thought, could the end of the cold war have anything to do with it? And might the gutting of our intelligence services that resulted in 9/11 have contributed as well? And of course, let’s not forget Newt’s 1994 Congress.

      The key point is that these educated koolaid sippers can always find something to say. They spend more time educating themselves about twisting the truth than they do about learning critical thinking. But it’s good to know there are a few like you who can actually think for themselves.

    • bronzeprofessor says:


      I am curious about the myths of Clinton’s surplus. I’ve seen some figures that indicate he merely misrepresented the status of the Social Security fund. But elsewhere I’ve seen figures that do point to at least 2 or 3 years of the Feds running in the black. If you could suggest any reading on it, I’d be very grateful. I don’t know how to assess the finances of the 1990s.

      The end of the Cold War and the slashing of defense obviously helped Clinton, but he also did work with a republican congress to cut large swaths of the welfare state. For that, he deserves credit, as do the Republicans. What I can’t stand is a simple Clinton/Bush binary which is what liberals like to give us. The fact that 9-11 happened in Bush’s first year, and the fact that Bush had to compromise with Democrats on a lot of social policies in exchange for their support and non-filibustering on the Wars, always seem to be given short change in the debate.

    • proreason says:

      Professor: here is the best article I’ve seen about the mythical Clinton surplusses.


      You never know if you are getting the truth on the web, and I haven’t double-checked all of the author’s data, but it has the ring of truth to me.

      The key fact presented is that the national debt increased each year of Clinton’s term. Now, government accounting does all sorts of magic with off-budget accounting, future obligations that don’t get counte, “revenue”, wavy finger “lockboxes” and untold other shell games, but the national debt is clean and simple. Very compelling.

  4. wirenut says:

    Good and thought provoking comments by all. I’m “FED”-up with the current administrations meddling in the fact that I even exist. Drone on dudes, for we are now , all wards of the state. Sick thinking and sick minds have lead to this culture of dependency. From (name your latest crisis), to ones yet to be defined. Predatory representation to garner a vote is far more insidious. The founding fathers didn’t ignore stupidity, they just didn’t have to spell it out on paper.

  5. take_no_prisoners says:

    Bronzeprof wrote:
    ” The Republicans are all rich people who don’t have to work.

    In 2004 and 2008, the wealthiest Americans donated disproportionate amounts of money to Kerry and Obama. The wealthiest member of Congress is John Kerry. Polling is difficult among the wealthy, but all the major polls showed Obama defeating McCain by appreciable margins among people with PhDs, lawyers, doctors, investors, Wall Street professionals, and people generally earning more than $250,000 per year.”

    And the problem is you have to be independently wealthy to be able to run for federal office. No one who is dependent on the fruits of their labor can afford to take the time off; let alone spend the money required, to be elected to, and serve in, such an office. One must be truly wealthy; in the top, 99.5 percentile, to even consider running for office. That’s why some puppet-master arranged for Obama to write 2 autobiographies, even though he hadn’t done anything particularly note-worthy in his life to that point. It’s the perfect way to funnel money to the puppet so that he has the time and money required to gain elected office. He writes the book. The puppet master makes sure it’s published, and makes sure enough copies are sold that it is listed on the New York Slimes best seller list, and voila–there’s the money the chosen one needs to run for office and do the puppet-master’s bidding. Hitler did it the same way with Mein Kampf.

  6. wirenut says:

    TNP, your observations were our founders concerns. Read pg.68 paragraph 2 of The Bill of Rights Primer by Amar & Adams. It’s a great and startling read.

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