Originally created 12/01/05

Medicare: the next big boondoggle



The state of Massachusetts used $14 billion in federal taxpayer dollars to build a tunnel that was supposed to cost $2 billion. It was known as "The Big Dig," and it connects Interstate 93 to downtown Boston.

Five years behind schedule and $12 billion over budget, it finally opened to traffic on Dec. 20, 2003. It is officially America's single most expensive highway project to date, and the subject of relentless criticism as nothing more than a boondoggle.

As wasteful as the Big Dig was, it has now been eclipsed by another boondoggle ironically created by those who claim to be opposed to big government: the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

President Bush and the Republican Congress enacted this program at the cost of $400 billion over 10 years. The government has spent $250 million promoting the program. Despite this, 80 percent of seniors either have no intention of enrolling or are confused about how it works, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

This atrocity was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives only by allowing the vote to last an unheard-of three hours while the leadership twisted arms. The vote ended at 6 a.m. with a tally of 220-215.

The American Association of Retired Persons supported the legislation. AARP's policy director now says "the potential is grim." The program meant to impress seniors has only baffled them.

Congress has created a pot of gold with no rainbow to lead you there. And the possibility remains that the pot could contain only bronze. But no matter if it contains bronze or silver, the prescription drug benefit brings home the gold medal for best in wasteful spending.

Herbert A. Edney IV, Augusta