2003 November 26 Wednesday
Medicare Drug Benefit: A Strange Sort Of Republican Victory

Tony Blankley sees passage of the Republican version of the Medicare drug entitlement bill as a sign that the center of power in Washington DC is shifting toward the Republican Party.

The passage of the Republican Party's Medicare/Prescription drug bill -- and its support by the AARP -- is by far the most convincing evidence to date that the political center of gravity in Washington is shifting definitively to the GOP for the first time since the pre-FDR era. While the mood of the country as a whole has shifted back and forth between Republican and Democratic over the decades, the effective exercise of power (particularly domestic policy power) in Washington has been tenaciously held on to by the Democrats since they acquired it in the early 1930s.

It is a strange sort of victory when the Republican Party, supposedly the party of limited government, ushers in the largest increase in entitlements program growth in decades. Blankley seems to think that implementation of entitlements expansions in ways architected by Republican legislators are victories Republican voters should celebrate. But why do most Republicans vote for the Republican Party in the first place? To get a welfare state that expands less rapidly than it would if the Democrats were in control? Perhaps that is the best we can realistically hope for. But if that is the best we can hope for then it strikes me as a reason to feel truly defeated rather than a reason to celebrate.

Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute points out that the Medicare bill increases the unfunded liability of Medicare by trillions.

The measure being pushed by the White House and congressional leadership expands the sense of entitlement among the elderly, further mortgages the future of young workers, and, if approved, will cost far, far more than the $395 billion estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.

Any legislator who takes fiscal responsibility seriously should be particularly concerned about the latter. Pegged at a ten-year cost of $395 billion, the real increase in the government's presently unfunded liability will be several trillion dollars: Estimates ranged from $6 trillion for the House bill to $12 trillion for the Senate measure, with the compromise likely falling somewhere in between. The latter number is 40 percent of Medicare's current projected future red ink.

The history of cost estimates for new entitlements programs has consistently been one where the real costs end up being multiples of the estimates.

David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute says the Medicare drug benefit may lead to government drug price controls.

The costs associated with Medicare will grow dramatically over the coming decades as our population ages. The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates the unfunded liability of the program at $13 trillion over the next 75 years. Far from helping this unsustainable situation, a prescription drug benefit will increase this liability by more than 50 percent.

Second, this bill makes the federal government the largest funder of prescription drug purchases in the world. Medicare already has price controls for physician fees and hospital reimbursements; will it be long before Washington wants a better deal on pharmaceuticals?

Drug price controls would be more damaging for health in the long run than just about anything else that the government might do to the medical and healthcare sector of the economy. A Reduction in the profitability of new drug development will inevitably cause the drug companies to respond by developing fewer drugs.

Just what exactly is a victory depends on how one defines victory. Triumphalism by Panglossian partisans has become unhealthily common on the Right when many policies pursued by the Bush Administration are defended or when discussing larger trends in the media and culture. Providing some needed balance to this triumphalism Jonah Goldberg challenges the assertion that the Right is winning the Culture Wars in America.

But, in all of this euphoria some folks seem to be losing sight of something fairly obvious. Conservatives are still astoundingly outgunned and out manned. It's bully for us that the Right is having so much success with the tools at our disposal — cable TV, AM radio, websites, blogs, mime — but the tools at our disposal are still far, far less potent than the tools in the Left's utility belt.

Think about it: If we'd really won a culture war — with all of the aggrandizement of territory implied by such a term — wouldn't our troops be raising our flags in a few more enemy forts? Sure, we've mounted a few heads on a few pikes. But Phil Donahue did most of his damage 20 years ago. By the time he suited up for MSNBC, he was less a formidable culture warrior and more like one of those WWI veterans who sits outside the VFW talking about putting the kibosh on the Kaiser. And, sure, David Brooks now writes for the New York Times, and hooray for that. But he's still the "house goy" over there, ideologically speaking. Meanwhile, I don't see Harvard, Yale, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Hollywood, the Episcopal Church, or the Courts, getting demonstrably more conservative.

There are splits on the right between, for instance, cultural conservatives and libertarians. But on many issues where some factions on the Right agree those factions are losing. The government looks set to grow larger as the population ages and entitlements spending skyrockets. Also, on the culture front there are no clear victories. It is obvious, to take just one obvious example, that the standards for what can be put on TV get looser each year.

The economic libertarians have few victories to point to. A favorite policy of the economic libertarians and some "compassionate" conservatives and economic conservatives is educational vouchers. But the privatization of education is pretty much stalled as upper middle class people in higher income neighborhoods with schools that have high scholastic rankings (said rankings being due in no small part to the fact that the kids of upper class people are smarter on average) want no part of any kind of voucher system that would bring in kids from other school districts who would worsen the learning environment of their schools.

