Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for health care reforms today

According to this morning's USA Today, this afternoon President Obama is going to publicly re-iterate his support for "PAYGO," the notion that the federal government should determine how to fully fund a new program before implementing it. The President has previously written that, "Health care reform must not add to our deficits over the next 10 years -- it must be at least deficit neutral and put America on a path to reducing its deficit over time."

But critically, the President has been less clear to date on how the resulting bill should be paid. The cost of insuring a further 46 million un-insured Americans is widely estimated to cost over $100 billion per year, or a total of $1 trillion over President Obama's 10 year time horizon. (That's on top of a $455 billion budget deficit last year, on total Federal spending of $3 trillion.)

During the campaign last Fall, then-candidate Obama dismissed out-of-hand the possibility raised by republican Senator McCain that this would require taxing employer-paid health insurance benefits, a possibility widely opposed by (democrat supporting) unions.

Members of the congressional Blue Dog Coalition, fiscally conservative House democrats, will be at this White House event today. Last week, they issued a statement on the proposed health care reforms that, "expresed concerns about the viability of a 'Medicare-like' public option." That statement followed the day after the President sent a letter to Capitol Hill which read in part, "I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans."

This reminds me of the character Wimpy from the old "Popeye" cartoons, right down to his incongrously distended gut bulging out of threadbare clothes. "As a matter of government policy, we will gladly pay 10 years from Tuesday for 46 million hamburgers today."

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