There was telling moment during the CNN Republican presidential debate: Asked about the possibility of repealing George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription-drug benefit, which is adding some $17 trillion to Medicare’s unfunded liabilities, every one of the candidates pledged varying degrees of fealty to the program. No one came out for significantly cutting this vestige of Bush-style big-government conservatism, let alone repealing it. This put the current crop of Republicans to the left of John McCain, who at least campaigned in favor of means-testing the program in 2008.
The failure to stand up against one of the Bush administration’s most obvious mistakes is not just a case of hypocrisy; it is part of a disturbing trend toward ducking the tough decisions on budget cutting among the Republican aspirants. For all the sound and fury, and the charges and countercharges surrounding entitlement reform, the GOP candidates have been remarkably reluctant to put forward actual proposals.
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