The so-called Democratic deficit-hawks based their vote on health-care reform on whether it paid for itself or not–never questioning if spending an additional $940 billion over the next ten years was a good idea. Thus all eyes were on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and what its final score–i.e. what are the projected costs of health-care–would be. The CBO’s verdict: the health-care bill would actually reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years. Right.
The CBO scores spending programs by assuming current laws. For instance, when calculating economic growth and projected future revenue, it assumes nothing changes (i.e. Congress will not raise taxes or that any other spending program will be implemented). That is why Congress never permanently fixes the alternative minimum tax but instead makes yearly fixes to it. The reason is even though the CBO knows it will be fixed, they can’t put it in their assumptions. Thus revenue projections are much higher than it would be if Congress made the fix permanent. This allows Congress to put in place more spending programs and say they won’t increase the deficit. They know once a program is created it is hard to cancel it.
As with health-care, the Democrats tailored the bill to take advantage of the CBO’s limitations so the legislation would show deficit reductions.
My suggestion for the Republicans to show how deceptive the whole health-care reform process was is to require the CBO to re-score the bill every time the Democrats put forth any new piece of legislation (e.g. cap-and-trade or the so-called medicare doc fix). This would bring to light the falsehood that the health-care bill pays for itself and it will make it easier for Republicans to demand changes without looking like they want to prevent millions of Americans from receiving medical care.