"Key lawmakers on Wednesday moved to cut roughly $100 billion from the cost of health-care reform proposals as they sought to break weeks of gridlock on President Obama's signature legislative initiative before Congress departs for a month-long recess." -- Washington Post, today.
"A bipartisan coalition of senators withheld support for President Obama's economic recovery package yesterday, leaving the scope and timing of his first major initiative in doubt as they sought to cut more than $100 billion from the legislation." -- Washington Post, February.
Yes, the big round number theory of legislating continues to have many supporters, if not any intellectual credibility. There was no policy justification for cutting $100 billion from the stimulus package (indeed, many of the provisions cut were replaced with other provisions that economists agree had weaker positive effects). Similarly, with health care there is no policy reason to cut $100 billion. The questions that need to be answered are what kind of mechanisms we want and how we want to pay for them, in that order.
Instead of starting with what good policy will be, though, we're starting with "lop $100 billion off whatever the president thinks is a good idea and we'll go from there," even if that has the potential to produce a health-care plan that doesn't work very well. Remember that all of this is to ensure that charitable donations from rich people are valued more than charity from the poor (I remember a story about that) and that people who make over $350,000 don't have to pay an extra few percentage points of their income above that point to the government. It's a ridiculous way to approach legislating.
See Also: Moderates on Parade.
-- Tim Fernholz
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