Government Spending

Losing Count of the Double Counts

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The Democrats, citing Congressional Budget Office projections, claim the latest version of the health care bill will cut the budget deficit by more than $100 billion in the first decade and $1.2 trillion in the second. As before, those projections depend on Medicare cuts that, given Congress' track record in this area, probably will not be sustained. Furthermore, the Democrats continue to double count Medicare savings, pretending to use them both to pay for insurance subsidies and to improve the program's long-term financial condition. As our own Peter Suderman has noted, both the CBO and Medicare's chief actuary have criticized this trick. Yet the talking points released this morning by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) claim the bill both "IS FULLY PAID FOR" and "EXTENDS THE SOLVENCY OF MEDICARE." President Obama made the same assertion in an interview with Fox News yesterday, and Bret Baier called him on it (italics added):

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.

Look how long it takes for Obama to concede Baier's indisputable point about double counting. He tries to divert the conversation with irrelevant comments about the prescription drug "donut hole" and the commission on entitlements. He tries to dodge the question by saying "nobody's claiming that this piece of legislation is going to solve every problem." Yes, and nobody's claiming that anybody is claiming that. Finally, he admits that "you can't say that you are saving on Medicare and then spend the money." Yet that is exactly what Obama and his allies in Congress keep doing.

The CBO's preliminary analysis of the bill is here (PDF).

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  1. The double counting isn’t fooling the seniors that are going to raise holy hell when the congressmen get back to their districts.

    1. If they pass this thing it is going to be electoral Armageddon in November. But dumb ass will never back down. He will veto any changes. And we will be left with the specter of a President at war with the country.

      1. The Dems are all in on it now.

        They are like the old Japanese kamikazi pilots.

        They think that the entitlement becomes a sacred cow the instant it is enacted and can never be undone and that temporarily losing control of Congress is worth it if they can push the country permanently to the left as a trade off for it.

        1. That is what they think. And I think they are sadly mistaken. This isn’t an entitlement. For most people it is a mandate. And further, unlike every other entitlement ever passed, this one is very unpopular now. And when people start having the IRS go after them for not having insurance and see their health premiums go up and their care go down, they are not going to learn to love the plan. If the Democrats pass this, they will own every health care problem from here on out. You had to wait for your MRI? It was that God Damned Obama. Grandma can’t get cataract surgery, it was that God Damned Obama. The insurance company fucks up your bill, it was that God Damned Obama.

          This thing is going to be a giant tar baby. The Democrats have truly lost their minds.

          1. “And when people start having the IRS go after them for not having insurance”

            It’s worse than that. We will be required that we prove to the IRS that we have heath insurance that is of good quality but not too highly priced. They are gonna wanna see documentation. And they are gonna wanna to see it every year in perpetuity…

          2. I for one hope he gets the Hoover treatment. Colonies of people living in tents waiting for MRIs: Obamavilles. And then they can name a giant dam after him.

        2. Does anyone here trust the current GOPers to undo the change? To truly force it on Obama by attaching it to every bill and making Obama veto EVERYTHING?

          Yeah me neither. And as the Rand Paul story shows, a lot of the current GOP leadership isnt interested in doing that kind of thing.

          1. I think they might for all of the wrong reasons. But they will have to win big. There will have to be a real fire storm in November that scares the living daylights out of everyone. Also, if they win big in November, there will be a huge freshman class who will elected to do one thing. That might (might) be enough to overcome to piece of shit entrenched can’t we all just get along and go about our stealing in peace leadership.

        3. They think that the entitlement becomes a sacred cow the instant it is enacted and can never be undone

          I think they are right about that, at least as long as Dem is in the White House.

          that temporarily losing control of Congress is worth it if they can push the country permanently to the left as a trade off for it.

          It will be a permanent push to the left, and the Dems from safe seats are eager to have their brethren sacrifice themselves. What this comes down to is how many Dems from not-safe seats are either (a) so stupid they think they will survive November or (b) willing to make a major personal sacrifice for the Good of the Party.

          1. It is sort of interesting to game out. One of two things will happen. Either the Dems won’t get killed in November or lose just a few seats, in which case the country deserves Obamacare, or the Democrats will get totally slaughtered. Suppose it is the latter and they lose every Senate seat up for grabs and end up with a small minority in the House. What happens then? Yeah, Obama can veto. And the liberals in the Senate can filibuster.

