Ever wondered what it's like to be a police officer on New Year's Eve?
What a night of work that has to be – racing from accident to accident, dodging (and arresting) weaving celebrants all along the way. Spending a 10-hour shift working as the only line of defense between the general public and the ravages of inexperienced drunks turned out onto the highways and sidewalks like so many unguided missiles with ton-and-a-quarter payloads. I bet the officers have no problem falling asleep when they finally make it home after that.
It seems like, in recent weeks, we're getting a dose of that feeling here at the Heritage Foundation. Instead of racing around to wrecks, fights and other small disasters, we're trying to keep the country safe from the huge disaster that would result if Congress doesn't come to its senses about how to create a prescription-drug benefit for seniors.
Like those bedraggled cops, we don't get a lot of help. The House of Representatives wants to do it one way, the Senate another, and President Bush – whose original proposal most closely matched our own proposal – now just wants something, anything, done as soon as possible. Oh, and he wants bipartisan agreement – even more cooks in the stew.
We fully acknowledge that something has to be done so less-well-off seniors don't have to eat dog food to afford their prescription drugs. It's just that, aside from President Bush's original proposal to model the program on the highly successful health plan that serves Congress, the White House staff and other federal employees, no one has come up with an affordable idea that would actually help seniors.
At first, we were participating in a philosophical – and occasional – discussion on what legislation should look like with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. Stuart Butler, vice-president of domestic policy and one of the nation's leading experts on health-care policy, has worked for years with members such as Sen. John Breaux, D-La., to find a reasonable answer to this problem. Bob Moffit, director of domestic policy at Heritage, is a former Office of Personnel Management official who understands the benefits of the federal employees' program and the budgetary nightmare the proposals in Congress would create.