The Washington press corps was busy last week stocking up on Red Bulls and Diet Cokes in anticipation of a late night following President Oba ma’s second prime time news conference in his short tenure. White House aides said privately they wanted to convey the image of a “calm, relaxed, and confident” commander-in-chief, whose baptism by fire with the financial crisis has only steeled his resolve and reaffirmed that his is the correct path.
Let’s suspend disbelief for the time being and assume last week’s 500 point market rally was a sign of better times for our embattled economy. What happens next with respect to Obama’s agenda? He has certainly bitten off more than he can chew, even if his Cabinet and aides feel they’re primed for bolder agenda items. One issue that will suck all of the political oxygen out of the room in the coming weeks and months is the president’s health care plan.
When he submitted his budget at the beginning of the month, Hill veterans were forced to ask where the health care specifics were located in such a large tome. No one could find any details. The proposal even listed an exact amount of $634 billion to be placed into a reserve fund. Again, with such a precise dollar amount, one would assume this amount was reached by having a clear plan of where and how the money would be spent. Apparently, details only complicate the otherwise smooth and rapid approval of boundless sacks of taxpayer money heaped on our national woes.
It’s not like health care wasn’t on Candidate Obama’s radar. He gave countless speeches on the matter with specific, concrete ideas. So why were none of them included in his budget submission? If I handed a potential buyer/customer/investor/taxpayer a plan with that enormous a price tag, it better include a detailed blueprint. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a glorified wish list that hasn’t significantly moved this debate any further than Hillary Care in 1994.
When asked a similar question before a congressional hearing earlier this month, OMB Director Peter Orszag essentially said, “trust me, it’s all up here…E2 and then pointed to his head. Senate Finance Ranking Member Charles Grassley expressed his concern with the lack of details included in the budget and hoped that Mr. Orszag could explain more on how these “bold proposals” were going to be implemented and how the money would be spent. Unfortunately, Orszag’s response to the Senator’s concerns was that “right now, everything is on the table.”