Obama would pay for the expansion by trimming tax breaks for the wealthy and tightening payments to insurers, hospitals and physicians, according to a senior administration official.
By first identifying a large pot of money to underwrite health care reform — before laying out a proposal on who would be covered or how — Obama hopes to signal his willingness to negotiate with Congress over the details of an eventual plan.
“We wanted to get this process going by putting some serious resources on the table,” said the official, who was not permitted to speak on the record until formal release of the budget blueprint. “This is a reserve fund, instead of a 700-page plan. We learned the lessons of the past and want to work interactively with Congress. This is a first step.”
This won’t pay for the whole thing, in other words. It’s a down payment, with the balance to be paid by the permanent tax increases on the middle class that are coming, as the NYT reminds us in a moment of amazing candor today. How much will that balance be, allowing for the inevitable cost overruns? Only The One, in his supreme wisdom, knows. As for the spending bill that passed the House this afternoon, there are literally almost 9,000 earmarks in it — and it still drew more than a dozen GOP votes. It’s an amazing testament to the confidence Obama and the Democrats have in their popularity right now that they’re willing to hit the public with another trillion in future spending so soon after dropping $800 billion on the stimulus and with another round of TARP on the way. Exit question: How much will that “down payment” end up ballooning to? $2 trillion? $3 trillion?