If You Thought Passing ObamaCare Would Reduce the Deficit, You'll Probably Believe that Repealing It Will Increase the Deficit


Democrats, faced with an effort by House Republicans to repeal the health care overhaul, have once again seized on the argument that the health care law will reduce the national deficit. And once again, they're pointing to projections made by the Congressional Budget Office in order to make their case.

The CBO's report is hardly surprising: Last year it said that if the law were executed exactly as planned, it would reduce the deficit. This year the congressional scorekeeper is saying that if the law were repealed, it would increase the deficit. The scores for last year's bill also included a number of warnings and caveats, noting that the scores only estimate what will happen if the legislation remains unchanged and the proposed cuts and efficiency gains are implemented successfully. The rough score for the repeal bill includes a similar cautionary note:

As with all of CBO's cost estimates, these estimates—both for the first 10 years and beyond—reflect an assumption that the provisions of current law would otherwise remain unchanged throughout the projection period and that the legislation being considered would be enacted and implemented in its current form. CBO's responsibility to the Congress is to estimate the effects of proposals as written and not to forecast future legislation. However, current law now includes a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time. If those policies or other key aspects of the original legislation would have subsequently been modified or implemented incompletely, then the budgetary effects of repealing PPACA and the relevant provisions of the Reconciliation Act could be quite different—but CBO cannot forecast future changes in law or assume such changes in its estimates.

And remember, although the CBO does not technically forecast changes based on implementation failures or future legislation, it has nonetheless put up what amounts to a flashing neon sign indicating that it believes there is a significant chance that the law's long-term savings won't come through: In last summer's alternative budget scenario—widely considered to be the more realistic scenario produced by the office and a better picture of the nation's actual fiscal future—the CBO included the assumption that much of the law's planned long-term savings would not pay off.

So despite the salience of deficit politics, this is not an argument that's likely to give Democrats much traction: If you thought the CBO's initial scores were the most likely guess about the law's deficit effects, you'll probably buy the argument that repealing the law will expand the deficit. But if instead you thought the CBO's initial scores were the product of successful efforts by the bill's Democratic backers to game the scoring process, you'll probably remain skeptical of the Democrats' argument that keeping the law in place is the deficit-reducing, fiscally responsible thing to do.

NEXT: ObamaCare's High Risk Pools: "Like giving a party to which no one comes."

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  1. Democrats and fans of O’Care are probably the Discover Card’s prime target demographic – make lots of money on the cash back feature just by spending a whole shitload of money!

    1. I love my Discover, going to buy gas anyway (but actually I use my 4% gas cash back American Express card for that). Always pay off my bill every month, never pay interest, and I get about 300 dollars in cash back each year. What’s not to love?

      1. “pay off my bill” – like THAT’s sustainable! You’ll be dead in the street any month now!

      2. People like you are going to put us out of business and bring down the whole capitalist system. Commie!

  2. Working with the CBO is like negotiating with a hooker in the lobby of a high-end hotel. The words they speak are intended to convey a message they can’t actually say in public.

    1. CBO future budgetary projections are an even bigger joke than the weather predictions from the British Met Office. And the bigger the program, the bigger the joke their projection usually is.

  3. So essentially, the Democrats are saying they’ve gone way beyond the invention of a frictionless machine and have now ginned up a contraption that actually gives off energy with no input.

    1. If you’re saying that ObamaCare is radioactive, I would agree.

  4. They have already passed 2 doc fixes, so the any mention of deficit reduction, is ridiculous.

  5. Instead of focusing on the deficit-altering aspects of PPACA, shouldn’t we as a humanitarian people be more concerned with the poor, uninsured sick that Obamacare isn’t actually going to help?

    1. No we should focus on the young working people and cronically healthy people who will be forced to purchase insurance they don’t want from Mr. Obama’s friends.

  6. I don’t understand why the Administration continues to get a pass on using this ridiculous “10 years of revenues to offset 6 years of new spending” stuff.

    How can anyone take anything they say seriously in regards to what this will do to the deficit considering they refuse to do the simple arithmetic that every other household does?

    1. Magic multiplier!

    2. Economy of scale!

    3. We’ll make it up in volume!

    4. Yeah, that nasty little trick should prompt a CBO scoring rule change.

  7. The new blue team cheer is “If the republicans want to repeal this reform they should find a way to pay for the budgetary increases the repeal will cause”

    How cool would it be if the Repubs(this won’t happen) didn’t argue, but instead took the opportunity to offer spending cuts to the tune of whatever magic number the CBO dreamt up and said “Here’s the money. Can we repeal it now?”.

    1. Ok that would be awesome. Thinking about that is about as producticve as daydreaming about winning the lottery, but it would still be awesome.

      “You mean we have to get rid of the Dept of Education too? Damnit. OK.”

      1. “We’ll see the Iraqi governments’s 2011 withdrawal and raise them a year! And while we’re at it, ‘sayanora’ to Okinawa!”

        1. Can we add Korea and Germany, and any other location we PCS soldiers to outside of the US?

    2. That’s enough unicorn farts to power 10,000 homes.

  8. There is nothing wrong with the CBO analysis, the problem is that Obamcare savings are based on cuts in the medicare program that are a farce. Remember the same people that voted for it, rediculed Bush a year earlier for proposing less drastic cuts to medicare (see Chuck Schumer). So overturning Obamacare means you overturn the “phantom” cuts in medicare. That is why the numbers are meaningless.

    1. The CBO is just a calculator of the inputs they are given. They do no analysis of the data, only number crunching.

      Personally, I think they’d be better off by entering in 58008 and turning the calculator upside down.

