CBO Hands Baucus Health Bill Win

Posted: Oct 07, 2009 5:47 PM
The CBO's score of the Baucus bill is a big big win for the Dems today. The score says the bill comes in under $1 trillion, covers an extra 29 million Americans, and will reduce the 10-year deficit by $81 billion. These numbers are subject to change (as the report admits) but it might provide cover for those on-the-fence centrists in Congress who would otherwise be unwilling to institute new government programs in a time of massive projected budget deficits.

Some smart people have already commented on the CBO score. Tevi Troy takes a quick hacksaw to the report. Greg Mankiw warns of the massive tax burden that will befall the American people. Peter Suderman at Reason raises his own caveats to keep in mind when considering the CBO score. And Robert Costa at NRO has the initial GOP response here. Finally, Mary Katharine Ham has a good CBO reading roundup here.

A few thoughts come to mind.

The CBO's score takes the Baucus bill at its word and accepts the over $400 billion reforms and cuts in Medicare as something that will happen and will be fully effective. Do we really think these will be carried out as promised? As Greg Mankiw said,

Your friend Joe, who says he wants to lose weight, asks you for an extra slice of pie after dinner. Naturally, you are doubtful about the wisdom of the request.

"Ahem, Joe," you whisper, "Aren't there a lot of calories in that?"

"Yes," he says, "but the pie is part of a larger plan. I am committed not only to eating that slice of pie but also to going to the gym every day for the next week and spending at least half a hour on the treadmill. The exercise will more than work off those extra calories."

"But that's what you said last week, when you asked for an extra piece of cake. And you never made it to the gym."

"Yes, I know," Joe replies ruefully, "but this time I really mean it....Can you please pass the pie?"

Second... when was the last time that a massive government health plan came in under or at budget? Medicare and medicaid are well-documented budget disasters. Do we think that this bill is going to be a new way forward for government spending?

Medicare and Medicaid are disasters that threaten to overwhelm our budget. Shouldn't we focus on cutting these massive expenditures for the sake of saving money without merely aiming for budget-neutrality and shifting the mounting financial burden to other government expenditures?

Source: CBO

This report is a huge win for the Democrats. But it does not mean it's time to wave the white flag on a massive and dangerous overhaul of the health care sector. The bill will provide cover for moderates and fiscally-inclined blue dog Dems. This means the pressure is even greater now for right-leaning reformers to make sure that the bill does not go unchallenged.

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