Monday, October 19, 2009

Rahmblin' On

The healthcare debate continues to trudge along this week and with the latest numbers on the deficit, it appears the cost of reform will be front and center. Specifically the question as to whether or not the reform will add to the deficit. Here is the non-partisan OpenCongress blog:
the Senate Finance Committee version — has actually been scored by the Congressional Budget Office to produce $81 billion in savings over the next ten years.

But the only reason Congress has been able to meet (or come anywhere close to) Obama’s goal of budget neutrality for health care reform is that they are planning to shunt a big chunk of the actual costs into a separate bill. That bill, the Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009, is scheduled for a vote in the Senate this week. [E.A]

Seems like a pretty clear example of creative accounting, right? Well chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was asked about this on CNN's State of the Union program on Sunday:

KING: ... $250 billion Medicare fix to doctors. The administration has asked the Senate to do that outside of health care reform. And right now, there is no way to pay for it.

EMANUEL: Yes, but, John, in fact is -- the president -- this is one of the gimmicks that was done year after year in Washington...

KING: So why do it now? If it's been done year after year, why not end it?

EMANUEL: And the president's budget, in fact, he included it in his budget when we negotiated that and we passed the budget. The first year, it's paid for.

What happens is, everybody says, you know, don't worry about it, and then they just pass it on. We've made a difference.

But the first piece of controlling the deficit is health care. I will also say the next step, is also important, is paying pay as you go. In the 2000 era, starting in 2001, the discipline of the '90s that led to a surplus was pay as you go. That was eliminated, basically allowed to lapse. And we passed three tax cuts, a prescription drug bill that led to $5 trillion of red ink run up -- the biggest red ink run-up in the shortest period of time in American history. Literally over half the nation's debt is accumulated in the last eight years.

Huh? I'd highlight the important part, but someone will have to translate this for me first. That last paragraph is nearly incomprehensible. At the very least, it is insufficient as a response to the question of why this particular $250 billion isn't being counted against the cost of healthcare reform.

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