GOP lawmakers change tune on costly health plans

Discussion in 'Politics' started by JDL, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. JDL


    WASHINGTON – Democrats are troubled by the inconsistency of Republican lawmakers who approved a major Medicare expansion six years ago that has added tens of billions of dollars to federal deficits, but oppose current health overhaul plans.

    All current GOP senators, including the 24 who voted for the 2003 Medicare expansion, oppose the health care bill that's backed by President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats.

    The Democrats claim that their plan moving through Congress now will pay for itself with higher taxes and spending cuts and they cite the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for support.

    By contrast, when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House in 2003, they overcame Democratic opposition to add a deficit-financed prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The program will cost a half-trillion dollars over 10 years, or more by some estimates.

    With no new taxes or spending offsets accompanying the Medicare drug program, the cost has been added to the federal debt.

    Some Republicans say they don't believe the CBO's projections that the health care overhaul will pay for itself. As for their newfound worries about big government health expansions, they essentially say: That was then, this is now.

    Six years ago, "it was standard practice not to pay for things," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question." His 2003 vote has been vindicated, Hatch said, because the prescription drug benefit "has done a lot of good."

    Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said those who see hypocrisy "can legitimately raise that issue." But he defended his positions in 2003 and now, saying the economy is in worse shape and Americans are more anxious.

    Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said simply: "Dredging up history is not the way to move forward." She noted that she fought unsuccessfully to offset some of President George W. Bush's deep tax cuts at the time.

    But for now, she said, "it's a question of what's in this package," which the Senate passed Thursday in a party-line vote. The Senate bill still must be reconciled with a House version.

    The political situation is different now, Snowe said, because "we're in a tough climate and people are angry and frustrated."

    Some conservatives have no patience with such explanations.

    "As far as I am concerned, any Republican who voted for the Medicare drug benefit has no right to criticize anything the Democrats have done in terms of adding to the national debt," said Bruce Bartlett, an official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He made his comments in a Forbes article titled "Republican Deficit Hypocrisy."

    Bartlett said the 2003 Medicare expansion was "a pure giveaway" that cost more than this year's Senate or House health bills will cost. More important, he said, "the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers. One hundred percent of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit."

    The pending health care bills in Congress, he noted, are projected to add nothing to the deficit over 10 years.

    Other lawmakers who voted for the 2003 Medicare expansion include the Senate's top three Republican leaders, all sharp critics of the Obama-backed health care plans: Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Eleven Democratic senators voted with them back then.

    The 2003 vote in the House was even more divisive. It resulted in a nearly three-hour roll call in which GOP leaders put extraordinary pressure on colleagues to back the prescription drug addition to Medicare. In the end, 204 Republicans and 16 Democrats voted for the bill.

    Democrats certainly have indulged in deficit spending over the years. They say they have been more responsible over the last two decades, however. Bill Clinton's administration was largely constrained by a pay-as-you-go law, requiring most tax cuts or program expansions to be offset elsewhere with tax increases and spending cuts.

    Clinton ended his presidency with a budget surplus. But it soon was wiped out by a sagging economy, the Iraq war, GOP tax cuts and the lapsing of the pay-as-you-go restrictions.

    Obama and many Democrats in Congress have vowed to restore those restrictions. But they waived them this year for programs, including heavy stimulus spending meant to pull the economy from the severe recession of 2008-09.

    The 2010 deficit is expected to reach $1.5 trillion, and the accumulated federal debt now exceeds $12 trillion. When the Republican-led Congress passed the Medicare expansion in 2003, the deficit was $374 billion and projected to hit $525 billion the following year, in part because of the new prescription drug benefit for seniors.
  2. In other words, the dems know they've hung themselves out to dry.
  3. They are trying equate the expansion of Medicare under Bush with this monstrosity of a boondoggle.

    The Democrats are Worms. They own this pos of a bill but they don't have the guts to trumpet it because they know it a bad thing.
  4. jem


    this bill will cost tax payers for decades. The democrats just added 10% of the swing vote to the 40 % of the country who calls themselves republicans. Anybody with a private sector job will soon despise democrats.
    Their only hope now is to create an 'unworking" class that is larger than the working class.

    My concern is that they have a blueprint (california) and they are going for it.
  5. AP's Babington Plays Obama/Dem Party Mouthpiece, Ignores CBO 'Double-Counting' Advisory
    By Tom Blumer
    December 26, 2009

    The Associated Press should seriously consider renaming itself "Associated Dems" or "Associated Leftists."

    This morning, the AP's Charles Babington uncritically relays the latest Democratic Party talking point about its statist health care plan that has been passed in two very different forms in the House and Senate. The supposed point is that anyone who voted to create Medicare Part D in 2003 and voted against ObamaCare is "obviously" a flaming hypocrite.

    Along the way, Babington ignores a Congressional Budget Office report response issued just before Christmas asserting that characterizations of the Senate's bill as reducing future government deficits are wrong. Beyond that, the litany of other distortions and errors in Babington's report is perversely impressive in its no-fib-or-spin-left-behind comprehensiveness.

    Here are the first several paragraphs of Babington's babble, followed by its final sentence:

    The trouble is, Babington's third paragraph is flat-out wrong, and he should have known it. The CBO said so in a response to GOP Senators Jeff Sessions and Judd Gregg on Wednesday that was posted at its Director's Blog at 3:16 p.m. that day. Babington's report is currently time-stamped at 5:31 a.m. today, i.e., 2-1/2 days later.

    CBO tells us that it was asked "whether the reductions in projected Part A outlays and increases in projected HI (Medicare Hospital Insurance) revenues under the legislation can provide additional resources to pay future Medicare benefits while simultaneously providing resources to pay for new programs outside of Medicare."

    Their answer is "no":

    Reuters columnist James Pethokoukis usefully observes that, "This is a similar shell game played by the government when it uses Social Security surpluses to mask the true depth of the budget deficit."

    Megan McArdle at the Atlantic's Business Channel elaborates:

    In sum: It's a new dog, and they're teaching it the same old tricks.

    Here are Babington's other major howlers:
    • He quotes Bruce Bartlett at Forbes saying some time ago that Medicare Part D "had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers. One hundred percent of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit." Uh, no. While it's in many ways a poor example of fiscal stewardship, the fact is, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Medicare published in May 2009, 11% of Part D's "revenues" of $66 billion came from beneficiary premiums, and 12% came from "state offsets"; the rest is from "general revenues." That's far less than ideal, but Bartlett said "no offsets, and no revenue-raisers." Bartlett was wrong. I'm wondering if Babington really knew that (if he doesn't, why is he even assigned to this story?), but chose to quote Bartlett anyway.
    • The "Democratic opposition" that the GOP overcame in 2003 primarily opposed the law because it wasn't "generous" enough, not because of any interest in controlling spending, as Babington apparently would like readers to believe. Carolyn Lochhead at the San Francisco Chronicle reported in November 2003 that "liberals (opposing the plan) seek a government- guaranteed benefit" (Medicare Part D is a voluntary program). The late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) claimed that it would "dump seniors in the cold arms of the HMOs."
    • Babington also conveniently ignores the fact that in a rarity for any kind of government program, costs during the initial years of Part D have come in well lower than originally anticipated, both for taxpayers and seniors.
    • Finally, Babington "forgot" to tell us in the final excerpted paragraph that the "projected" 2004 deficit of $525 billion came in at $413 billion as collections-enhancing effects of the 2003 Bush tax cuts were kicking in.
    Babington also goes bubbly about how "Bill Clinton's administration was largely constrained by a pay-as-you-go law, requiring most tax cuts or program expansions to be offset elsewhere with tax increases and spending cuts." I don't think this is correct, but even if it is, it's almost certain that the Republican Congress that would have passed such a law and imposed its constraints.

    Anyway, it's as if Clinton is solely responsible for the brief era of budget surpluses. No sir.

    Clinton only gets credit for being behind the 1997 capital gains tax cut passed by the GOP Congress, which raised Treasury collections significantly. Otherwise, the rest of the credit goes to the GOP Congress, especially its Budget Committee Chairman from Ohio John Kasich; welfare reform, which Clinton signed only to preserve his 1996 electoral viability, and which reduced outlays and added well over a million new taxpayers to the employment rolls during its first four years; the dot-com boom (which the Clinton administration's SEC unfortunately allowed to run out of control, giving rise to the dot-com bubble); and finally, the fact that Clinton and wife Hillary failed to saddle us with statist health care earlier in their term (but that battle did set the stage for the Gingrich Revolution, which led to the previously named factors).

    If Babington were even trying a tiny bit to be a supposedly objective and informed wire service reporter, he wouldn't have committed the egregious error of ignoring the CBO's "double-counting" response, and he wouldn't have recited the partisan fibs and half-truths present in his report. If he really wants to continue in his current position, he should either change his ways, or tell his bosses to change their masthead to Associated Liberals or Associated Democrats.