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Friday, March 19, 2010

GOP's Alternate Healthcare Reality

The score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the current healthcare reform bill is in. Or, at least, preliminary numbers. Those numbers look very good. According to Chris Frates with Politico, the bill would reduce the deficit by "$138 billion over the next decade, but cautions that it has not yet analyzed all the provisions. So far, it has analyzed $82 billion worth of savings." In a bill designed to bring down healthcare costs, savings to the government from Medicare, Medicaid, and employee health plans should surprise no one.

The release of the numbers has been a game-changer, with wavering Democrats coming around to support the bill in droves. Which is, of course, bad news for Republicans who are determined to stop this from becoming law at any cost. The CBO numbers just made that a lot more difficult. One observer, Washington Post editorial writer Ruth Marcus, put it this way:

So Democrats will be pointing to this preliminary CBO score as if it is engraved on stone tablets. Republicans will proclaim their respect for the CBO and proceed to argue that its estimates should not be taken too seriously in this instance. This may come as a surprise, but I think the Republican argument is closer to correct. To crow, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that the package is "a triumph for the American people in terms of deficit reduction" is premature at best, delusional at worst.

"Republicans will proclaim their respect for the CBO and proceed to argue that its estimates should not be taken too seriously in this instance?" I'm sorry Ruth, but where have you been for the last ten years at least? They might do that if they had any shame or integrity or respect for truth. But they don't. Republicans lie. If the truth doesn't serve them, then the truth becomes irrelevant. They'll just make crap up.

For example, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. Speaking to CNN's Rick Sanchez, Steele came right out and accused the CBO of lying.

STEELE: Can you just give me an honest number, Rick? How much do you really, legitimately think, adding, using the president’s number, 30 million people to a health care system that you just said doesn’t work is going to cost the American taxpayer? How much you think it’s really gonna? $940 billion dollars over ten years. So, you telling me an additional $940 billion dollars a year is going to make all of our problems go away?

SANCHEZ: According to the calculations that we did and according to the calculations the Democrats are announcing today, it’s going to save in the deficit for the United States citizens $1.2 trillion. Do you believe that’s not true?

STEELE: Ok, can I, I got two words for you — three words, three words.

SANCHEZ: Go, go.

STEELE: That’s a lie.

That's the Republican way. Don't like a fact? Then it's not a fact. Just dismiss it. You don't need to make any argument for your position, you just make the declaration -- it's not a fact -- and it's game over, you win. Republicans like to talk about healthy debate, but they don't debate. A declaration isn't an argument. If one side is determined to deny reality, what's there to debate?

Another GOP mouthpiece who's declared the CBO numbers untrue is Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has called the numbers "meaningless," "a scam," "a fraud," "phony," And "a sham." His evidence of this? None. He just says it and that means it's true. By the same standard of evidence, I can tell you without any doubt at all that Rush Limbaugh has a wooden, prosthetic head -- and it's slowly being eaten by termites. How sad for him... a double tragedy, really. Not only is he literally brainless, but what he has instead of a brain is infested with destructive insects. Try to keep your courage up, Rush. We're all pulling for you.

Let's be clear here, the Republicans have no interest in having this debate. If they were to deal with this honestly, they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. This isn't about a disagreement over healthcare reform, this is just the GOP being pissy about being in the minority. It's also about the 2010 elections. But what it's not about is your rising healtcare costs and a non-system of healthcare delivery that can't possibly be sustained. There's a healthcare crisis going on in America -- it's happening right now -- and the Republican Party is playing politics with it. It may be an overused cliche, but it applies here; the GOP is fiddling while Rome burns.

If the Republicans want to have a debate on healthcare reform, then the time has come and gone. They had their chance to have that debate -- and they refused. Instead, they threw a tantrum and made up an alternate reality in which everything they wanted to be true was true and everything they didn't was a lie. Delusion is not debate.


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M said...

Republicans have been ignoring, or attacking, the CBO deficit-reducing score based solely on accusation that the CBO is being intentionally mislead by the president.

In other words, the president is trying to "Iraq us."

I watched Michael Steele on CNN yesterday and he outright accused the president of presenting a fraudulent account to the CBO and the American people.

Wingnuts have also been bombarding message boards with Paul Ryan's Healthcare Summit quote: "I work with [the people at the CBO] every single day -- very good people, great professionals. They do their jobs well, but their job is to score what is placed in front of them. And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors."

Now, what wingnuts in conservative clothing ignore, here, or conveniently exclude, is that moments later, Rep. Xavier Becerra(D-CA) called bullshit on Paul Ryan and exposed the fatal flaw in his argument, which was Paul Ryan uses the CBO frequently to present his budget "proposals."

The Wallstreet Journal has been spouting the same line, saying of the Obama administration and the CBO: "Yesterday Mr. Obama again invoked the 'nonpartisan, independent' authority of CBO, which misses the reality that if you feed the agency phony premises, you are going to get phony results at the other end."

(emphasis mine)

So, Obama is misleading the CBO, according to Rightwingnuttia. That's the argument.

And one more thing about Paul Ryan.

Howard Gleckman writes of Paul Ryan's critically acclaimed deficit-reducing budget proposal intended to balance the budget by 2080 (National Review Online calls it “a roadmap to solvency.”)

Gleckman: But, and this caveat is a whopper, CBO assumed this wonderful outcome would occur only if the revenue portion of Ryan’s plan generated 19 percent of GDP in taxes. And there is not the slightest evidence that would happen. Even though Ryan’s plan has a detailed tax component, his staff asked CBO to ignore it. Rather than estimate the true revenue effects of the Ryan plan, CBO simply assumed, as the lawmaker requested, that it would generate revenues of 19 percent of GDP.

"You know the old joke: Two economists are stranded on a desert island with only canned food to eat. But they have no way to open the containers. What do we do,” asks one.

“Assume a can opener,” replies the other.

"When it comes to Ryan’s plan, CBO has, in effect, assumed the can opener."

These fuckers project much?

M said...

Oh, one more thing.

Courtesy of Rachel Maddow:

"Deficit Hawks? The Numbers Don't Add Up"

"Critics of the cost of the bill include the same Rep. Phil Gingrey and the same Rep. John Boehner who voted for the Medicare Part D drug benefit in 2003. When the CBO scored that bill, at that time, the CBO said that bill would raise the deficit by $394 billion, and yet, Phil Gingrey and John Boehner, now so piously concerned about how much things cost, happily voted for Medicare Part D anyway."

"When Republicans passed the Bush tax cuts that same year, the CBO score of that one at that time said that legislation would raise the deficit by $349 billion. And Republicans, including Phil Gingrey, had no problem voting yes. When Republicans passed the first Bush tax cuts in 2001, the CBO score of that one at that time said it would raise the deficit by $1.3 trillion -- trillion with a "T." And Republicans, including John Boehner, went along for that ride, too."

Best Graph Ever!