Critical Condition

Taxing Baucus

Mike Tanner of Cato and I (separately) have looked at the CBO analysis of the Baucus markup (which is not a bill), and have reached much the same conclusions.  The headlines will tell us that it will cost $829 billion (that is, less than $900 billion) over ten years, and will reduce the cumulative deficit by $81 billion.

Those numbers are phony for any number of reasons, but notice that the “deficit reduction” is the net result of $518 billion in increased spending from expanded insurance coverage, $404 billion in reduced spending from “other provisions affecting direct spending,” and $196 billion in increased revenues.  The $404 billion “does not include effects on spending subject to future appropriations.”  So: Will Congress actually cut Medicare reimbursements (by over 20 percent), unlike previous years?  More fundamentally: The increase in revenues ($196 billion) is over twice the net reduction in the deficit.  So put aside all the other problems with the numbers: None of this net “deficit reduction” results from spending efficiencies.  It is all tax increases and more.  Will those higher taxes be limited to those making in excess of $250,000 per year?  Please…  Note also that the analysis states in the first paragraph that the “analysis is preliminary in large part because the Chairman’s mark, as amended, has not yet been embodied in legislative language.”

So, it is no longer the production of only laws and sausages that should be hidden from view.  Chairmen’s marks also are to be hidden from polite society, lest voters, CBO, and an ever-hopeful press be scandalized.  So much for transparency.


Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.