Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Incompetence, The Corruption, and The Cronyism, January 19, 2006

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
H.L. Mencken

The Incompetence:

The defining fiasco of the Bush Administration may prove to be the utterly disastrous Medicare prescription drug benefit, formally known as Medicare Part D. Already the newspapers are filled with stories about Medicare-Medicaid patients, the poorest of the poor, being denied prescriptions by the thousands because the government, with only two full years to prepare, didn't have its computer systems tested, up, and running when the program launched January 1. The pain is just beginning.

What's instructive about this project is that it provides a concrete illustration of what Social Security would have looked like after a Bush privatization job: A program that should be designed to serve citizens turned instead into a plaything for lobbyists and business interests. Had Social Security privatization gone through, it's plain, the financial services industry would have had the green light to inundate citizens with flagrantly misleading brochures promising benefits that they couldn't deliver. There are many words for this in the thesaurus, but the first one that comes to mind is "disgusting."

Golden State Column: Bush's Catastrophic Drug Benefit (Part One) by Michael Hitzik.

See, also, Americablog: It's Medicare Part D for Disaster

The Corruption:

The K Street Project was a giant money laundering enterprise. Many of the beneficiaries were non-profits: either religious or charitable organizations. One was organized by the hateful Grover Norquist, of 'drown the federal government in a bathtub' fame. If Jack Abramoff directed monies to Norquist organizations in exchange for meetings with President Bush or other favors, that's tax fraud. I wonder who gets to investigate this: the prosecutor after Abramoff, or the IRS?

Stuart Levine:

Grover Norquist and the Tax Code

Did Grover Norquist Commit Tax Fraud?

The Cronyism:

The most incompetent White House spokesman since Ron Ziegler, Scott McClellan, has a brother, Mark McClellan. Guess what government fiasco Mark McClellan runs? The clue here is "incompetent". As in Medicare Part D.
And are you asking yourself, "What about the other McClellan brother?" You'll recall that Medicare Plan D isn't working well? And that seniors and pharmacists and medical professionals who are trying to make sense out of the entire mess can't get a straight answer from the 1-800 hotline, even after waiting forever on hold to get to a person who is supposed to help them? Guess who is in charge of coordinating this non-helpful service (via The Plank):

I have an article about what's going on with the Medicare drug benefit--and why--coming out in this week's edition of the magazine. But one tidbit I came across in my research seems worth sharing now. It's a Government Accounting Office report, issued in December, warning that the Bush administration hadn't done enough to make sure the most medically and financially vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries could actually get their drugs.

If you do get around to reading it, make sure to check out the part where Mark McClellan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the GAO has it all wrong--the part where he insists that "CMS has established effective contingency plans to ensure that dual-eligible beneficiaries will be able to obtain comprehensive coverage and obtain necessary drugs beginning January 1, 2006."

Well, maybe not entirely effective.

Firedoglake: Profiles in Cronyhood: The McClellan Brothers

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