Over at his own blog, Ezra Klein asks if opponents of health care reform are using the deficit as, in his words, “a distraction.” He notes that many of those who are complaining about the costs of a health care reform plan (which is actually deficit neutral) have voted in the past for other major policy changes, like Medicare Part D, that weren’t offset and so made the deficit situation much worse.
Ezra followed up that post with another today quoting Howard Gleckman, who asked how it was possible for the same members of Congress to be so concerned about the deficit implications of health care reform but also support the far more expensive extension of the Bush tax cuts when they expire at the end of 2010.
Ezra is being kind. The budget deficit isn’t being used as a distraction; it’s being used to hide the real purpose of the accusation: defeating an Obama priority. Neither the deficit nor health care reform are what’s important here.
And Medicare Part D and the tax cuts are not the only example of members of Congress suddenly getting religion on the budget after being agnostic or atheist on the subject.
Many, perhaps even most, of those who are demanding that health care reform be defeated because of the budget situation have voted in favor of what is now close to $800 billion for activities in Iraq and Afghanistan without ever demanding that a penny of that be offset. They also voted for big increases in spending from the highway trust fund and for agricultural price supports and for the constant patching of the alternative minimum tax without losing any sleep over the budget.
In fact, except for a very small group (such as the Concord Coalition; former Comptroller General David Walker, who’s now CEO at The Peter G. Peterson Foundation; and Diane Rogers, who woks for Concord), the budget almost never is the issue. Instead, it’s always the issue people use to oppose something they dislike for another reason that they don’t have the testicular fortitude to state publicly.
The problem is that Gingrich’s “let’s block everything Clinton tries to do even when it’s good for the country, proclaim that he is a failure, and win the next election” move won the 1994 election. And now (the current Republican Party is) trying to repeat it.