            But there are people in the Democratic Party who don’t represent Berkley who would actually like to win an election someday. And thus they are about things beyond socialized medicine. At that point I think there would be a civil war in the Democratic Party between those who would want to try to make peace with the public and those who wouldn’t give a shit and just want to keep the thing in effect.

            I don’t believe that the Democrats could get really destroyed in November without a sizable portion of the party wanting to pull the party back from the Left. And I also can’t believe that if they do get killed there won’t be a lot of political animosity among Democrats (think of all the staffer who would lose their jobs and all of the operatives who would no longer have any influence) towards Obama and Pelosi for doing this to them.

          2. In short. I honestly think they think they can get away with it. And when they don’t, they are going to be pissed. Don’t think for a moment that the majority of the party is willing to live in the minority for even a few years to get this thing passed. Once they are in the minority, they are going to feel as cheated as the country.

          3. I think this new expansion of government may be a bridge too far for the Democrats.

          4. They are counting on the GOP to be too gutless to withstand the massive propaganda assault that will be propagated by the Dems and their allies in the MSM about how the mean old Republicans “want to take your healthcare away from you.”

            Unfortunately, they are probably just about right in that calculation.

          5. I think they are right about that, at least as long as Dem is in the White House.

            Right. I think that after a certain point, it will be nigh-impossible to repeal. Presumably after the subsidies have kicked in for a while. The fact that the benefits and subsidies don’t really kick in until five or six years later gives some chance for repeal, whether if Obama loses re-election or for the next President.

        4. They think that the entitlement becomes a sacred cow the instant it is enacted

          There are no entitlements in effect until 2013. We’ve got two congressional elections and a presidential election to go through during the time this bill is all stick and no carrot.

          So the Dems will have to survive 2/3 of the senate, all of the House, and the president, coming up for re-election before the entitlement actually comes into being. It will be possible to kill it before then.

        5. Pedant alert!
          It’s “kamikaze,” not “kamikazi.
          Which detracts from your *point* not at all.

          1. I love you, man.

  2. The more you spend, the more you save.

  3. I love me a good donut hole. Wait, what was he saying?

    The idiocy and dishonesty of this entire thing is quite a spectacle to watch.

    1. I was looking for where the interviewer asks “Mr. President, are you familiar with the part in Billy Madison where the principal of the school concludes with ‘And may God have mercy on your soul?'”

  4. People need to stop comparing this creature to Jimmy Carter. That is unfair to Carter. Every time I try to think that he is not as bad as his worst critics say he is, he proves me wrong.

    1. Considering that what Carter wanted to do was balance the budget and make sure the entitlements we had were solvent and working and generally put the government’s fiscal house in order before we created any new ones, I don’t think there’s any comparison at all.

      Mind you, given the ambitious and contradictory nature of those goals, failure was partly built in. And with “allies” like Ted Kennedy and Tip O’Neil in the Congress, poor old Jimmy didn’t need any opposition from the Republicans.

      Jimmy Carter was a largely ineffective administrator* who made some absolutely terrible appointments and only a few good ones (Paul Volcker) who deserves a lot of criticism. But much of the criticism he gets today is of target.

      *And frankly, as bad an administrator as Carter was, Obama makes him look like a genius.

      1. Yes. And even though I stand behind no one in my dislike of Carter, Carter did appoint Volker and de-regulate the airline and natural gas industries, all of which were pure anointed goods. Obama hasn’t done one thing beyond extend a few existing policies I agree with that you can say that about.

        1. I believe trucking was deregulated back then, as well.

          1. Trucking deregulation was completed under Reagan but the wheels certainly started turning in the Carter administration.

            1. “the wheels certainly started turning . . .” haha, good one. 🙂

      2. I think one difference today is that Carter and a good number of Democrats feared where the horrific economy at the time might lead. So they felt compelled to do some deregulating and other things that seem so impossible for a Democrat today.

        In the 2010 iteration of the party, this economic downturn is seen only as a convenient crisis to be taken advantage of, not a sign of possibly worse times if fiscally and economically smart actions aren’t taken soon.

        1. They really don’t seem to care about the economy. They honestly don’t see a downside to it. When they are out of power for 20 years, they might think differently. We are witnessing the political suicide of the Democratic Party.