Goldberg's essay is in response to Brian C. Anderson's City Journal article We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore which I've previously posted on: Brian C. Anderson On The End Of The Liberal Media Monopoly. I certainly think more channels of information are becoming available and that these additional channels are allowing a larger variety of opinions to be heard. Yet Goldberg is correct in arguing that the Left still dominates in the media formats that most people still use to get their news and opinion. The most prestigious educational and media institutions are still firmly dominated by the Left.

This domination by the Left of key institutions is not the only reason the Right's prospects are not rosy. As I've previously argued in Will Republicans Follow Tories Into Marginal Status? the biggest factor running against the Republicans in the future is that demographic trends promise to make the Republicans the permanent minority party. The evidence from voting trends is extremely discouraging for the Republicans.

Steve Sailer reports that the Bush Administration's attempts to win over more non-whites to vote Republican have totally failed.

Although the White House's campaign guru Karl Rove had been talking up the GOP's outreach efforts to minorities, his party's share of the non-white vote dropped from 25 percent in 2000 to 23 percent. That mattered little, however, because its share of the white-vote segment grew from 55 percent to 59 percent. Further benefiting the Republicans, the white portion of the electorate increased from 81 percent to 82 percent, even though the total population is becoming less white each year.

Even the Asian voters are moving further away from the Republican Party

Asians continued to move to the left, with the Republican share falling from 40 percent to 34 percent.

So there is not even a non-white immigrant group that is going to support the Republican Party at the polls. Immigration is eventually going to be the death of the Republican Party.

As the white percentage of the population of the United States falls and the population ages and a larger portion of the population becomes eligible for entitlements programs the Republican Party will have to become the Rino (Republican In Name Only) Party in order to keep winning elections. This really will defeat the purpose of having the Republican Party in the first place.

Here are the latter four parts of Steve Sailer's five part UPI analysis of voting patterns in the 2002 election are part 2 entitled Analysis: GOP's Protestant appeal, part 3 entitled Analysis: The voting gender gap narrows, part 4 entitled Analysis: Young voters less conservative, and part 5 entitled Analysis: Demographic trends against GOP.

The Republican Party triumphed in the 2002 midterm elections in part because the GOP's kind of voters -- married, middle-aged, affluent, and white -- showed up at the polls in relatively large numbers. In contrast, in the 2004 elections, the normal demographic cycle is likely to be running in the Democrats' direction

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 November 26 06:24 PM  Politics American Domestic

Bob Badour said at November 26, 2003 6:57 PM:

I think the term is "Pyrrhic Victory".

Republican mime, eh? I suspect republican mime is stuck in a shrinking box or fighting an overpowering wind.

Matt W. said at November 28, 2003 11:33 AM:

Excellent post. The Prescription Drug entitlement bill was a disaster, and HUGE defeat for both conservatism and America. Anyone who says otherwise is not a conservative.

Bush is a fool and a lefty. He is supporting the very policies--mass unskilled immigration, including illegal immigration, and massive increases in government spending, that are in the long run endangering America. The USA does not have an unlimited capacity to absorb multiculturalist, unskilled immigrants, nor does it have the unlimited capacity to support a continually ballooning welfare state.

Proborders said at December 2, 2003 11:38 AM:


Aren't Cuban Americans more likely to vote for Republicans than Democrats?

I think that the current immigration system has been disproportionately beneficial to Mexicans. As of 2000 30% of all immigrants living in the US were Mexican immigrants (http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back1203.html). Considering the limited amounts of formal education that Mexican immigrants have, the Mexican share of immigrants should be more like 5%.

Over half of the "growth in [the] immigrant... [population]... in the United States" from 1990 to 2000 is due to immigration from Spanish-speaking Latin America (http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back1203.html#table4). From 1990 to 2000 the number of immigrants from Spanish-speaking Latin America almost doubled (Ibid.), as the number of Mexican immigrants more than doubled(http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back1203.html#table3).

As of 2000 there were more immigrants in the US from Spanish-speaking Latin America than from Europe, East Asia, and South Asia combined (http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back1203.html#table4). Also as of 2000 there were more immigrants from Mexico (http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back1203.html#table3) than from Europe or East Asia (http://www.cis.org/articles/2003/back1203.html#table4).

In 1790 the black percentage of the US population was 19.3%. In 1880 and 1920 the percentages were 13.1 and 9.9, respectively (http://www.census.gov/population/documentation/twps0056/tab01.xls). Currently the percentage is approximately 13.

From 1880 to 1920 millions of Europeans migrated to this country.

I think that immigration from Hispanic countries should be greatly reduced. Immigration from Poland, Romania, and the Ukraine should probably be increased.

Randall Parker said at December 2, 2003 12:26 PM:

Yes, the Cubans are the only majority pro-Republican Hispanic immigrants in the US. But the Cubans are the former middle and upper class Spaniard ruling class of Cuba. They also are tending toward being less Republican as the younger generations are less motivated by anti-communism and hatred of Castro and more motivated by American domestic concerns.

Immigration is going to make the Republicans a marginal also-ran political party. Immigration has already shifted the Republicans leftward and will continue to do so.

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