Critical Condition

Obama in Fantasyland

Increasingly, the Obama administration and congressional leaders are claiming that the proposed Democratic health-care overhaul won’t cause taxpayers an extra dime. Yesterday, for example, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer asserted that the House health-care bill — which, according to the CBO, would raise taxes by $50 billion a year and deficits by $65 billion a year — won’t raise taxes or deficits. Rather, it will be paid for with “savings” from Medicare.

This is remarkable.

As everyone in Washington knows, there are no savings to be had. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services projects that, at the current trajectory, the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund will become insolvent by 2017. The baby boomers are about to start retiring. Medicare is headed for financial disaster.

President Obama has said as much. He and White House budget director Peter Orszag have repeatedly said that, unless the president’s health-care agenda is enacted, the rising costs of Medicare are going to cripple future budgets and make it impossible for us to control future deficits.

Now the Fantasyland merry-go-round instead goes like this: We need to find savings in Medicare, to fund programs to bring down health-care costs, to bring down the cost of Medicare, which will otherwise make us go broke. . . .

Running the ride in reverse is even more fun: Medicare will make us go broke because of its skyrocketing costs, but we can fix Medicare by overhauling our health-care system, which we can pay for with savings from Medicare, which will otherwise make us go broke because of its skyrocketing costs. . . .

Keep all of this in mind next Wednesday night when the president tacks away from his old claim that we need to pass his agenda in order to make Medicare fiscally solvent, and toward his new claim that we can fund his agenda through Medicare “savings.”