I used to believe that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a good authority on the consequences of future laws. Actually, their projections are not always on the mark – see Obamacare for example – but what they are attempting is hard so one can’t expect perfection.
But just now they submitted a projection for the future after Obamacare repeal that is breathtaking in its irrelevance. The Democrats in Congress have pounced on it like a starving lion on red meat. It shows many millions losing insurance entirely and costs doubling for those lucky enough to remain insured. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer positively waxed poetic in his wrath and disdain.
What are they actually projecting? It turns out that they are dutifully but mindlessly using as their basis the repeal of Obamacare with no replacement – ever, period. This is like your surgeon telling you your life expectancy after heart removal but with no replacement in prospect. How useful is that?
I haven’t heard a single Republican say that there will be a repeal before a replacement is available. In fact, both Trump and the Congressional Republicans have stated exactly the opposite. Of course, the devil is in the details. Their replacement might be terrible and have dreadful consequences. No one yet knows, and certainly not the CBO.
The one genuine fact from this CBO estimate that Democrats could crow about is that it seems to show that Obamacare must be lowering overall healthcare costs to consumers, not the opposite as Republicans usually say.
One possibility occurred to me that might redeem the CBO a bit. Perhaps they are simply responding to a query by Senator Schumer, who obviously would like the bleakest possible outcome. I don’t think they have the authority to respond, “Screw you, Chuck. We aren’t about to put out such misleading garbage.”
And there is always the possibility that the situation envisioned by this estimate is precisely what Senator Schumer plans for our future. When asked in an interview whether Democrats will help Republicans pass a replacement that is less generous and comprehensive than Obamacare, he answered with a resounding “No!” He added, “If Republicans destroy our health system [Obamacare?], we won’t throw them a lifeline.” That seems a bit cruel to the American public, but it certainly gives Democrats a weighty cudgel for 2018. Crafty?