Bush: Election Year Moderate

In 2000, Bush fooled a lot of people into thinking he was a moderate, or at least a “compassionate conservative.” Presumably he won’t be able to do it again, but the amazing thing is that he’s trying.

In the 2000 debates, Bush at times criticized Gore from the left: “These folks have had eight years to get something done in Washington, D.C. on the uninsured. They have not done it.” Bush made a number of proposals on health care, but kept his promise (more or less) on only one: a prescription drug plan for seniors, which is supposed to go into effect in 2006.

His broken promises include: quick passage of prescription drug plan for low-income seniors, a patients’ bill of rights, “more community health clinics where the poor can go get health care,” a $2,000 tax credit to allow the uninsured to buy insurance, and a plan to “allow small businesses to write insurance across jurisdictional lines.” A version of drug assistance for low-income seniors does take effect this year, but after four years it’s hardly the “immediate help” Bush promised in 2000. A patients’ bill of rights never passed, and has been forgotten for several years now.

Bush has done almost nothing to help the uninsured. The truly brazen thing is that Bush is now repeating the same promises from 2000. His plan to help the uninsured includes “a health center or clinic in every poor county in America” and a “national marketplace to shop for health insurance,” just as it did four years ago. It also still includes a new tax credit for low-income households to buy insurance, although this time around it can only be used to buy a high-deductible insurance plan and a “health savings account.”

Perhaps we should be grateful for the broken promises. Bush’s plan to institute a “national marketplace in health insurance,” for example, is more a threat than a promise. The point is to prevent regulation of insurance by the states. Presumably bad state regulations would be driven out by competition, but so would good ones. We’d all buy our insurance from Delaware, I suppose, or whatever state has the laxest regulations, just like we all get our credit cards from Delaware-based banks.

Kerry ought to be calling Bush on this. Perhaps he could quote from the 2000 debates, when Bush said, “I want to remind you, the number of uninsured in America during their watch has increased.

Later this week, at Ragout, I’m going to look at some more elements of Bush’s attempt to cast himself as a moderate, especially his new-found love for job training and community colleges.