Broken promises

The Congressional Budget Office makes legislative bait-and-switch easy.

by Derek Olson

One of the principal selling points of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was that it would supposedly not put the government deeper in the red. In fact, supporters claimed it would reduce the deficit. This point was vital in helping President Barack Obama gain the support of House Democrats with fiscally conservative constituencies. Several years later, it’s easy to see this projection is falling apart.

Projections from the Congressional Budget Office made the Democrats’ claim about deficit reduction possible. However, in making projections, the CBO does not take into account likely future legislative actions. Congress has mischievously and predictably acted to change provisions of the law that affect its finances.

An important part of the ACA’s funding came from cuts to Medicare. Notably, the CBO planned for a 23 percent reduction in doctor pay from Medicare reimbursements, but Congress has repeatedly delayed these cuts. Earlier this month, legislators agreed to a bill that replaces these cuts with modest increases over the next several years. We have been duped.

What’s even more troubling about this trickery is that these cuts were originally part of a previous budget deal that Congress has delayed since 1997. Then, Democrats included them as part of the ACA to make it appear more fiscally sound. No one seriously expected these cuts to ever take effect — no one except the Americans who believed the president and his allies when they promised deficit reduction.

This is just one clear example of the games legislators play so they can have their cake and eat it, too. Knowing the methods of the CBO, a nonpartisan entity, they can write bills to appear favorable while never intending to satisfy the demands of the American people.

This lets lawmakers tell the American people what they want to hear while pandering to special interests. In the words of the economist and political writer Thomas Sowell, “How long do politicians have to keep promising heaven and delivering hell before people catch on and stop getting swept away by rhetoric?”