Republicans Are Playing the Tea Party for Saps

Sorry Tea Party types, but the Republicans are playing you for saps.

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Here is a question I have for Republican candidates, Independent voters, and the elderly: Should the Medicare prescription drug benefit be repealed?

There is no need to ask the question of Democrats--they like the benefit, and improved it this year by closing the infamous "donut hole" when they passed healthcare reform.

[Read more about healthcare.]

But Republicans must be planning to repeal the biggest federal expansion of Medicare. Nothing could be more socialistic, right? It added gazillions to the deficit and our long-term debt. President Bush may have wisely recognized that modern medicine is changing, and that more and more of us make it into our golden years by virtue of expensive pills and salves, but the legislation only got through a Republican House because Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay twisted arms and gouged eyes and held the vote open in the dead of night until they had corralled enough votes to get it passed. And, just like Obamacare, it was packed with ugly political sweeteners to buy the necessary votes.

Surely, given the Republican and Tea Party rhetoric about horrible, awful, spendthrift Washington, the prescription drug benefit will be repealed when House Speaker John Boehner takes office. We can save money and cut taxes for the rich by giving seniors vouchers, and sending them out to bargain, one-on-one, with the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. After all, we need to save our Constitution.

[See who supports Boehner.]

Well, rest easy old-timers. The Republican Congress (we've already had the election, right?) won't dare touch your drug benefit. Sorry Tea Party types, but the Republicans are playing you for saps. Just like all his predecessors--Speakers Newt Gingrich (yikes) and Bob Livingston (oops) and Dennis Hastert (ouch)—Rep. Boehner's top priority will be the preservation of his majority. They added the drug benefit to Medicare the last time they had the gavel, and didn't touch a hair on the head of all those terrible federal bureaucracies lining the Mall. Last time I checked, the number of cabinet agencies actually grew during the Bush years. Remember Karl Rove lambasting Democrats for dragging their feet in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security?

There are words out in the heartland for stirring up people's fears, and telling angry voters that you're with them, when all along you know there's not a snowball's chance in hell you'll actually do what you say. It's called hypocrisy, or betrayal.

Or as they say here in Washington, smart politics.

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