Independent analysis debunks false GOP claims about health reform

Obama's signature on the health care reform bill

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a group with a reputation for producing materials that are balanced, authoritative, and accessible to non-specialists, has released a study of the claims central to the debate on repealing health reform that will reopen in the House this week. The short answer is that the CBO analysis is deemed accurate while Republican claims to the contrary are deemed inaccurate.

At issue is the pending bill to repeal “job killing” health care reform, a bill who’s very name contains an accusation.  Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a leading proponent of repeal, says “This is the most important thing we can do, jobs and the economy have to follow through, but we can’t fix this economy unless we first repeal Obama care.”  But is that true?

Much of the rhetoric surrounding this debate has been quite partisan.  Yet a surprising element in this round has been the claim by Speaker Boehner that the CBO analysis of the health care reform act’s financials was merely their “opinion,” and he implied that Democrats had forced CBO to produce misleading figures, saying that “CBO can only provide a score based on the assumptions that were given to them.”  On that count, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says:

  • In fact, over several decades, the House and Senate Budget Committees, along with presidential administrations of both parties, have developed procedures that CBO uses to prepare cost estimates.  In estimating the cost of health reform or its repeal, as with any estimate, CBO uses these longstanding, bipartisan procedures — not assumptions specified by the sponsor of the legislation.  Thus, Speaker Boehner’s charge is flatly incorrect.
  • Up until now, congressional leaders of both parties have acknowledged CBO’s professionalism and recognized its critical role as a neutral arbiter in budget matters.  They have accepted CBO’s cost estimates, even when those estimates have proved inconvenient for their side.  This wholesale attack on, and rejection of, a CBO estimate for a major piece of legislation by the leadership of the House or Senate is unprecedented.

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.”  A recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll determined that 83% of the public say it’s extremely or very important for House Republicans to pass legislation that both parties can agree on.  Further, 70% of Democrats say the president should work to pass legislation Democrats and Republicans can agree on, even if it’s not what most Democrats want.

The public wants the government to cooperate together.  But this cannot happen if there is not at least agreement on the basic data related to an issue.  Debate the implications. Debate the ideology. But stop wasting everyone’s time debating the facts.

Congress should be like NASCAR

John Boehner being honest about Corporate Sponsors (created by Tim)

One of the refreshing aspects of NASCAR is its open honesty about its corporate sponsorships.  Without corporate money the sport wouldn’t exist, a point the drivers, crews, and cars unabashedly acknowledge by being emblazoned with the corporate logos that make their jobs possible.

It’s high time Congress showed the honesty and integrity of NASCAR.  Congressmen should be required to wear jackets at all public appearances with corporate logos on them proportionate in size to the donations they have made.

Presumptive Speaker John Boehner is hardly the only Congressman sponsored by industry, but he is among the worst offenders.  He was most famously caught in 1996 handing out checks for tobacco companies on the floor of the House, but his ties to industry lobbyists are much broader and deeper than that.

In addition to cigarette companies like Altria and RJ Reynolds, Boehner is supported by Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Google, MillerCoors and UPS, just to name the large donors.  Together they have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign.  Lobbyists for those companies also are known to have provided him with rides on corporate jets, and to have socialized with him at luxury golf and waterfront resorts.

Boehner’s close circle of corporately connected friends and staff have ready access to to the man who is likely to be the the most powerful Republican on the Hill and third in line to the Presidency.  One lobbyist listed recent issues for which he had sought the lawmaker’s backing: combating fee increases for the oil industry, fighting a proposed cap on debit card fees, protecting tax breaks for hedge fund executives, and opposing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.  Boehner says these were issues he agreed with anyway, but given that he has known for years where his bread is buttered, that hardly means more than he already knows what his sponsors want.

Granted, politicians on both sides of the aisle are complicit in this corporate buy-out of legislators, and efforts at true campaign finance reform have repeatedly failed.  Still, if there’s no way to get corporate money out of the process, minimally those sponsorships should be out in the open, displayed as proudly on the politician’s jacket as the requisite flag pin.

Cooling the hot tea of the House

John Boehner
Presumptive Speaker of the House Boehner

George Washington is said to have told Thomas Jefferson that the framers created the Senate to be the saucer designed to cool the hot tea of the House.  The midterm elections have created a situation in Congress that will test this plan almost literally given the Tea Party has now fueled the Republican takeover of the House.

As John Boehner becomes the presumptive Speaker of the House, he finds himself in an enviable position to carry out Mitch McConnell’s priority of spending the next two years assuring Obama is a one term President.  While the GOP failed to retake the Senate, this may turn out to play to the strength of the “Party of No.”

Boehner and other Republican leaders made no bones pre-election that should they win there will be no compromising with them.  Assuming they hold true to this, the country can expect the House to be a fitful producer of subpoenas and extreme legislation designed to appease the Tea Party faithful.  This also means that things that need to get done, like funding and budgeting, probably won’t.  The House, which is constitutionally required to start all budget bills, may withhold providing funding for all manner of programs in an attempt to starve the government into submission.

The beauty being that the House’s proactive agenda will never pass the Senate who, with just a slight Democratic majority, will be hard-pressed to agree on much.  While the House may be hotter than ever, the Senate will be an equally large heat-sink.  The Senate and Obama will be the scapegoats for why the GOP will fail to deliver on their promises of things they were going to do, while enabling them to more effectively say no to the things they said they would stop.  The economy will not improve much in this environment, leaving the Republicans able to continue to play the victims, and voters able to continue to blame the Democrats in 2012.

There is always the chance the Republicans will instead opt to work with the Democratic Senate and the President to cooperatively govern in the best interest of all of us, but the only reason to believe that, is the historical tendency of politicians to abandon their campaign rhetoric after the election.   Ironically, citizens now find themselves in a position where they are best off only if the people they elected turn out to have been full of hot air during the campaign.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the next couple of years play out.