December 6, 2006
November 7 brought news not only of the Democrats' takeover of
Congress. The U.S.S. Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier that has
housed a military museum on Manhattan's West Side waterfront for a
quarter century, was supposed to be towed across the river to
Bayonne, N.J., for an extensive overhaul. But it was stuck so
firmly in the Hudson River bottom that six powerful tugs couldn't
dislodge it. The lead tugboat pilot blamed "a buildup of mud
underneath the vessel." Though the tugs tried mightily "to get it
to wiggle," he added, the Intrepid "came to a fix" and "just is
With the Democrats preparing to assume control of Congress, evidence has already begun to mount that a similar buildup of mud has accumulated under the U.S.S. Democrat that threatens to keep that old vessel solidly held in port.
Consider the following:
But according to the Washington Post, the drug program has "proven cheaper and more popular than anyone imagined." Over 80% of seniors tell pollsters they like it. In 2006, moreover, it cost $30 billion, a full $13 billion less than anticipated. Apparently, more seniors had drug coverage than originally estimated and, therefore, didn't need the benefit. The program also inspired private insurance companies to compete aggressively for customers, which pressured drug companies to lower their prices, also well below projections. One former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Robert Reischauer, questioned the need for the Democrats' plan: "At some point," he said, "you have to ask, what are we looking for here?"
The incoming chairman of the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass), provided an answer: billions to fund other grandiose schemes. "There's a lot of money that's rattling around out there," he said, "and the question is, who's going to get it?" Kennedy believes price controls on the pharmaceutical sector will generate $400 billion in savings over 10 years. But the Congressional Budget Office argues that this fix would produce "negligible" savings.
Much remains to be done, Democrats contend. They plan to move legislation requiring the inspection of all cargo containers entering U.S. ports and mandating the installation of radiation devices at every port of entry, despite industry fears that these initiatives would hobble global shipping. They also want to spend additional billions to increase security for mass transit rail systems, Amtrak and freight rail lines.
But incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) vows that the Democrats' new official motto will be "no new deficit spending." This would force new programs like these, which come with multi-billion-dollar price tags, to compete head on with other items on her party's agenda.
The five-year cost of cutting the interest rate in half on the college loans taken out annually by 5.7 million students runs between $30 billion and $60 billion. Adding a new $3,000 tax credit for tuition costs requires another $7 billion. Increasing the ceiling on Pell Grants to low-income students adds $22 billion more. Little wonder Kennedy hems and haws over how he will pay for all this.
Liberal Democrats spent the last 12 years criticizing
Republicans for slashing federal programs, even as the cost of
those programs exploded. Now that they want to take spending to
new, unimagined heights, they find themselves as stuck in the mud
as the Intrepid.
Michael Franc is Vice President for Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events Online