The Nefarious GOP – Cons and Tricks #1: Obamacare

At 6:21 a.m. on Thursday, January 5, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), tweeted a message that read:


The “CBO” is the independent Congressional Budget Office that was created by law in 1974 and is charged with assisting Congress in evaluating costs associated with financial and budgetary decisions and to provide information and estimates during the Congressional budget process.

When new legislation is proposed, the CBO “scores” the bill and advises the bill’s cost to the federal government over the short and long term and the impact of the bill to the federal deficit, if any. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 requires that CBO estimate the costs of bills that come out of subcommittee (except for House and Senate Appropriations Committees).

The Rules for the 115th Congress can be found here, and has identified the language Representative Ellison referenced. Without copying in all the legalese, here’s the net of it:

  • Page 25 of the rules document includes language that (appropriately) calls for the CBO to score, calculate and estimate the financial impact that bill or joint resolution is projected to cost that would add to the deficit over the next 10 years – basically, to perform a 10-year cost analysis. Okay, that makes sense.
  • Page 26, though, says that the CBO will not perform these calculations for either (a) repealing Obamacare or (b) reforming Obamacare.   HUH? I mean ….. huh?

Wait. Isn’t Obamacare such an unmitigated disaster that the very future of the republic is threatened by its continued existence? Isn’t this why it is necessary to repeal it without delay, without even ensuring that any replacement for it (if any, that is) is even formulated? Isn’t it a financial drain to the country? Isn’t it that bad?

Not so much. In March 2010, the CBO projected that Obamacare would reduce the federal deficit over 10 years, and actually adjusted the amount of that reduction upward in February, 2011 (to $210B). Just to be clear:  That’s a reduction of $210 billion dollars from the federal deficit through 2021.

Wait, that can’t be right! Obamacare is so catastrophic that its repeal is the most pressing, urgent and critical matter of the incoming administration and the 115th Congress (well, that and defunding Planned Parenthood – those items exceed any clear and present danger presented by ISIS, North Korea, China, Russia, or Ford sending jobs outside the U.S.).

Except it is right. The CBO confirmed in its economic and fiscal projection of August, 2014, that the deficit dropped from $680B to $506B (#ThanksObama!). Part of projection included a decrease in Medicare’s budgeted needs by about $95B in 2019 (don’t misread that as Medicare having a surplus – it means that Medicare’s projected costs are on the right trajectory is all).

A lot of the projected savings are attributable to provisions of Obamacare, like rewarding hospitals for lowering readmission rates, reorienting the emphasis in healthcare to a prevent-and-care model over a treat-and-care model (illness prevention) and pushing for the shift to electronic medical records.

It would follow that when Obamacare is repealed, those in-flight deficit reduction processes would cease, right? I mean, if a law caused money to be spent over a period of many years, repealing that law would likely stop the spending, wouldn’t it?


It would. It does.  Because Obamacare reduces the deficit, any repeal inherently increases the deficit by removing the reduction.  What goes down must come up.  Gravity exists.  Water is wet.

Funny that the GOP doesn’t want any further CBO projections. During one of the previous 64 attempts to repeal Obamacare (and it has to be said: 64 repeal attempts without a replacement plan – !), the CBO calculated and scored the cost of repealing Obamacare in 2015.

The cost of repeal at that time was $350 BILLION on the high side, $137 BILLION on the low side – depending on what’s factored in. That’s dollars. U.S. dollars. Added to the federal deficit instead of lowering it.  A minimum of $137 billion added.

That 2015 CBO report about the cost of repealing Obamacare can be found here. Maybe the GOP wants to classify it as fake news, or say that “not all the accounting is in yet”. How many professions other than climatology and related scientific fields can they possibly say are wrong? Are accounting and financial forecasting next on the GOP’s “we don’t care how knowledgeable you are, you’re wrong” hit list?

And why would the GOP not want the American people to know the cost of repeal? Obamacare is so bad that no cost should be spared in repealing it, right? Why would the GOP want to forego doing the universally acknowledged responsible thing and know the financial cost of what they’re doing here?

I think it’s two-fold: One, the GOP will never, ever, ever admit that there might be something positive about Obamacare. They will never do this. Word might get out to their constituents who bought into the “death panel” bullshit from July, 2009.  Health care as a percentage of GDP was nearing disastrous levels in 2009, and action had to be taken by responsible parties.  It’s too bad the GOP shirked any part of being one of those parties, but blindly following Mitch and the Gang affords no moral high ground now.

Also, because the GOP plans to repeal the bulk, or at least the key parts, of Obamacare using the reconciliation process. The reconciliation process is for use in matters related to budgeting, debt and the like. It’s a fast-track procedure that requires only a simple majority for passage, and there’s no opportunity for a Senate filibuster or much, if any, debate. Use of the reconciliation process means that the matter can’t be filibustered in the Senate, and that only a simple Senate majority will be needed for the repeal to pass. No full-blown debate, no committees …. very stripped-down and very rapid.

However, the reconciliation process can’t be used if the result increases adds to the federal deficit 10 or more years out – if it does, then the resulting act or legislation expires in 10 years, the way the Bush tax cuts did.

Now, I’m not a budget expert, or a government or legislative expert, or anything similar. But I have read the CBO reports. I’ve read the corroborating calculations and reports from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB). I’ve read what Paul Krugman’s said about the CBO’s numbers, including their 2014 report (and rather than shop for an economist, I figured I’d go with the Nobel Prize winning one), along with other accounts in WaPo, Forbes and Money.  I know there’s far more to the reconciliation process than I’ve described.

In the end, though, I believe the CBO, the CRFB and Paul.

For the GOP, who kvetched and moaned in 2009-2010 and beyond about the “speed” with which the complex Obamacare bill was enacted, the use of reconciliation is the utter height of hypocrisy. This law was not enacted in a week, or even a couple of months. All Congressional members have staff adequate to read and digest a lengthy bill over a period of many months. It’s their job, for God’s sake – they’re in the legislative branch of government.

But to hide the cost of repealing this legislation is nefarious. The GOP has mislead, obfuscated, twisted and lied about the Affordable Care Act – named by them to be “Obamacare” – for over seven years.

They’ve already shown they don’t give a damn about the human cost of repeal by the inescapable fact that they have spent more time trying to repeal this law in the last 7 years than in doing anything else and haven’t displayed the common courtesy of having a replacement plan ready for the citizens of this country.

No, in addition to that, Donald Trump and the GOP have shown that they don’t give a damn about the cold, hard, dollars-and-cents cost of repeal, either. And they don’t think you should, even though you will help pay for it.

Because they don’t even want to know what that cost is. And they don’t want you to, either.

Me? I’m calling my GOP Senator and U.S. Representative. Because the Senate vote on repealing Obamacare is WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11.

I hope you do the same. Tell them you want to see the current CBO score for any repeal and reform of Obamacare.

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