The Corner

Sleight of Hand? How About the Whole Arm?

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial (sub req’d) on the Schip battle today has a shocking revelation even for jaded, cynical types like me:

Simply on the basis of fiscal responsibility, opposing Schip is a no-brainer. On paper, the bill expands Schip by $35 billion over the next five years, to a total of $60 billion, well beyond the 20% expansion supported by the Bush Administration. To fill this pot of federal dollars, the Democrats will raise the cigarette excise tax by 61 cents.

Naturally, however, there’s a budget sleight-of-hand. Known as a “funding cliff,” the yearly Schip layout increases to $13.9 billion in 2011, then abruptly cuts spending by 65% below current funding levels. This helps “score” the bill as costing only $35 billion over the five-year budget window, but it also means that come 2012 Congress will either have to pass new spending or kick kids off the rolls. The chances of the latter happening are approximately zero, and GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch should be embarrassed for going along with this confidence trick.

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