Paul Greenberg

The clean-up crews are already busy. The funny figures that got this Landmark Health-Care Bill and circus past the Congressional Budget Office will now have to be rectified. They have served their purpose, which was to pass the bill, not say how much it will really cost.

Surely no one believes the figures the administration submitted to the CBO. As one old hand at this kind of fiscal legerdemain described the whole, computerized process of obtaining the CBO's imprimatur: Fantasy In, Fantasy Out.

And surely no one, especially in government, believes those cuts in Medicare and in reimbursements to physicians and hospitals will ever actually go into effect. Those were for accounting purposes only, like the government bonds that are supposed to back up Social Security.

The higher taxes that will be needed to finance this Lehman Bros. of health care aren't scheduled to go into effect until the mid-term elections are safely past. Or maybe the next presidential election. Various benefits are to come first. How prudent, politically if not fiscally.

It's an old sell: Buy now and pay later, if ever. Just put the bill on what the Brits call the never-never. No one can know what all these thousands of pages of health-care legislation amount to, only that they'll need to followed by hundreds of thousands of pages of regulation.

Here's the only sure result of this whirlwind now being sown: more and more massive deficits. At last report, this 44th president of the United States was running up a national debt greater than all his 43 predecessors combined -- and that was before Obamacare became fuzzy law. The sky ceased to be the limit long ago; we're far out in fiscal space now. Unmoored.

For the first time since my memory runneth not to the contrary, not just fiscal nerds but real live voters are beginning to take deficits seriously. Certainly the bond market is. There is talk of the U.S. government's losing its AAA rating. The U.S. Government. Investors are showing more confidence in Warren Buffett's bonds than Timothy Geithner's. At last people have started talking about the herd of elephants in the room. Maybe this isn't a lull in politics after all; maybe it's just shock setting in. Before the explosion of fury.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 


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