Speaking as a one-time proud moderate Republican I really appreciated Brad Delong's recent rant about what to do about this new, fairly insane, national thing that calls itself the "Republican Party." He had just come back from a talk by Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, authors of an excellent book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. Before the section I quote below, he had just said that, while he had asked a bunch of questions, but this one was one that he should have asked, but didn't think of until later on.
"Look. You two are expecting normal politics to rein in a Republican Party gone bonkers extreme. But it will not work. The press corps will continue to say "he said, she said, yadda yadda yadda" either because they are gutless cowards or because they are bought. In a world of low-information voters, the bonkers extremism and sheer total meanness of the Republican Party will not get through. The only way it could get through would be if moderate Republican barons were to announce that they had had enough and were crossing t'he aisle, and if they did so in a way that they brought their affinities with them. But I don't see Brent Scowcroft doing that, I don't see Colin Powell doing that, I don't see Greg Mankiw doing that, I don't see Marty Feldstein doing that, I don't see Gail Wilensky doing that, I don't see Bob Dole doing that, I don't see Jack Danforth doing that, I don't see Richard Lugar doing that--and I don't see you doing that, Mr. Ornstein. I don't see you calling for the defeat of every single Republican candidate this fall and every fall until the party comes back to reality.
"'And since all of you moderate Republicans are unwilling to take the only step that might fix the situation on your side, we have to take the only step open to us: We have to stop bringing a set of policy proposals and briefing papers to what the Republican Party has made a thermonuclear exchange. We have to oppose their noise, slime, and lie machine with a noise, disinfectant, and truth machine of our own--and at the same intensity.
"'That means you moderates need to pick a side and fasten your seat belts, rather than wringing your hands about how the Republicans are being so mean, and you wish they would be less so.'
"Mr. Mann and Mr. Ornstein, please give me an alternative strategy I can follow to help the non-insane Republicans recapture their party. Please give me an alternative to signing up with Kos [referring to fairly radical proposals from the Daily Kos]. And if you cannot give me an alternative, why are you two not signing up with Kos right now?
"The stakes, after all, are high."
Last year Medicare Part D subscribers spent sixty two billion dollars on prescription drugs. If those drugs had been purchased through the V.A. or through any other branch of the armed forces, they would have cost about thirty billion. That would have been an enormous saving for ordinary people and would have been one more notch in bringing down the ballooning deficit. Health care outlays by the Federal government are one of the largest contributors to the deficit. However, because of certain provisions built into the law, the Medicare Agency is not allowed to use the free market to bargain down prices for drugs. It is not allowed to purchase them from the very stable, very reputable companies in Canada. All that it is allowed to do is take the inflated prices offered by the big pharmaceutical companies and pay them. The military, Tricare, the Veterans Administration and many other government entities have the right to collectively negotiate drug prices for better rates, but Medicare does not.
The origin of this glitch goes back to when the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (the drug industry lobby known as “Big PhRMA”), was asked by Congressman Billy Tauzin to help him write the language for the act which established Medicare Part D, something that was at least lazy and possibly illegal. They did what they were told and produced a bill that many believe is far more favorable to the industry than to the Medicare subscribers. Following its passage, Tauzin was hired as the president of Phrma, at an annual salary of $2 million.
One wonders whether the Medicare Part D subscribers have the right to sue Phrma or Tauzin for something like the violation of their civil rights for blocking their ability to compete in a free and unfettered open market.