Rep. Dave Camp Forgets That Republicans Are Not in Charge
Rep. Dave Camp, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, responded to the mid-session budget review by declaring that "if the House Democrats' unaffordable
$1 trillion health care bill wasn't dead before, it should be now." This doesn't make sense, as health-care reform is going to be deficit neutral, and so large deficits don't have much of a relationship to the program. Camp's argument boils down to the idea that big deficits mean we can't spend money. But he's not saying that "if the $541.1 billion the military has requested in 2009 wasn't dead before, it should be now." Nor is he saying that "if the extension of President Bush's tax cuts wasn't dead before, it should be now." Both of those comments would actually make more sense, as neither expenditure is revenue neutral. But Camp's comment isn't about the deficit. It's about killing health-care reform.
But Camp's perspective is also an understandable product of his time in the majority: When Republicans controlled the Congress, they suspended the pay-as-you-go rules that require new spending to be matched by new revenues or other spending cuts, and so Republican health-care policies such as Medicare Part D were financed on the back of the deficit. If they were in charge, a health-care bill that cost $1 trillion would probably have added $1 trillion to the deficit, just as Camp implies.
Democrats, however, have reinstated the pay-as-you-go rules, and large policies such as health-care reform are now financed by new revenues (hence talk of a surtax on the rich, or a cap on the employer deduction) and spending cuts (like the reductions in payments to the Medicare Advantage programs). Health-care reform, in other words, is neither here nor there as far as the deficit is concerned, in much the same way that my credit card bill doesn't change if I decide to use the $20 on my dresser to buy a pizza rather than a movie ticket.
But Camp's verbal sleight-of-hand conceals a neat trick: Republicans accustomed the country to equating spending with deficit-spending, and now that Democrats are in power and are trying to abide by pay-go rules, they simultaneously play on that impression by implying that the cost of the Democrats' policies will be the cost to the deficit and they attack the tax increases and Medicare changes that are being proposed to ensure health-care reform doesn't add to the deficit.
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