Here's a scandal no one's really talking about in the press or elsewhere for that matter. Republican members of Congress, as well as conservatives across the internet, are engaged in a group lie about the cost of Obamacare. Correction -- it's either a group lie or group stupidity or perhaps a mixture of both. I prefer to think that it's a deliberate deception about the healthcare law because the alternative explanation is arguably more frightening: an array of prominent conservatives are simply too dumb to read a chart or grasp the basic difference between "gross" costs and "net" costs. It's economics and finance 101, and considering how they fancy themselves the party of money -- the free market party -- the distinction between gross and net ought to be common knowledge.
On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its quarterly report on the cost of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare. The upshot is that the 10-year net cost of the program has risen by $40 billion from estimates in the February report. There are several reasons why, but I won't bore you with the wonky details. Suffice to say, there's nothing even remotely worrisome about the report or the status of Obamacare. Actually, the biggest news on this front is that the CBO has refused any further scoring for the Republican effort to repeal the law. Good for the CBO. It's about damn time.
Meanwhile, however, Republicans across the board freaked out about the CBO report, claiming that the cost of Obamacare has doubled. I first heard this assessment from talking bumper sticker Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) who tweeted: "CBO: #Obamacare costs double to $1.8 trillion in first decade." OthercongressionalRepublicanstweetedthesamething, including Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Ted Cruz. Stockman and his fellow liars included a link to a Washington Examiner article by Senior Editorial Writer Philip Klein:
When President Obama was selling his health care legislation to Congress, he declared that “the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years.” But with the law’s major provisions set to kick in next year, a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office projects that the law will cost double that, or $1.8 trillion.
See what Klein and the Republicans did here? In the same way they routinely and strategically confuse the national debt with the federal budget deficit, these idiots are confusing the net cost of Obamacare, originally around $900 billion, with the gross cost of the program, which is now around $1.8 trillion. It's the smaller net cost figure that's important, not only because it was the $900 billion number that was most commonly quoted at the time of the bill's passage, but also because the net cost takes into consideration savings and offsets from the program. For example, the gross cost of a primer-level economics book for Steve Stockman costs, say, $20 (large print, lots of illustrations), but after coupons and other discounts the net cost of the book is only $12. If you paid $12, it'd be a lie to go around saying the book cost $20, wouldn't it? But if your goal is to criticize the book and make it seem like a waste of money, you'd clearly lie and quote the $20 price tag.
That's exactly what they're doing with Obamacare. Lying. A sitting member of Congress, along with the right-wing press and many other congressional Republicans, flagrantly lied about the cost of Obamacare. Because, well, that's what they do now. See, Stockman doesn't think it's a human right to have affordable access to quality healthcare (unless you're an embryo), but he thinks it's a human right to buy a military style assault rifle from Walmart.
A cursory Google search revealed that the lie has spread like a pandemic throughout the wingnutosphere. Fox News, Human Events, Heritage Foundation, Hot Air -- they all lied and wrote that the cost of Obamacare has "doubled."
As for Mr. Klein at the Washington Examiner, he continued by writing:
Today, the CBO released new projections from 2013 extending through 2022, and the results are as critics expected: the ten-year cost of the law's core provisions to expand health insurance coverage has now ballooned to $1.76 trillion.
Whoops. Wait. That wasn't what Klein wrote yesterday -- it's what he wrote last year. Yes, this is the second year in a row that Klein lied about the gross cost versus the net cost of Obamacare.
He basically wrote the exact same post in March of 2012. In it, he had the balls to accuse the president of using "accounting tricks." Hilarious if it wasn't so infuriating. Days after his 2012 post went up, FactCheck.org ran an article debunking the widespread lie about the CBO's estimate titled Health Care Costs Didn’t Double. FactCheck noted several purveyors of the lie:
--House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia put out a press release saying that “[t]he new CBO projection estimates that the law will cost $1.76 trillion over 10 years – well above the $940 billion Democrats originally claimed.”
--A Fox News article repeated the Republican criticisms and said that the CBO had found the law would cost “twice as much as the original $900 billion price tag.”
--Another Fox version carried the headline, “ ‘Obamacare’ to Cost Twice as Much as Previously Estimated, According to New CBO Report.”
--And the conservative news outlet Newsmax ran a headline saying, “Obamacare’s Gross Costs Double to $1.76 Trillion, CBO Projects.” An Internet search turns up many conservative blog reports making a similar costs-have-doubled claim.
Indeed, a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts its shoes on. And now they're doing it all over again.
Fox News and Newsmax, not to mention Stockman and the others, are bouncing off the walls right now insisting that "Obama lied" about Benghazi. And here they are for the second year in a row lying about the cost of Obamacare.
Last year, Kevin Drum wrote of the Obamacare lie, "Moral of this story: Never believe anything that Republicans say about Obamacare until you check out the source yourself. But you already knew that." I'll go one further: don't believe them on anything. They don't deserve the trust of the American people or the benefit of the doubt. The 2012 Romney campaign alone suffocated the last breath of veracity out of the Republican playbook. The only way they can survive is to continue to lie and hope that their voters are too moronic and uneducated to realize it.