This post was originally written for Americans for Tax Reform’s Blog, where I am an Associate (intern).
This weekend, the CBO shot down another hollow Obama administration “savings” proposal. Obama’s budget director Peter Orszag endorsed an Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC), which would have transferred some authority to the executive to reduce Medicare expenses (probably by reducing payments to doctors).
Savings might not be realized at all because the proposal specifies a process without specific goals for savings or a “fall-back” plan for ensuring spending reductions if the combination of annual IMAC recommendations and Presidential approval does not produce hoped-for savings.
To translate for the CBO: “Trust me” is not a savings proposal. IMAC is a vague promise to figure out, at some unspecified date in the future, some unspecified way of generating an unspecified amount of savings. Congress and Obama might as well just admit that they don’t want to deal with the hard, important stuff now. To be nice, CBO scored the proposal for just $2 billion in savings over the next ten years.
Democrat policy cheerleaders like Ezra Klein have complained that Americans aren’t paying enough attention to supposed-cost control measures. There’s a good reason Americans aren’t impressed. The cost-cutting reforms just aren’t serious and the draft health care bills prove it. The Democratic “reform” proposals are larded with massive subsidies that cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Why? Because if they smother the health care industry with money they can make costs look like they are decreasing – for a while.
If Democrats believed their proposals actually cut costs, they wouldn’t need the subsidies. Alternatively, if they were confident that measures like IMAC actually produced budgetary savings, they could make subsidies floating and dependent on CBO measurements of actually attained savings. Until the subsidies go away or are linked to attained savings, it is reasonable to assume that Democrats don’t take their own reforms seriously. With the stakes this high, “trust me” is not an option.