Commentary Magazine


Topic: Obama Baier

Numbers

Steny Hoyer notwithstanding, CBO didn’t actually, finally score the bill. CBO says it “completed a preliminary estimate.” Hoyer, of course, would like to lock down wavering Democrats, but CBO cautions: “Although CBO completed a preliminary review of legislative language prior to its release, the agency has not thoroughly examined the reconciliation proposal to verify its consistency with the previous draft. This estimate is therefore preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal, as well as further review and refinement of the budgetary projections.” Well, if we aren’t exactly going to vote on the bill, then I guess we don’t exactly need a firm CBO estimate.

But there are some numbers that should alarm the fence-sitters. Rasmussen tells us: “Fifty percent (50%) of U.S. voters say they are less likely to vote for their representative in Congress this November if he or she votes for the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. … 51% of voters not affiliated with either major party are less likely to support someone who votes for the legislation. Just 32% of unaffiliateds are more likely to vote for someone who supports the bill.”

So you can see why Hoyer is so desperate to grab on to a CBO number, anything, to divert members away from political realities and their own nagging sense that this is all a Ponzi scheme. And if you think there’s any doubt about that, consider this exchange between Obama and Bret Baier, where it becomes obvious what a fiscal flimflam is going on here:

BAIER: The CBO has said specifically that the $500 billion that you say that you’re going to save from Medicare is not being spent in Medicare. That this bill spends it elsewhere outside of Medicare. So you can’t have both.

OBAMA: Right.

BAIER: You either spend it on expenditures or you make Medicare more solvent. So which is it?

OBAMA: Here’s what it does. On the one hand what you’re doing is you’re eliminating insurance subsidies within Medicare that aren’t making anybody healthier but are fattening the profits of insurance companies. Everybody agrees that that is not a wise way to spend money. Now, most of those savings go right back into helping seniors, for example, closing the donut hole.

When the previous Congress passed the prescription drug bill, what they did was they left a situation which after seniors had spent a certain amount of money, suddenly they got no help and they were stuck with the bill. Now that’s a pretty expensive proposition fixing that. It wasn’t paid for at the time that that bill was passed. So that money goes back into Medicare, both to fix the donut hole, lower premiums.

All those things are important, but what’s also happening is each year we’re spending less on Medicare overall and as consequence, that lengthens the trust fund and it’s availability for seniors.

BAIER: Your chief actuary for Medicare said this, that cuts in Medicare: “cannot be simultaneously used to finance other federal outlays and extend the trust fund.” That’s your guy.

OBAMA: No — and what is absolutely true is that this will not solve our whole Medicare problem. We’re still going to have to fix Medicare over the long term.

BAIER: But it’s $38 trillion in the hole.

OBAMA: Absolutely, and that’s the reason that we’re going to have to — that’s the reason I put forward a fiscal commission based on Republicans and Democratic proposals, to make sure that we have a long-term fix for the system. The key is that this proposal doesn’t weaken Medicare, it makes it stronger for seniors currently who are receiving it. It doesn’t solve that big structural problem, Bret. Nobody’s claiming that this piece of legislation is going to solve every problem that’s been there for decades. What it does do is make sure that the trust fund is not going to be going bankrupt in seven years, according to their accounting rules —

BAIER: So you don’t buy —

OBAMA: — and in the meantime —

BAIER: — the CBO or the actuary that you can’t have it both ways?

OBAMA: No —

BAIER: That you can’t spend the money twice?

OBAMA: — no, what is absolutely true and what I do agree with is that you can’t say that you are saving on Medicare and then spend the money twice. What you can say is that we are going to take these savings, put them back to make sure that seniors are getting help on the prescription drug bill instead of that money going to, for example, insurance reform, and —

It’s embarrassing, really. And it’s a reminder of why it’s really hard to get members to vote for something that not even the president can adequately justify as fiscally honest.

Steny Hoyer notwithstanding, CBO didn’t actually, finally score the bill. CBO says it “completed a preliminary estimate.” Hoyer, of course, would like to lock down wavering Democrats, but CBO cautions: “Although CBO completed a preliminary review of legislative language prior to its release, the agency has not thoroughly examined the reconciliation proposal to verify its consistency with the previous draft. This estimate is therefore preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal, as well as further review and refinement of the budgetary projections.” Well, if we aren’t exactly going to vote on the bill, then I guess we don’t exactly need a firm CBO estimate.

But there are some numbers that should alarm the fence-sitters. Rasmussen tells us: “Fifty percent (50%) of U.S. voters say they are less likely to vote for their representative in Congress this November if he or she votes for the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. … 51% of voters not affiliated with either major party are less likely to support someone who votes for the legislation. Just 32% of unaffiliateds are more likely to vote for someone who supports the bill.”

So you can see why Hoyer is so desperate to grab on to a CBO number, anything, to divert members away from political realities and their own nagging sense that this is all a Ponzi scheme. And if you think there’s any doubt about that, consider this exchange between Obama and Bret Baier, where it becomes obvious what a fiscal flimflam is going on here:

BAIER: The CBO has said specifically that the $500 billion that you say that you’re going to save from Medicare is not being spent in Medicare. That this bill spends it elsewhere outside of Medicare. So you can’t have both.

OBAMA: Right.

BAIER: You either spend it on expenditures or you make Medicare more solvent. So which is it?

OBAMA: Here’s what it does. On the one hand what you’re doing is you’re eliminating insurance subsidies within Medicare that aren’t making anybody healthier but are fattening the profits of insurance companies. Everybody agrees that that is not a wise way to spend money. Now, most of those savings go right back into helping seniors, for example, closing the donut hole.

When the previous Congress passed the prescription drug bill, what they did was they left a situation which after seniors had spent a certain amount of money, suddenly they got no help and they were stuck with the bill. Now that’s a pretty expensive proposition fixing that. It wasn’t paid for at the time that that bill was passed. So that money goes back into Medicare, both to fix the donut hole, lower premiums.

All those things are important, but what’s also happening is each year we’re spending less on Medicare overall and as consequence, that lengthens the trust fund and it’s availability for seniors.

BAIER: Your chief actuary for Medicare said this, that cuts in Medicare: “cannot be simultaneously used to finance other federal outlays and extend the trust fund.” That’s your guy.

OBAMA: No — and what is absolutely true is that this will not solve our whole Medicare problem. We’re still going to have to fix Medicare over the long term.

BAIER: But it’s $38 trillion in the hole.

OBAMA: Absolutely, and that’s the reason that we’re going to have to — that’s the reason I put forward a fiscal commission based on Republicans and Democratic proposals, to make sure that we have a long-term fix for the system. The key is that this proposal doesn’t weaken Medicare, it makes it stronger for seniors currently who are receiving it. It doesn’t solve that big structural problem, Bret. Nobody’s claiming that this piece of legislation is going to solve every problem that’s been there for decades. What it does do is make sure that the trust fund is not going to be going bankrupt in seven years, according to their accounting rules —

BAIER: So you don’t buy —

OBAMA: — and in the meantime —

BAIER: — the CBO or the actuary that you can’t have it both ways?

OBAMA: No —

BAIER: That you can’t spend the money twice?

OBAMA: — no, what is absolutely true and what I do agree with is that you can’t say that you are saving on Medicare and then spend the money twice. What you can say is that we are going to take these savings, put them back to make sure that seniors are getting help on the prescription drug bill instead of that money going to, for example, insurance reform, and —

It’s embarrassing, really. And it’s a reminder of why it’s really hard to get members to vote for something that not even the president can adequately justify as fiscally honest.

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