Health Care Reform Chicago Style

"Those who champion health care reform bills are breathing a sigh of relief" after the release of the Congressional Budget Office's preliminary estimates of the so-called Baucus bill. That's how Diane Sawyer put it (except she didn't call it a so-called bill) in her GMA interview with George Stephanopoulos on Oct. 8.

It appears that all of the so-called mainstream media are breathing a sigh of relief over preliminary estimates of a preliminary draft (the "Baucus bill") -- still in committee when analyzed, with over 500 proposed amendments. In fact, Obama-adoring journalists everywhere are downright giddy.

Recently Obama was singing, "The sun will come out tomorrow," but today big government lovers are basking in the CBO's latest analysis and the spin of the media. Stephanopoulos believes the odds of passing health care reform now "top 75 percent."

Stephanopoulos cites the CBO's preliminary estimates of the "bill" which will produce an $81 billion reduction in the deficit in 10 years, and "even more after that." The "bill" meets the "President's bottom line" inasmuch as it "comes in under $900 billion at $829 billion" in costs.

That's quite a "bill;" it won't cost the government anything and it will reduce the deficit by $81 billion! How could anyone argue with that?

Stephanopoulos then turns to its critics. "Republicans will say" it still leaves 25 million uninsured and will be paid for from taxes and cuts in Medicare. Just little details, I guess. Why is it that "mainstream" journalists say "Republicans will say" when it comes to the downside. Shouldn't our objective journalists just "say" it themselves?

Imagine the story covered the other way around. First, the "mainstream" reports that the bill really isn't a bill, but a draft with over 500 proposed amendments. Next, the "Chairman's draft" only covers a mere 21 million out of Obama's 46 million without insurance. That's just 7 percent of the population. The draft calls for unprecedented government control, higher taxes, extreme penalties with jail time (IRS noncompliance) and cuts in Medicare. Next, the media informs when the plan would actually go into effect: 2013. And with its implementation date safely after the 2012 elections, that's only seven years of actual costs. By the way, asks the media, what's the big rush to ram it through this year? Finally, the media asserts "Democrats say it will reduce the deficit by $81 billion."

Before opening the backroom door of Chicago-style politics, let's review the big picture. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) puts things into perspective by reminding us that even if we take Obama's 46 million uninsured number as true, that equates to about 15 percent of the population. With that in mind, the Democrats are prepared to tax the Hades out of the 85 percent who work hard to earn or provide health insurance. The Democrats are willing to tax, penalize, cut Medicare, and regulate the entire health care industry in order to insure a mere 15 percent. No, wait, the overreaching and punitive Baucus "bill" wouldn't even cover the full 15 percent -- it would only add coverage to approximately 7 percent of the population. The Baucus "bill" would control the entire population in order to cover 7 percent of the population!

"Why would we punish the part that's working to cover the part that's not?" asks Rep. Mike Rogers. Good question. Assuming arguendo, that federal intervention is constitutional, why not spend money on the 15 percent rather than extend unprecedented central power to control every person's health care in the country? Who in his right mind would "remake" the system that has produced the greatest medical innovation and health care in the world?

The 15 percent problem could be fixed by less intrusive means: Like taking a few billion from of the waste-laden "stimulus" package and paying for the 15 percent. Problem solved. We certainly don't need to be taxed more.

The production of a "bill" that will cut the deficit is another Obama sleight of hand. This is akin to Obama coming out right after ramming through the $787 billion stimulus bill and talking about fiscal responsibility. Or it's like Obama preaching about a new era of responsibility while proposing a $3 trillion budget for 2010. The alleged deficit-negative Baucus bill is likewise a sham. With a projected price-tag of $829 billion it really costs nothing at all -- in fact, it saves money! Tell that to the 85 percent who would get hammered to pay for it.

The CBO analyzed the Kennedy-Dodd bill back in June and concluded among other things that it would cost the taxpayers about $1 trillion in ten years.

The next month the CBO analyzed the House bill and concluded that it would among other things create a $239 billion deficit in 10 years. That figure, of course, did not factor the costs for the millions who would be driven into the government option.

After that analysis, the director of the CBO was summoned to the White House for a closed-door meeting with Mr. Obama. That little incident slipped out in an interview with Today Show host Meredith Viera on July 21. Mr. Obama said in passing that he had met with the budget office earlier that day. That led to an immediate and awkward blog post on the same day at 2:40 p.m. by CBO director Douglas Elmendorf:

This morning President Obama said that he had met with the Congressional Budget Office regarding cost savings in health reform legislation. A number of people have asked me what happened, so here's the story:

I was invited to the White House to meet with the President . . . .

People have asked whether it was exciting to meet the President and be in the Oval Office: Yes, and my kids will be jealous when they get back from summer camp and hear about it. Of course, the setting of the conversation and the nature of the participants do not affect CBO's analysis of health reform legislation.

In context of trying to pass health care "reform" but for the little obstacle of the CBO's pesky analyses, Mr. Obama's meeting with Elmendorf was completely inappropriate. At bare minimum it creates the appearance of an attempt to influence. The CBO was established in 1974 as an office independent from the White House. It has always been free from influence and pressure from the White House. Until Obama came to Washington, that is. Though Elmendorf says the meeting with the President would not "affect CBO's analysis," its estimation of the Baucus "bill" would go beyond meeting Obama's "bottom line" of a deficit-neutral bill. The Baucus bill would actually save $81 billion. Voila.

I don't know that Elmendorf would succumb to the power of the White-House-machine, but there is enough variance ahead to say the whole thing is a sham regardless. For example, legions of amendments have been proposed and whatever the draft is today it will be something else tomorrow. On Oct. 13 the Senate Finance Committee approved the Baucus "bill." Next, talks will begin to merge the bill with the plan approved by the Senate Health Committee earlier this year. Providing that the final Senate proposal gets the needed 60 votes, it then will have to merge with House's contributions.

Therefore, there was no wrong answer in assessing a draft which was nowhere near finalization and would not actually be implemented for years.

Public outcry put the brakes on health care "reform." Mr. Obama therefore needed to create the perception of having a bill that will not cost anything. The significance of the CBO's early blessing is that once Obama feels that he has the green light he will rush his government takeover through faster than you can say, "Read the bill!"