Extremism in support of private insurers is no virtue, and President Bush was defiantly unvirtuous in resisting a Medicare bill that preserves and strengthens government-funded health care for elderly Americans. The president was so out of the moral mainstream on Medicare that he alienated just about everyone who doesn’t own an insurance company. The elderly, consumer groups, physicians, state health officials — even members of Bush’s own party turned on him. The only Republican in the Arkansas congressional delegation, Rep. John Boozman, joined his five Democratic colleagues in voting for the bill and for the override of Bush’s veto. One of those colleagues, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, said it was “unfortunate” that the president chose to veto a bill that would improve care and access for Arkansas Medicare beneficiaries, and provide critical financial assistance to doctors who treat Medicare patients. A stronger adjective would not have been out of place. The bill that was passed over Bush’s veto blocks a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, and instead cuts payments to private companies who offer their own policies for the elderly in association with Medicare, and who typically are paid more than Medicare pays directly to doctors. A reduction in Medicare payments to doctors would have been particularly harmful in Arkansas, which already has the lowest such payments in the country, and which struggles to keep physicians treating Medicare patients. “I am proud Congress put partisan politics aside and stood united with our seniors, military families, and providers,” Lincoln said. To put partisan politics aside is something Bush has never seemed able, or willing, to do.
No-growth policy needed
Every one of the many studies done on the subject — including at least one the trucking industry paid for itself — has shown that big trucks do not pay their fair share for highway maintenance, that the cost of the damage they do to roads and bridges exceeds the amount of the taxes they pay. And yet, the truckers never stop asking permission to use even bigger vehicles, and quite often they get it. The current weight limit is 80,000 pounds. The industry is asking Congress to authorize a “demonstration project” that would allow trucks weighing up to 100,000 pounds in six states — Georgia, Maine, Michigan, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. Congress should put a stop to this scheme quickly. There’s already plenty of research showing what bigger trucks do to highways. The results are not going to change, not in an honest study. Ample data is available on the subject of trucks and highway safety too. One statistic: Heavy trucks make up 3 percent of all registered vehicles. They account for 9 percent of fatal crashes.