Obama Will Settle for Less on Health Care

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, July 31, 2009

Yesterday, Barack Obama was God. Today, he's fallen from grace, the magic gone, his health-care reform dead. If you believed the first idiocy -- and half the mainstream media did -- you'll believe the second. Don't believe either.

Conventional wisdom always makes straight-line projections. They are always wrong. Yes, Obama's aura has diminished, in part because of overweening overexposure. But by year's end he will emerge with something he can call health-care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they'll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.

But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama's curious reference -- made five times -- to "health-insurance reform" during his July 22 news conference.

Reforming the health-care system is dead. Cause of death? Blunt trauma administered not by Republicans, not even by Blue Dog Democrats, but by the green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office.

Three blows:

-- On June 16, the CBO determined that the Senate Finance Committee bill would cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years, delivering a sticker shock that was near fatal.

-- Five weeks later, the CBO gave its verdict on the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, Dr. Obama's latest miracle cure, conjured up at the last minute to save Obamacare from fiscal ruin, and consisting of a committee of medical experts highly empowered to make Medicare cuts.

The CBO said that IMAC would do nothing, trimming costs by perhaps 0.2 percent. A 0.2 percent cut is not a solution; it's a punch line.

-- The final blow came last Sunday when the CBO euthanized the Obama "out years" myth. The administration's argument had been: Sure, Obamacare will initially increase costs and deficits. But it pays for itself in the long run because it bends the curve downward in coming decades.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company