When you knowingly pay someone to lie to you, we call the deceiver an illusionist or a magician. When you unwittingly pay someone to do the same thing, I call him a politician.
President Obama insists that healthcare "reform" not "add a dime" to the budget deficit, which daily grows to ever more frightening levels (http://tinyurl.com/yglr8sj). So the House-passed bill and the one the Senate now deliberates both claim to cost less than $900 billion. Somehow "$900 billion over 10 years" has been decreed to be a magical figure that will not increase the deficit.
It's amazing how precise government gets when estimating the cost of 10 years of subsidized medical care. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's bill was scored not at $850 billion, but $849 billion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her bill would cost $871 billion.
How do they do that?
The key to magic is misdirection, fooling the audience into looking in the wrong direction.
I happily suspend disbelief when a magician says he'll saw a woman in half. That's entertainment. But when Harry Reid says he'll give 30 million additional people health coverage while cutting the deficit, improving healthcare and reducing its cost, it's not entertaining. It's incredible.
The politicians have a hat full of tricks to make their schemes look cheaper than they are. The new revenues will pour in during Year One, but healthcare spending won't begin until Year Three or Four. To this the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner asks, "Wouldn't it be great if you could count a whole month's income, but only two weeks' expenditures in your household budget?" (http://tinyurl.com/y86yos8)
To be deficit reducers, the healthcare bills depend on a $200 billion cut to Medicare. Current law requires cuts in payments to doctors, but let's get real: Those cuts will never happen. The idea that Congress will "save $200 billion" by reducing payments for groups as influential as doctors and retirees is laughable. Since 2003, Congress has suspended those "required" cuts each year.
Our pandering congressmen rarely cut. They just spend. Even as the deficit grows, they vomit up our money onto new pet "green" projects, bailouts for irresponsible industries, gifts for special interests, and guarantees to everyone.
Originally, this year's suspension, "the doc fix," was included in the healthcare bills, but when it clearly pushed the cost of "reform" over Obama's limit and threatened to hike the deficit, the politicians moved the "doc fix" to a separate bill and pretended it was unrelated to their healthcare work.
Megan McArdle of The Atlantic reports that Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) what the total price would be if the "doc fix" and House healthcare overhaul were passed together. "The answer, according to the CBO, is that together they'd increase the deficit by $89 billion over 10 years."
McArdle explains why the "doc fix" should be included: "They're passing a bill that increases the deficit by $200 billion in order to pass another bill that hopefully reduces it, but by substantially less than $200 billion. That means that passage of this bill is going to increase the deficit."
From the start, Obama has promised to pay for half the "reform" cost by cutting Medicare by half a trillion over 10 years. But, Tanner asks, "how likely is it that those cuts will take place? After all, this is an administration that will pay seniors $250 to make up for the fact that they didn't get a Social Security cost-of-living increase this year (because the cost of living didn't increase). And Congress is in the process of repealing a scheduled increase in Medicare premiums."
Older people vote in great numbers. AARP is the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. Like the cut in doctors' pay, the other cuts will never happen.
I will chew on razor blades when Congress cuts Medicare to keep the deficit from growing.
Medicare is already projected to be $37 trillion in the hole over the next 75 years. Yet the Democrats proudly cite Medicare when they demand support for the healthcare overhaul. If a business pulled the accounting tricks the politicians get away with, the owners would be in prison.
John Stossel will soon host "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "Give Me a Break" and of "Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity."