Politics & Policy

Obamacare: Cooked Books You Can Believe In

'Not one dime' will be added to the deficit? Not exactly.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could use a $100 bill to buy groceries and then deposit that same Benjamin in the bank to help pay your monthly credit-card statement? Regular Americans would call this either magic or fraud. Washington Democrats call this “health-care reform.”

Obamacare rests upon such double counting. It repeatedly shanghais taxpayer funds for Obama’s plan while simultaneously shielding that same money for Medicare, Social Security, and other programs. Such chicanery may explain why only 32 percent of adults support Obamacare, according to a new Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP survey.

“You can’t count a dollar twice,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) observed at President Obama’s February 25 reform summit. “Common sense tells you that. You don’t even have to have an accountant tell you that.”

Team Obama clearly ignored Grassley. They should not count a dollar twice. And yet they do.

The health-care-reform bill that Senate Democrats passed last Christmas Eve, for instance, would drain $464.6 billion from Medicare’s coffers to underwrite Obamacare. 

However, if “these Medicare cuts are improving the solvency of Medicare,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) explained, “then you can’t use that money to spend on the creation of another government program.” Ryan, the House Budget Committee’s top Republican, said on February 28’s Fox News Sunday: “You can’t count it both for paying benefits and reducing the deficit.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office likewise warned last December 23 that Obamacare’s putative savings “would be received by the government only once, so they cannot be set aside to pay for future Medicare spending and, at the same time, pay for current spending on other parts of the legislation or on other programs. . . . To describe the full amount of [Hospital Insurance] trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position.”

Consequently, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) predicts: “Taxpayers will be left holding billions in debt bonds to the Medicare Trust Fund that must be repaid.”

The Senate’s Obamacare bill would take $52 billion in anticipated Social Security revenues and divert them to offset Obamacare’s overall net cost. But wait: Those who have been promised future Social Security payments expect that $52 billion to be available to prevent their pension checks from bouncing. These $104 billion in political pledges cost only $52 billion.

#page#This bill also includes something called Community Living Services and Support. This “CLASS Act” would offer long-term-care insurance with premiums invoiced immediately, but with benefits commencing in 2016. In the interim, the CBO expects a $72 billion surplus to accumulate. Congressional Democrats already have dedicated that sum to counterbalance and thus lower Obamacare’s perceived cost. But the Treasury needs that same $72 billion to finance the CLASS Act’s medical services. So, which is it?

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) described this scam in the Washington Post as “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.”

#ad#Conrad is right. At its core, Obamacare relies on Madoff-style accounting. The convicted swindler routinely took cash belonging to one group of investors and used it to pay off a different set of stakeholders. When the investors requested their money, it already was gone.

Future retirees similarly will demand their Medicare benefits. But much of that money already will have been swiped for Obamacare. And that’s when this double counting will sparkle in all its crooked splendor.

So what would uncooking Obamacare’s books do to its price tag?

The CBO says the Senate bill would reduce the federal deficit by $132 billion in its first ten years. Congressman Ryan disputes this figure without blaming CBO. Like a scale that dutifully measures something as weighing twelve ounces, whether gold or lead, CBO loyally accepts the assumptions in the bills it analyzes, no matter their luster.

“If you take all the double counting out of the bill,” Ryan told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, “this thing has a $460 billion deficit in the first ten years, a $1.4 trillion deficit in the second ten years.”

President Obama claims his proposal “does not add one dime to the deficit.” In truth, Obamacare just keeps the red ink coming. And it does so as deviously as possible.

Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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