THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 18, 2009
Charles Krauthammer today accuses President Obama of misleading the public on health care reform:
Obama said he would largely solve the insoluble cost problem of Obamacare by eliminating "hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud" from Medicare.
That's not a lie. That's not even deception. That's just an insult to our intelligence. Waste, fraud and abuse -- Meg Greenfield once called this phrase "the dread big three" -- as the all-purpose piggy bank for budget savings has been a joke since Jimmy Carter first used it in 1977.
Moreover, if half a trillion is waiting to be squeezed painlessly out of Medicare, why wait for health-care reform? If, as Obama repeatedly insists, Medicare overspending is breaking the budget, why hasn't he gotten started on the painless billions in "waste and fraud" savings?
Why hasn't Obama gotten started? He has! He's been spending months and months trying to hammer these cuts out. Krauthammer implies that Obama is relying on a vague promise to cut waste, fraud and abuse, which is a classic political dodge. In fact, Obama is referring to specific cuts that have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Does Krauthammer wish to challenge the CBO's findings? Of course not. He just wants to cast doubt upon Obama's plan by picking up any available weapon.
And the cuts are not exactly "painless" -- that's Krauthammer's embellishment, not Obama's. They're deeply painful to the health care and insurance industries. Obama is getting the industries to agree to these cuts in return for subsidized access to 30 million new customers, who in turn will enjoy greater health and economic security. It's an eminently sensible trade-off, one that would be a total no-brainer consensus issue if the world weren't filled with Charles Krauthammers trying to kill it off for partisan reasons.