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Orszag Heading out the Door

With much justification, the Wall Street Journal editors zap the outgoing Office of Management and Budget director:

According to press reports, Peter Orszag has told friends that he plans to leave as White House budget director because he wants to go out on “a high note.” Would that refer to the deficit, or federal spending as a share of GDP?

Certainly, this president was determined to spend a lot, to expand government dramatically, and to blame the huge deficit on others. But the Journal editors are right to point out that it was Orszag’s fuzzy math and flim-flammery that facilitated the most irresponsible piece of legislation in several generations:

Democrats on Capitol Hill and President Obama are doing most of this damage, but Mr. Orszag made one signature contribution—to wit, his claim that the only way to reduce entitlement spending was to create a new entitlement. Mr. Orszag’s illusion that government can “bend the cost curve” enabled Democrats to nationalize more health-care spending while claiming to save money.

In a New England Journal of Medicine essay last week, Mr. Orszag wrote that ObamaCare “will significantly reduce costs” because “it institutes myriad elements that experts have long advocated as the foundation for effective cost control.” But not according to CBO director Doug Elmendorf, who wrote recently that “Rising health costs will put tremendous pressure on the federal budget during the next few decades and beyond” and that “the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish that pressure.”

It is a fitting reminder for those who crave the inner circle of power. Too many of them hedge and trim and spin to maintain their position. Whether it is fudging the health-care budget numbers or facilitating a dangerously ineffective policy toward Iran (yes, that’s you, Mr. Ross), those in power should plan ahead. One day (sooner than they imagine), they’ll be on the other side of the White House gates. If they frittered away their reputations and intellectual credibility for a year or two of power-player status, they may come to regret it.



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