NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Prescription Drugs are Bad Politics

July 7, 2003

In a recent column, Bruce Bartlett suggested that George W. Bush would likely win an overwhelming victory next year, given the weakness of the Democratic field. National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru agrees, but makes the important point that this prospect is not necessarily good for conservatives.

The prescription drug subsidy bill before Congress is a good example of why this is the case, says Bartlett.

  • By supporting such legislation, he deprives Democrats of the one issue on which they might win next year.
  • Unfortunately, Democrats like Ted Kennedy know how badly Bush wants a prescription drug bill and are driving a hard bargain.
  • As with the 2001 education bill, Bush is effectively allowing Kennedy to dictate terms.

Conservatives in Congress are appalled by White House demands that they hold their noses and vote for the biggest expansion of government in 30 years. What is the point, they ask, of having control of the White House and Congress if it is just to enact Democrat big spending programs? Better to be back in the minority, many say.

As Ponnuru suggests, this is the price we are paying for being in the midst of a foreign policy crisis and having a Democratic Party controlled by its most extreme elements. The former tends to make conservatives reflexively support the president, while the latter makes the White House think that the middle of the political spectrum is there for the taking. With the elderly occupying much of that middle ground, the goal is simply to buy their votes with prescription drugs.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Prescription Drugs Are Bad Policy," National Center For Policy Analysis, July 7, 2003.


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