Rove and Plouffe clash over health-care bill, deficit and spam e-mail
By Michael D. Shear
Even as White House officials expressed optimism about the fate of the health bill in the House, they engaged in a war of words with former George W. Bush aide Karl Rove.
Rove, in an argumentative appearance with Obama adviser David Plouffe on ABC's "This Week," had accused the White House of sending unsolicited e-mails to federal employees in violation of SPAM laws.
"We do know that the White House sent out unsolicited e-mails to federal employees asking them to contact their legislators about this bill," Rove said. "I think that's not only a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act on e-mails, I think it's a violation, more importantly, of the
Not true, the White House quickly responded.
In a post on the White House blog, Macon Phillips called Rove's claim "absurd and unfounded" and challenged him to produce an e-mail that can back up his allegations.
"This is simply not true and unless Mr. Rove can point to a White House e-mail making this request of anyone, federal employee or otherwise, he should correct this dangerous and inaccurate assertion," Phillips wrote.
Rove and Plouffe also clashed over the health-care bill's impact on the deficit. A transcript of the exchange, prepared by CQ Transcripts Wire, follows:
JONATHAN KARL: Now, Karl, do you seriously believe that Democrats are better off if this does not pass?
KARL ROVE: Look, I think the country is better off if this thing doesn't pass. This thing is $2.4 trillion for the first 10 years of its operation. This thing has 10 years' worth of -- of tax increases, $569 billion in tax increases, including $210 billion in a new payroll tax and a new 3.8 percent surtax on investments that's going to make us less competitive, $500 billion-plus in Medicare cuts to pay for, in essence, four complete years of the operation of this program.
The subsidies don't begin until year four and are not fully operational until year 10. If you look at the first 10 years of the operation of this thing, it is $2.4 trillion, and this thing is paid for by Bernie Madoff-style accounting in which they double-count money and ignore enormous costs. They claim $138 billion of deficit reduction, but it's either between $480 billion in debt -- in deficits added to the -- to the red ink....
KARL: So, David...
ROVE: This thing is a gigantic disaster.
KARL: ... Bernie Madoff accounting, a gigantic disaster?
DAVID PLOUFFE: Well, you know, listen, Karl and the Republicans would be familiar with that, since under their leadership, they took us from big budget surpluses at the beginning of the last decade to a $1.3 trillion deficit by not paying for things like the prescription drug plan, two wars, big tax cuts.
So, no, this is -- the Congressional Budget Office is very clear. Over the next two decades, this is going to cut the deficit by over a trillion dollars.
ROVE: But -- but...
PLOUFFE: A trillion dollars.
ROVE: ...cuts the deficit, it only cuts the deficit if you double-count, as you double-count $53 billion worth of Social Security payroll taxes twice, if you double-count $500 billion in Medicare cuts twice, once for reducing the cost of the $38 trillion unfunded liability in Medicare and, at the same time, for the current expenditures in this program, and if you double-count $72 trillion in premium payments for a new long-term care entitlement program twice, once for premium payments for the program and once for this.
Look, you have run up more deficit before this bill in the first 20 months and 11 days of your term in office than was done in the entire Bush years. Your plan is to take the deficits, which were 2 percent under George W. Bush, to 5.1 percent over the next 10 years under Barack Obama.
Don't be lecturing us about what you're doing with the profligate spending that started last year with the failed stimulus bill and continued with your budget increases. You have increased the discretionary domestic spending budget in the United States 25 percent starting in the middle of the last fiscal year.
This is $2.4 trillion in cost for its first 10 years, and the country cannot afford it, and you will bankrupt the country if this bill passes.
KARL: I think Karl's against this bill. But isn't -- isn't there a point, though -- I mean, there -- there is some interesting accounting here. I mean, the Medicare doc fix, for instance, is not in here. That's a couple hundred billion dollars. I mean, isn't it hard as a political factor for people to believe that a big new health care program is actually going to cut the deficit?
PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, Karl, the Republicans have zero credibility, about as much credibility as the country of Greece does, to talk about fiscal responsibility.
ROVE: This is -- this is the CBO.
ROVE: These numbers are in the analysis from the CBO. For God's sake, will you stop throwing around epithets and deal with the facts for once, David?
ROVE: What about double-counting 53, 70 and 500? What about leaving out $208 billion for Medicare doc fix? What about leaving out $30 billion for the Medicaid doc -- for the doc fix? You've got two years' worth of a Medicaid doc fix. Are you telling me that in two years you're going to cut overnight the doc -- the doc reimbursement and not pay it for the balance of the eight years of this program?
KARL: Let -- let...
PLOUFFE: Let's put the fanciful chart away, OK? This is -- the CBO...
ROVE: This is not a fanciful chart. Deal with the charts.
ROVE: These are the facts, David.
PLOUFFE: ... every...
ROVE: What about double-counting?
KARL: Let's give him a chance to answer.
PLOUFFE: I'm trying to. The -- the CBO major economists who've looked at this health care reform, very clear that this in this decade is going to lower the deficit and in the next decade, over $1 trillion. What the American people are focused on -- what we need to be focused on are the health care costs, premiums skyrocketing.
We saw recently health insurers threatening to raise insurance rates 30 percent, 40 percent on individuals, small businesses being bankrupt and not being able to provide care. It's obviously devastating our federal budget situation.
We are not going to solve these problems unless we have meaningful health insurance reform, and that's what we're going to do. And, listen, the Republican Party, if they want to run in this election and the elections of this next decade against reducing the deficit by over $1 trillion, against the insurance company reforms...
PLOUFFE: ... against saving money...
ROVE: Within two months -- within two months, the Democrat Congress is going to be forced to deal with the doc fix. They're going to bring up a Medicare doc fix that's going to be $208 billion, according to a CBO analysis of it, issued two days ago.
ROVE: We will see very -- very soon how much they're committed to fiscal discipline when they pass a doc fix without an offset that adds $208 billion to the deficit and when we start to see them continue to double-count.
KARL: All right.
ROVE: I like it that David never dealt with the issue of double- counting and never dealt with these other issues. We will see if they pass this bill. I hope they don't. I pray they don't. It will be an economic disaster for the country if they do.
Michael D. Shear
March 21, 2010; 1:56 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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