August 6, 2011

PHILIP KLEIN: Obama Won’t Escape Blame For Credit Downgrade.

When Obama came into office, he argued that we needed deficit spending to boost the economy, so he passed a $800 billion stimulus package. Then, in one of his first supposed pivots to the deficit, he convened a ‘fiscal responsibility summit’ in February 2009. But that actually turned out to be part of a different pivot altogether. It was during that summit that then White House Budget Director Peter Orszag declared, “health care reform is entitlement reform.”

And so, for the next 13 months, Obama spent all of his energies trying to get health care legislation across the finish line. The end product was a plan that, according to both the Congressional Budget Office and actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, did not bend the health care cost curve down. Let’s even set aside the argument over the accounting gimmicks that were employed to obtain a CBO score that showed modest deficit reduction. The reality is this: the law used money raised through tax hikes and Medicare cuts that otherwise would have been available for deficit reduction, to instead expand Medicaid by 18 million beneficiaries and create a massive new health care entitlement.

Of course, there’s more. After health care passed last March, Obama punted on the debt for the rest of the year as he awaited a report from his fiscal commission. He then ignored its recommendations and released a budget so ludicrous that within two months, it failed 0 to 97 in the Senate and he himself rejected it. He instead delivered a speech about his deficit reduction vision, which didn’t have enough details for the CBO to score. And then he spent the last few months arguing that he was prepared to offer Republicans a “grand bargain,” but to this day he hasn’t released details of this supposedly awesome deal that Republicans refused, beyond calculated leaks to favored reporters.

Indeed.

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