Friday, March 19, 2010

Scores that Matter

Well I had Minnesota as a sentimental pick to upset Xavier in the first round of the NCAA men's tournament. It wasn't to be as the Gophers shooting went stone cold in the second half. My whole bracket is pretty much going up in smoke.

I have the games on and the volume muted so I can watch the scores. But I have also been following two other scores that are much more important heading into this weekend. The second and most important score is the vote on the health care bill which is currently scheduled for Sunday. The odds are for its passage are looking better and better as several wavering Dems have indicating they will vote yes.

Part of the reason for that is because of the first big score on the health care bill that came back yesterday from the Congressional Budget Office. The reporters and analysts have been all over this and I have nothing to add except to say that this process - of writing a bill and getting it scored by the CBO and making it at the very least deficit neutral - is what good government looks like.

Republicans rail against big government and promise to shrink it but never do when they are in power. Our last two Republican presidents vastly expanded the size and scope of the federal government. And I have no problem with that because I think we need a big government to meet the many needs of a big country. But Republicans are proven first-rate hypocrites when it comes to the what they say about the size of government when they are out of power and what they do when they are in power.

But what is even worse, at least under the most recent President, is that while they were expanding the size of government they were hiding the costs. The true cost of military budgets to support two wars were off the books, not included in the regular budget. When they passed the prescription drug benefit they silenced the chief actuary charged with figuring out its cost, threatening to fire him if he told Congress that the price was going to be far higher than what the President said it was going to be. Not a peep of protest was heard from the Republican Congress. Why? Because they didn't really care about the size of the government or the deficit. What they cared about was staying in power.

Now out-of-power Republicans are complaining about the process that is going to bring us this bill's passage, and about secret deals made with some legislators made to get their votes. But the truth is the process has been remarkably visible, straight-forward, and honest. The secret deals have been exposed and removed. Republicans were given every opportunity to participate; remember that the process was dragged out for months to allow the bi-partisan 'gang of six' to see if they could come up with a bill that would get Republican support. (The final bill looks much like what the gang of six came up with but still no Republican support.) Most importantly the bill has been vetted by the CBO and it passes muster as an enormous government expansion that pays for itself. It is possible to be cynical and cast aspersions on the accuracy of the CBO but then who are you going to trust to give an impartial reading on the cost of bills? They are widely recognized as non-partisan and accurate with their forecasts. And imagine what Republicans would be saying if the CBO numbers had come back with big deficit-busting numbers. They would have quoting the CBO report to everyone.

From a progressive's perspective this bill is far from perfect. Single payer or at the very least a robust public option would have been preferable. But the process of getting to this moment, slow and painful as it has been and reaching an end that is not perfect, has been an exercise in good government. The final score matters; I want the bill to pass. But how we get there also matters.

No comments: