But bad news for the American press. Ezra Klein and Stan Collender pile on to David Broder. Each day the Washington Post publishes David Broder is another day of humiliation for serious journalists working for the Post, for Newsweek, etc.--and also a day of humiliation for all those working for Stanley Kaplan Test Prep.
What Is David Broder Thinking?: David Broder has a column in today's The Washington Post that I find close to incomprehensible. First he says that the Congressional Budget Office's substantive, detailed analysis shows that the bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will reduce the deficit.
(Note to David: CBO does not give its "blessing" to legislation; all it does is score the bill.)
Second, he says that the CBO scoring that shows the bill reducing the deficit compared to existing law is not as valuable as polls that show that Americans don't believe it. And he says that the polls are somehow more correct than CBO even though one group actually analyzed the bill while the other got its almost certainly less-than-complete-and accurate information from someone else. Third, Broder says "every expert I have talked to says that the public has it right. These bills, as they stand, are budget-busters."
(Question: David...Did you talk to the current director of the Congressional Budget Office who actually did the analysis rather than a former CBO director who didn't?)
Ezra Klein, who also writes for The Washington Post, also takes Broder to task for making other similarly inconsistent claims. You also have to like Ezra's take on the strange view of deficit hawks towards health care:
I'm confused by the budget hawks who that take the line: "This bill needs to cut the deficit, and I don't believe Democrats will cut the deficit, but since the actual provisions of the bill unambiguously cut the deficit, then I guess Congress won't stick to it."
And here is Ezra Klein, trying to repair some of the damage:
Ezra Klein: You can't cut the deficit without a bill that cuts the deficit: David Broder has a column today expressing skepticism that health-care reform will really cut the deficit. But he doesn't provide much evidence for the charge.
The specific budget gimmick mentioned in the column is that Reid has delayed the subsidies "from mid-2013 to January 2014 -- long after taxes and fees levied by the bill would have begun." But not that long. The excise tax, for instance, begins in 2013. More to the point, it's not clear what Broder's complaint is. Reid delayed the implementation of the subsidies in order to ensure the bill's deficit neutrality in the first 10 years, which is what Broder wants. Why attack him for it? Then we get this:
There is plenty in the CBO report to suggest that the promised budget savings may not materialize. If you read deep enough, you will find that under the Senate bill, "federal outlays for health care would increase during the 2010-2019 period" -- not decline. The gross increase would be almost $1 trillion -- $848 billion, to be exact, mainly to subsidize the uninsured. The net increase would be $160 billion.
Huh? The net increase of $160 billion in the first 10 years is part of CBO's analysis, not a caveat to it. It doesn't mean the bill doesn't cut the deficit, it just means that overall spending is larger before you add revenues into the equation. Moreover, the CBO continues: "during the decade following the 10-year budget window, the increases and decreases in the federal budgetary commitment to health care stemming from this legislation would roughly balance out."
In other words, the revenue and the savings grow more quickly than the costs. Extend that line out further and, yes, federal spending on health care falls as a result of this bill. In other words, the bill satisfies Broder's conditions. But he doesn't come out and say that.
Instead, he pivots to the now-traditional argument that Congress won't be able to stick to the savings and revenue measures in this bill. That, however, is another way of saying that Congress can't cut health-care costs and the American government will go bankrupt. For one thing, that's not a very good reason not to at least try and avert that outcome. But if Broder's position is that we face certain fiscal collapse, then the only real question is whether we would prefer that 30 million Americans had insurance in the meantime, or went uninsured over that period.
More broadly, I'm confused by the budget hawks who that take the line: "This bill needs to cut the deficit, and I don't believe Democrats will cut the deficit, but since the actual provisions of the bill unambiguously cut the deficit, then I guess Congress won't stick to it."
People who want to cut the deficit should support this bill, and support its implementation. The alternative is no bill that cuts the deficit, and thus no hope of cutting the deficit.
A good piece, by contrast, comes from Ron Brownstein:
A Milestone In the Health Care Journey: Jonathan Gruber... likes what he sees in the Reid proposal. Actually he likes it a lot. "I'm sort of a known skeptic on this stuff," Gruber told me. "My summary is it's really hard to figure out how to bend the cost curve, but I can't think of a thing to try that they didn't try. They really make the best effort anyone has ever made. Everything is in here....I can't think of anything I'd do that they are not doing in the bill. You couldn't have done better than they are doing." Gruber may be especially effusive. But the Senate blueprint, which faces its first votes tonight, also is winning praise from other leading health reformers like Mark McClellan, the former director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under George W. Bush and Len Nichols, health policy director at the centrist New America Foundation. "The bottom line," Nichols says, "is the legislation is sending a signal that business as usual [in the medical system] is going to end."...
[The bill includes] just about all the systemic reforms analysts from the center to the left have identified as the most promising strategies for changing the economic incentives in the medical system.... Most of the other big ideas for controlling costs (such as medical malpractice reform) tend to draw support primarily among Republicans. And since virtually, if not literally, none of them plan to support the final health care bill under any circumstances, the package isn't likely to reflect much of their thinking. In their November 17 letter to Obama, the group of economists led by Dr. Alan Garber of Stanford University, identified four pillars of fiscally-responsible health care reform.... As OMB Director Peter Orszag noted in an interview, the Reid bill met all those tests.... McClellan, the former Bush official and current director of the Engleberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution, was one of the economists who signed the November letter. McClellan has some very practical ideas for improving the Reid bill (more on those below), but generally he echoes Orszag's assessment of it. "It has got all four of those elements in it," McClellan said in an interview. "They kept a lot of the key elements of the Finance bill that I like. It would be good if more could be done, but this is the right direction to go."...
On delivery reform... a series of measures to change the way providers are paid for delivering care to Medicare recipients; the hope was that once Medicare instituted these reforms, private insurers would also adopt many of them. "The goal here is that the things we do in Medicare will translate over into the private sector, and there is quite a bit of historical precedence for that," said one Democratic aide involved in drafting the package... hospitals under current law must report on their performance in treating patients... under the bill, their Medicare payments, for the first time, would be affected by their ranking on those reports. Hospitals would also be penalized if they readmit too many patients after surgery or allow too many to acquire infections while in the hospital.... The other set of Baucus proposals were intended to promote more coordination among providers.... Finally, the Reid bill maintains the two powerful institutions the Finance legislation proposed to promote these reforms and develop new ones. The one that's attracted the most attention is an independent "Medicare Advisory Board."... a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in the Health and Human Services Department.... No one can say for certain that these initiatives will improve efficiency enough to slow the growth in health care spending.... "CBO is there to score savings for which we have a high degree of confidence that they will materialize," says Reischauer, now president of the Urban Institute. "There are many promising approaches [in these reform ideas] but you...can't deposit them in the bank." In the long run, Reischauer says, it's likely "that maybe half of them, or a third of them, will prove to be successful. But that would be very important."...
Even if Obama signs into law a final bill embodying all these reform proposals, many skeptics wonder if they can bend, much less break, the seemingly inexorable increase in health care spending. Reischauer understands that skepticism, but isn't able to entirely suppress a kernel of optimism that this latest reform agenda may prove more effective than its predecessors. "One never knows whether we're turning the corner or if this is just playing the same old game for another inning," he says. "But I sense there's something different out there. I think the medical profession and its leaders have read the handwriting on the wall and are trying to evolve." If so, the ideas the Senate will begin voting on tonight could mark a milestone in that journey.