CBO Has Not Ended Health Care Argument

Posted: Oct 11, 2009 8:22 PM

Wednesday's CBO score of the Baucus health care bill was an unquestioned blow to opponents of Democrat plans for a health care overhaul. It's true that, had the CBO returned good news for the GOP on the Baucus bill, we would all be hefting it as a hammer to smash what we consider to be a bill that will worsen our health care situation. We will nitpick about the CBO report here and there, but unquestionably, in the forum of public debate, the matter will be almost settled that this bill is, at the very least, deficit-neutral.

Bloggers, thankfully, are not politicians. We don't have to discuss this in quick-hit digestible soundbites.

A responsible conversation on the topic will admit that the CBO score is a ballpark figure, marginally useful but certainly not the be-all and end-all of debate. The talking points have been hashed out within the first twenty-four hours of the release of the score. The score takes Congress at its word that it will substantially cut Medicare, something that has never happened in Medicare's forty-four year history. The score measures only the preliminary language, not final legislative language. The score measures merely the ten-year impact of the bill when some of the most expensive provisions don't kick in until 2013, giving us a decidedly short viewing window of the potential effects. The score includes a huge reliance on tax receipts from cadillac plans that now look likely to be eliminated from the bill. And on and on.

This is not even to mention the myriad assaults upon the CBO by left-wing commentators over the past few months. When other preliminary scores revealed budget-busting untenable health provisions, progressives cried foul and even went so far as to say the CBO's entire methodology is wrong. Now that the CBO has handed them a political weapon, expect Democrat criticism of the office to cease as they wave the report to much political success.

Conservatives in this debate have been ill-advised in touting CBO reports without the caveat that CBO projections are imperfect. Some certainly made this mistake. Others didn't. The CBO does its work and we can all expect it to be twisted for political ends. The Baucus score is an unquestioned win for Dems. But it's not the final word in the debate, or even the narrower discussion of government spending/revenue projections.

Onward and upward in the fight against the massive Democrat overhaul and the fight for real reform.