Silver Threads - 2/26/2006
The Courage to Grow Old

How Medicare Part D Became a Joke

category_bug_journal2.gif There are three writers/thinkers for whom I have carried long-time crushes, decades in two instances - Gore Vidal and Bill Moyers - and Rageboy aka Chris Locke, for the past five years or so.

If I had to analyze the reasons, I suppose it would be that each is an intellectual giant without being a pedant, and they never fail to inform, entertain and raise questions I’d not considered before. Those are about the sexiest qualities I know of - engage my mind and you’ve got me for life.

With that confessional taken care of, today it is Bill Moyers who has my rapt attention. In a long piece at, originally a speech, Moyers delves into the dirty dealings of money in Washington politics.

“Gilded Ages - then and now - have one thing in common,” he writes. “Audacious and shameless people for whom the very idea of public trust is a cynical joke.”

It’s not that this story is new, but it is in the detail that the extent of the joke becomes so much more clear than the daily reporting of mainstream media. That the Medicare prescription drug plan is an organizational mess is only the superficial, the easy story. Here is the background from Moyers:

“It was not a pretty sight out there on the floor of the House. At one point DeLay marched over to one reluctant Republican – Representative Nick Smith – who opposed the Medicare bill – and attempted to change his mind.

“Smith, who was serving his final term in office, later alleged that he was offered a bribe – $100,000 for his son’s campaign to succeed him. When he subsequently retracted his accusation, the House Ethics Committee looked into the charges and countercharges and wound up admonishing both Smith and DeLay, who admitted that he had offered to endorse Smith’s son in exchange for Smith’s support but that no money or bribe were involved.

“Timothy Noah of has mused about what DeLay’s endorsement would nonetheless have meant in later campaign contributions if Smith had gone along. While the report of the ethics committee never did find out the true story, Noah asks: ‘Who did whisper ‘$100,000’ in Smith’s ear? The report is full of plausible suspects, including DeLay himself, but it lacks any evidence on this crucial finding. You get the feeling the authors would prefer to forget this mystery ever existed.

“There are no victimless crimes in politics. The price of corruption is passed on to you. What came of all these shenanigans was a bill that gave industry what it wanted and gave taxpayers the shaft.

“The bill covers only a small share of drug expenses. It has a major gap in coverage – the so-called ‘donut hole.’ It explicitly forbids beneficiaries from purchasing private coverage to fill in the gap and explicitly forbids the federal government from bargaining for lower drug prices. More than one consumer organization has estimated that most seniors could end up paying even more for prescription drugs than before the bill passed.

“Furthermore, despite these large flaws the cost of the bill is horrendous – between 500 billion and 1 trillion dollars in its first ten years. The chief actuary for Medicare calculated a realistic estimate of what the bill would cost, but he later testified before Congress that he was forbidden from releasing the information by his boss, Thomas Scully, the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who was then negotiating for a lucrative job with the health care industry.

“Sure enough, hardly had the prescription drug bill become law than Scully went to work for the largest private equity investor in health care and at a powerful law firm focusing on health care and regulatory matters.”

It’s not just Medicare Part D that is negotiated in this manner for the benefit of mega-corporations in general and the monied elite in particular. It is every Congressional act. There is no public interest in Washington.

Do read Moyers' entire piece which covers much more that Medicare. It is lucid, detailed, enlightening, long - prints out to 12 pages - and worth every minute you will spend with it.

Back in the days when television actually sought to inform us on occasion, Steve Allen produced a series based on the old question, who from any time in history would you most like to have dinner with? Knowledgeable people then portrayed Julius Caesar, Ben Franklin, Jeanne d'Arc, etc. in serious discussions of important human issues.

The number from history, for me, would necessarily require a banquet hall. But if confined to the living, my choices for dinner companions are Gore Vidal, Rageboy and Bill Moyers.


I'll take Dr. Samuel Johnson, Albert Einstein,Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde . :)

I have no idea who Chris Locke is but I "googled" him and found out that

"Christopher Locke is Chairman of The Titanic Deck Chair Rearrangement Corporation. " (NASDAQ:TDCRC). :)

Sounds like exactly the "Company" where most of our government would fit right in. "Homeland Security" Chertoff, "Fema" Brownie,"Sharpshooter" Cheney
and of course "All hat-no cattle" George.

"The number from history, for me, would necessarily require a banquet hall. But if confined to the living, my choices for dinner companions are Gore Vidal, Rageboy and Bill Moyers."

Can I come? Can I come? I'll bring the beer!

That dinner party would go on all night, but I'm sure up for it!

Only recently found Rageboy. Had passed over the name as uninviting to me, but after finally visiting there, liked what I found.

Gotta read Moyers. Miss his PBS pgm. Haven't come across any Vidal lately.

Took some time at Rageboy's site to discover recent posts re an issue that reared it's ugly head in my local community a few years ago.

Anyone who thinks that "ism" over which we fought World War II in Europe is no longer a concern is naive.

Our community had issues to address over a several year period culminating in a period when the "ism" promoters were quiet. Suddenly, one year they were back, with one of their number promoting his business skills and running for school board. Fortunately, our local newspaper printed his credentials which he was not talking about. Locals who did not remember who he was and what he stood for were alerted. He denied his affiliation, but facts were shown that nothing had changed.

I was astounded at the number of signs in yards of older residents supporting him, even a few letters to the editor, convinced he was the man for the job.

I am happy to say he was roundly defeated in the election. Coincidentally, we have had no vandalism of the most dispicable type (which had begun some years earlier, to our communities shock, continuing for several years.)

As an elder in the society I believe it falls to me to be vigilant in helping protect our community less such "isms" flourish again. I hope others monitor candidates and what's going on at this local level so they can vote intelligently whenever the time comes.

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