        2. One would think, though, that if one’s message was that they had “inherited” a disfunctional economy with programs that were failing that the prudent course would be to right the ship [of state] and get it on a proper course befor you started adding more canvas.

          I think there was lots of maneuvering room to try this tack and had Obama tried, I might have had some respect for him.

          Mind you, as I noted in my earlier Carter comment, it’s a fool’s errand. These programs aren’t failing because “the wrong people” have been in charge. They’re failing because they’re structurally unsound to begin with.

          But he didn’t because as others have noted he’s not interested in results. He’s interested in power and at this point the rod to power is open to the guy who is seen to be “doing something”.

          Obama’s problem is that at this point the voters who want to see someone “doing something” are becoming increasingly aware of BO’s fundamental incompetence.

          The fact is that this bill is a mess. It’s not going to satisfy the Universal Healthcare is a Human Right crowd (which is sizable) and it sure as hell isn’t going to satisfy those opposed.

      3. Yeah, I don’t get the Carter hate either. He inherited a truly screwed up economy — far worse than Obama did, considering how much more globally preeminent the US economy had been in 1960 compared to 2000 — that had been bled dry by the welfare-warfare state of the Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon years.

        Personally, I think the liberals who always seem to write history feel the need to distance themselves from him by painting him as a retarded Southern hick who was in over his head, not a real liberal like them; if he had been a real intellectual liberal then he would have been able to fix the economy easily. The fact that he was a nuclear engineer who could probably run intellectual circles around them notwithstanding.

        1. And we all know they’re not going to put the blame on Kennedy or Johnson, given that the latter is beloved for his advocacy of the Civil Rights Act and the Great Society, and the former is beloved for — well, I’ve never understood why; they can’t possibly be shallow enough to love him for being youngish and handsome and having a pretty wife, can they?

          I remember being surprised when I started reading about Vietnam War history and finding out that Johnson was the one who really escalated it the first time. My high school history education had left me with the impression that it was Nixon’s war.

          1. Yeah. It is amazing how many of the “reality based community” will tell you Vietnam was Nixon’s war. I always tell them that will come as a hell of a surprise to my father who served there in 1965 four years before Nixon became President. Nixon was responsible for Vietnam and the radical right killed Kennedy are too pretty common beliefs.

          2. Unfortunately, the seeds for the Vietnam war were sown when Harry Truman agreed to help the French restore their Empire – something that FDR had made clear he wasn’t going to do.

            It continued when Ike refused to honor the Geneva accords on Vietnam and wouldn’t allow elections in the South since elections would have most likely put the communists in charge.

            All in all, Vietnam was one steaming pile of bipartisanSHIT.

  5. I caught part of that interview. Obama was incredibly uncomfortable and pretty clumsy, I thought.

    Give Baier credit for dogging him until he got at least a few answers, rather than letting Obama just spew talking points until time was up.

    1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for anyone else in the MSM at CBS, PBS, etc. to highlight the double counting trickery.

    2. He did a good job. You could tell Obama has no idea how to respond to anyone who challenges him. Fucking scary that we have a President who is that intellectually shallow.

      1. We’re not scard at all.

        1. scared

    3. The AP put a laughable story up about the Fox News interview. Strangely, they didn’t include the quote about the double counting, instead focusing on how Baier was interrupting Obama’s answers with follow-up questions (the temerity!). They also included quotes from Robert Gibbs about how Fox News is the propaganda wing of the GOP.

  6. And to think it took a reporter from a news channel that “isn’t a legitimate news source” to beat this out of him.

  7. Nobody’s claiming that this piece of legislation is going to solve every problem that’s been there for decades.

    Really?

    1. That is going to be the spin if it passes. Just like now the claim is that no one ever claimed Obama was going to be a transcendent post partisan President, the claim will be that no one ever claimed that this would actually solve any problems.

  8. Bret Baier is obviously a racist. How dare he?

  9. Three-Card Monty, is what it is.

    Where’s Run DMC when you need them?

  10. I think Obama is a victim of “George Lucas Syndrome”. So few people actually challenge Obamas ideas face to face and no one in his inner circle is critical of either his ideas or his needlessly messianic complex that he has no ability to stand-up and defend his ideas seriously. Or any conception that he should. I didn’t see the interview but I’m sure that all through the exchange Obama had a blank look of surprise the whole time.

