Thomas Sowell

In a swindle that would make Bernie Madoff look like an amateur, Barack Obama has gotten a substantial segment of the population to believe that he can add millions of people to the government-insured rolls without increasing the already record-breaking federal deficit.

Those who think in terms of talking points, instead of realities, can point to the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has concurred with budget numbers that the Obama administration has presented.

Anyone who is so old-fashioned as to stop and think, instead of being swept along by rhetoric, can understand that a budget-- any budget-- is not a record of hard facts but a projection of future financial plans. A budget tells us what will happen if everything works out according to plan.

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The Congressional Budget Office can only deal with the numbers that Congress supplies. Those numbers may well be consistent with each other, even if they are wholly inconsistent with anything that is likely to happen in the real world.

The Obama health care plan can be financed without increasing the federal deficit-- if the administration takes hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare. But Medicare itself does not have enough money to pay its own way over time.

However money is juggled in the short run, the government's financial liabilities are increased by adding this huge new entitlement of government-provided insurance. The fact that these new financial liabilities can be kept out of the official federal deficit projection, by claiming that they will be paid for with money taken from Medicare, changes nothing in the real world.

I can say that I can afford to buy a Rolls Royce, without going into debt, by using my inheritance from a rich uncle. But, in the real world, the question would arise immediately whether I in fact have a rich uncle, not to mention whether this hypothetical rich uncle would be likely to leave me enough money to buy a Rolls Royce.

In politics, however, you can say all sorts of things that have no relationship with reality. If you have a mainstream media that sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil-- when it comes to Barack Obama-- you can say that you will pay for a vast expansion of government-provided insurance by taking money from the Medicare budget and using other gimmicks.

Whether this administration, or any future administration, will in fact take enough money from Medicare to pay for this new massive entitlement is a question that only the future can answer, regardless of what today's budget projection says.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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