Worst Government Program: Drug Entitlement

This week we spotlight the 2004 Ten Worst Government Programs–which were selected for HUMAN EVENTS by a distinguished panel of conservative leaders. The “honor” of heading the list this year goes to the Medicare prescription drug entitlement. When HUMAN EVENTS produced its first annual Ten Worst programs list last March, this entitlement did not exist. A Republican Congress and President labored in the interim to create it, ensuring its passage in a now-notorious session of the House of Representatives that lasted into the wee hours of the morning as conservative members were cajoled and pressured to support the greatest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ. When HUMAN EVENTS asked Medicare spokeswoman Kathleen Dziak last week to point to the constitutional provision that authorized the government to create a drug entitlement, she pointed instead to an agency document outlining the history and policy rationale for the entire Medicare program. The truth: There is no constitutional justification for either Medicare or the drug entitlement. Hall of Shame Nor is there constitutional justification for most of programs on the 2004 Ten Worst list–saving, perhaps, United Nations funding, which can be justified by the treaty power, and the Postal Service, which the Constitution expressly authorized. This year’s Ten Worst list demonstrates–as did last year’s–that the federal spending problem is primarily a constitutional problem. Much attention is paid to federal judges who flout the constitutional limits on government power, but legislators and Presidents flout those limits, too, when they make appropriations for programs that are beyond the scope of legitimate federal authority. Here’s how HUMAN EVENTS put this list together: We asked a diverse group of 19 conservative public policy experts to nominate and judge the Ten Worst Government Programs for us. These experts ranged from George Mason University Economics Prof. Walter Williams to Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly; from Americans For Tax Reform President Grover Norquist to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins; from syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin to Brian Riedl, the Grover M. Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at the Heritage Foundation. Any federal program or agency beneath the level of a Cabinet department was eligible–with one exception: The Legal Services Corp., last year’s No. 1 program, was retired into the Worst Programs Hall of Shame. The nominated programs were then put on a ballot and judges marked their choices 1 through 10, with 1 being the worst. We scored their choices by assigning 10 points to each No. 1 rating, 9 points for each No. 2 rating, and so on. After all the ballots were counted, this year’s Ten Worst ended up being 11, because two programs tied for No. 10.