    1. We got a lot of the thin-skinned, peevish Obama, is what we got.

      This interview was definitely Not. Helpful. I think it was a Hail Mary desperation play, that worked out about as well as most Hail Marys.

  11. If this manifestation of the Presidential Suit’s little obsessive-compulsive disorder actually becomes law, I see exactly *zero* likelihood of it being repealed or meaningfully fixed.

  12. an interview with Fox News yesterday

    Competing networks (Obama bunkmates, all) have been all over this, but only to slash-edit Baier’s “rude” interruptions into a silly mashup. Because it’s unprofessional and crass to try to get the King to answer your questions and prevent him from making another of his stump speeches on your time.

    1. Interviewers need to start being a whole lot ruder with politicians who refuse to answer any question directly. I want to hear “no, you did not answer my question” and put the question again until it gets answered.

      1. Interviewers need to start being a whole lot ruder with politicians

        Agreed. Problem is, few cable-news network journalists get that kind of access to the president, and most are unwilling to jeopardize their careers by breaking the unwritten rules of the game. Baier’s performance did journalism proud, but he is in the minority. Look at the criticism the other network lackeys have heaped upon him. Given the sources, Baier should wear those toadies’ sycophantic smears as a badge of honor.

        1. I want to hear “no, you did not answer my question” and put the question again until it gets answered.

          Don’t they already do this with Republicans?

        2. Baier isn’t particularly courageous for this — there is no chance that any high-ranking Dem will appear on Fox News unless they’re really desperate anyway. And it is true that Fox News’ audience skews more anti-Obama than average.

          Of course, I’m glad this interview was done, but I don’t chalk it up to courage but rather the automatic benefits of an ideologically diverse media.

          1. the automatic benefits

            You think Baier will get another shot at the president anytime soon?

            1. No, but he wasn’t going to get one no matter how the interview went, so he may as well play to his audience.

              I have no doubt that a Republican president would have gotten the kid gloves treatment from Baier or any other FoxNews interviewer. And I say that as someone who’s glad FoxNews exists.

    2. You can be sure that none of them will actually get around to pointing out that Obama was finally cornered into admitting the fraudulent double counting of Medicare cuts.

  13. What will be interesting is when all of these comrades in arms start to realize that continuing to rah-rah Obama (and the party in general) will taint them to such an extent that they may find themselves on the kamikaze plane as it lurches into the ocean.

    Really, it’s self-preservation that may save the rest of us from this and other attempted overreaches.

    1. continuing to rah-rah Obama (and the party in general) will taint them

      You give us hayseeds too much credit. We eat what’s fed us. Besides, Miley Cyrus turns 18 later this year. Consider the implications! Ooh! I just got a Tweet! Buh-Bye!

    2. I’m too cynical to think if this mess of shit passes that it will result in the smash-up of the Democrats. For far too long, Americans have believed that it is right and proper to punish the responsible in order to bail out the irresponsible. Those of us on the “responsible” side have not devoted enough time and effort to educating those who believe in free lunches, “compassion,” coerced charity, and collectivist rights.

  14. The interview just proves that he’s terrified to tell the American people what he’s really all about. Not once did he give a direct answer. Anyone who still agrees with him and his gaggle of goons is not to be taken seriously. It’s called socialism, and it’s the transition from freedom into communism. Most people are just too afraid, stupid or apathetic to accept that this is the ideology of the man America chose to be the President.

  15. Interviewers need to start being a whole lot ruder with politicians

    I called, during the Bush Years, for a White House press corps capable of stamping their feet and loudly chanting, “BULL SHIT! BULL SHIT!” during Presidential press conferences.

    That need has not diminished.

    1. I think Gibbs would actually join the chant.

  16. “This thing is going to be a giant tar baby”

    OMG teh racismz!!!!

  17. Duh, it is quite clear that Obi Wan Obama was using his Jedi mind-fuck skills…if he says it…you WILL believe it.

  18. Where’s Radley to add Obama to his “Hackwatch” list? Or has he been added already and I missed it?

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  26. 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.
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  31. Nobody’s claiming that this piece of legislation is going to solve every problem that’s been there for decades.Thanks.
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  34. If this manifestation of the Presidential Suit’s little obsessive-compulsive disorder actually becomes law, I see exactly *zero* likelihood of it being repealed or meaningfully fixed.
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