The Fierce Urgency of “Demon Pass”

Megan McArdle (emphasis added):

But there is one thing of which I am nearly perfectly certain: If we pass this thing, no American politician, left or right, is going to cut any of these programs, or raise the broad-based taxes necessary to pay for them, without any compensating goodies to offer the public . . . until the crisis is almost upon us. I can think of no situation, other than impending crisis, in which such a thing has been done–and usually, as with Social Security, they have done just little enough to kick the problem down the road.  The idea that you pass a program of dubious sustainability because you can always make it sustainable later, seems borderline insane. I can’t think of a single major entitlement that has become more sustainable over time.  Why is this one supposed to be different?

I agree with everything except the word “borderline.”

Yuval Levin, on the latest CBO score:

All of the spending laid out by CBO yesterday (more than $2.4 trillion in the first decade of the program’s full operation) will certainly happen if the bill is enacted, but many of the offsets are very unlikely to happen. The bill would leave it to another president and Congress, in 2018, to impose a tax on “Cadillac” health-care plans — a tax whose definition of “Cadillac” would grow much more slowly than the cost of coverage, so that more and more people would be covered by it every year. Why should we expect a future Congress and president to make such a politically painful move if the present Congress and president won’t do it? It would also leave it to the next Congress to drastically cut physician pay in Medicare — even as today’s Congress refuses to make much more modest cuts, and so wants to pass a “doc fix” that will cost more than $300 billion. Simply everybody knows this cut won’t happen, and as the CBO (with its customary bureaucratic understatement) has put it: “the long-term budgetary impact could be quite different if key provisions of the bill were ultimately changed or not fully implemented.” This is not fiscal responsibility; it’s not even naïveté or self-delusion. It’s just plain dishonesty.

David Brooks:

But [Obama] has been so sucked into the system that now he stands by while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks about passing health care via “deem and pass” — a tricky legislative device in which things get passed without members having the honor or the guts to stand up and vote for it.

Deem and pass? Are you kidding me? Is this what the Revolutionary War was fought for? Is this what the boys on Normandy beach were trying to defend? Is this where we thought we would end up when Obama was speaking so beautifully in Iowa or promising to put away childish things?

Props to Tunku Varadarajan, apparently the first to say this maneuver sounds like “demon pass.”  It’s what we’ve come to.

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