      1. 378808 5318008 618 3760 1

    2. The CBO analysis is completely worthless. It’s analysis relies on faulty assumptions about human behavior – about subsidies, the effect of third party payers, the effect of complicated tax schemes, etc. It assumes that subsidies do not raise prices or pervert health care purchasing decisions, that third party payment does not do likewise and that people do not alter behavior to avoid paying higher taxes. It also makes flawed rosy assumptions regarding government efficiency and interventions. It then mixes in completely unsubstantiated conjecture regarding future economic and social circumstances. It all adds up to a load of crap.

  9. The CBO is selectively reliable, depending on our political argument.

  10. Once the 1099 requirement kicks in, we’ll be rolling in dough.

  11. “As with all of CBO’s cost estimates, these estimates ? both for the first 10 years and beyond ? reflect an assumption that the provisions of current law would otherwise remain unchanged throughout the projection period and that the legislation being considered would be enacted and implemented in its current form.”

    “Assume a can opener…”

  12. The CBO’s report is hardly surprising: Last year it said that if the law were executed exactly as planned, it would reduce the deficit.

    Yes, provided nothing else was done. The CBO did not take into account the Doctor’s Fix, for instance, and other parallel expenditures and programs conveniently NOT added to the ACA.

  13. Wait a minute, hold on. Paul Krugman and Dean Baker are telling me that record deficits are the way to bring the economy back. So if O’Care is repealed (and cars can burn free, emissionless unicorn farts), the deficit will be increased, the economy will be stimulated further, and prosperity will be back.

  14. But now that the Repugs are in charge, can’t they commission a customized CBO report on the repeal that has the assumptions and results they want to see?

    1. Apparently, it didn’t occur to them.

  15. If You Thought Passing ObamaCare Would Reduce the Deficit…

    I have a great deal for you! (Cash only and in small bills, please.)

  16. Jobs jobs jobs!

  17. Did the CBO miss the immediately preceding article on this blog? With only 65 enrollees New Hampshire has already busted its budget on Obamacare for those with pre-existing conditions. With only 8000 enrollees natioinwide, costs are much higher than projected with an expected 350,000 enrollees.

    1. If you’re one of the 8,000, the obvious thing to do is to start lobbying for an immediate cutoff on new applicants.

  18. Even if you do believe that Obamacare lowers the deficit, it only accomplishes this because several spending cuts (illusory) were tagged onto the bill as riders in order to get the bill passed. Most of these riders are not even related to health care, so theoretically, the GOP could maintain THOSE cuts while cutting the apparatus of Obamacare and the result will still be a reduction in benefits.

  19. I repeat, there is nothing in obamacare that reduces the deficit. The only thing that theoretically reduces the deficit is the spending cuts attached to the bill in order to make it look like it cuts spending.

  20. The CBO only does scoring for 10 years.

    Entitlement programs go on forever.

    And the track record of government accuracy in predicting future costs of entitlement programs is abysmal – particularly with Medicare.

    Furthermore, one of the biggest gimmicks the Dems used to game the CBO was engineering the bill so that there would be 10 years of tax increases vs 6 years of spending for the program.

    So anyone with more than two brain cells to bump together would categorically reject the “repeal wil increase the decifit” claim out of hand.

  21. It is an objective fact that this health care bill will reduce the deficit. It is a matter of faith to say it will increase the deficit.

    Therefore, I am inherently more rational than all libertarians. So, I will continue to frequent this board and mock libertarians since I have been expelled from all progressive circles, because I only agree with 99% of their stances.

    1. Well, at least you’re 1% on the way to sanity.

    2. I’m having difficulty determining if this is the real Tony, or a spoof…

    3. I give it a 7 out of 10.

    4. There’s a grain of truth in that last bit. Ideologues on the left are even more annoying than you guys, and are even meaner if you dissent from them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called an authoritarian. Though I tend to view those types as left-libertarians (ideological rigidity being a defining characteristic of libertarians).

      1. I think you’re confusing idealogical rigidity with pragmatism in application, Tony. When every intrusion is used to justify subsequent intrusions, the natural conclusion is to draw the line at the allowance of zero intrusions.

  22. This is Congress. That pretty much guarantees the following:
    o passing ObamaCare increases the deficit
    o revoking ObamaCare will ALSO increase the deficit

  23. Correction: the CBO has been a reliable institution now for decades. It produces non-partisan, quality research and has done so since its inception. And now all of the sudden, it’s been discredited by a group of people who don’t dislike its findings and want to politicize anything that it doesn’t like. So, rather than argue those findings on the merits, this same group of people attack the organization itself. When confronted about why they don’t address the CBO’s findings, their response is to name call and attack those who who dare ask the question.

    Why not address the specific contents of the CBO’s report? Why? Because you and those who have taken issue with the CBO because you don’t like what they report can’t come up with cogent or valid reasons for opposing the report. Therefore, you resort to bashing and name calling.

    1. Peace, you couldn’t be more wrong. I have seen little commentary attacking the CBO itself, and lots of commentary on how the CBO was forced into issuing a misleading report, which was then further misrepresented by Obamanauts.

      The commentary on this, including the post above, is mostly about the contents and contexts of the CBO reports. It may be the single contentious issue in Washington these days that is relatively devoid of partisanship and personality.

    2. The CBO is not being bashed. It’s abuse of the CBO scoring by using 10 years of revenues to balance 6 years of expenditures, or imaginary savings that everybody knows will never come to fruition, that is being bashed.

  24. Undoing Obamacare will create a bigger deficit, and we have always been at war with Oceana.

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