Thursday, September 10, 2009

Keith Hennessey reviews Obama's speech so you don't have to. 

"... over a 15-year period a President and two Senators paid me in part to do this kind of analysis. You get it for free."

Here he is on last night's health care speech. Two observations in particular out of the many caught my eye...

“Universal” what? – OK, this one is fascinating. Nowhere in the speech does he promise universal health insurance, or universal health care.

His only specific universal statement is “It’s time to give every American the same opportunity [to buy health insurance through an exchange] that we’ve given ourselves.”

This is a fallback, allowing him to declare victory if expanded coverage falls far short of universality. You have to look carefully to see this. (I had to word search for “universal” and “every.”)


The deficit language is the most interesting. He tries to be definitive:

"I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period."
He immediately follows this with language that is written as if it strengthens this commitment. I think instead it undermines the commitment.

"And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize."
I think he’s anticipating that the Congressional Budget Office will continue to score legislation as increasing long-term budget deficits by an increasing amount each year.

The President and his Budget Director will, I think, continue to assert that their “game changers” will reduce long-term budget deficits, despite providing no quantitative evidence to support this claim.

This new Presidential language suggests that they will include additional language that requires actual spending cuts if (when) the game changers don’t work.

If I’m right, it’s a transparent gimmick designed to try to get CBO to say the bills don’t increase the long-term budget deficit, without actually making any of the hard choices needed to do so.

If you care about the deficit, keep a close eye on this ...
Read the whole thing.