With budget deficit projections set to be roughly $2 billion trillion higher than previously estimated, the Obama administration is having to defend its ambitious, costly domestic policy agenda. Here's Peter Orszag in this morning's New York Times:
"A lot of people will look at this deficit and say we cannot afford health care reform," said Peter R. Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. But Mr. Orszag said the opposite was true: the only way to control spiraling Medicare costs, he said, was to get control of overall health care costs by overhauling the system.
"The size of the fiscal gap is precisely why we must enact fiscally well designed health care reform now," he said.
But according to the Congressional Budget Office, the House health-care bill would actually add to the deficit over the ten year window the CBO scores (this new estimate seems to include deficit expansions expected from health-care reform). And if Medicare is the real problem, and there's so much savings to be wrung out of its inefficient system, why not just reform Medicare?
Still, Orszag is undeterred:
Without offering any details, the White House budget director said that President Obama will soon unveil plans to reduce long-term deficits tied to soaring costs of Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs.
Color me skeptical. Why wait until now? Given that Orszag has been working obsessively on health-care cost control for years, and given that bending the cost curve downward has been a key part of that administration's health-care reform pitch all along, is it really believable that he'd wait until after the reform bills were supposed to be finalized to unveil a mysterious new deficit killer?
Yesterday, I noted expanded new deficit projections. I've also written about budgetary sparring between Orszag's Office of Management and Budget and the CBO, as well as the CBO's dire warnings about our growing deficit.