As Sam Stein pointed out, Republicans sure like to cite reports from the Congressional Budget Office when it suits them, but when the numbers favor Democrats, not so much.
But on Thursday Republican national Chairman Michael Steele took the routine to a new extreme, going so far as to dismiss the CBO's analysis of the deficit reducing impact of the health care bill a "lie."
Asked to responded to calculations that the bill would save $1.2 trillion in the out-years following the first decade after implementation, Steele replied told CNN's Rick Sanchez: "I got two words for you -- or three words. Three words... That's a lie."
It's not, of course. It is an estimate based on a formula and data. And while it surely won't be dead-on-accurate, it's a well-respected basis for considering legislation. Steele, at the very least, should know this. Back when he was delivering a tour-de-force takedown of the health care bill in late July, the RNC chair cited CBO data eight times in an effort to claim it was a deficit killer.
And from Think Progress -- Michael Steele Delivers Joe Wilson-Like Policy Analysis Of CBO Report: ‘That’s A Lie’:
Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary analysis of the health care reform reconciliation package, concluding that it would cost $940 billion over 10 years, reduce the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years and by $1.2 trillion over 20 years. Republicans, however, are either dismissing the numbers or asserting that the report shows that health care reform is not “gonna save the taxpayers’ money.”
Transcript below the fold via CNN.
SANCHEZ: Here's the perfect question to ask you that I've always wanted to ask -- why do Republicans keep saying we have the greatest health care system in the world? That is not true. It's like we're treating Americans like little kids who can't handle the truth.
Americans are big people. You can tell them, look, our health care system's in disarray. That's OK, isn't it?
STEELE: No, because it's wrong!
SANCHEZ: You think we got the best health care system in the world?
STEELE: Excuse me. Rick, when you get sick, do you get on a plane and go to France for health care?
SANCHEZ: No, but if I lived there, I probably would.
STEELE: No, I'm going to ask you a question.
SANCHEZ: All right, go ahead, sorry.
STEELE: Do you get on a train and go to Canada? No, because those folks are coming here for the health care system. When you have 85 percent of the American people say I like what I got -- everybody acknowledges what the problem is, it's one of cost and it's one of how do you begin to bring into the system some 12 million to 15 million people who are legitimately outside of the system?
And the president and the Congress are now talking about 30 million people, the president himself brought the number down in the state of the union address, but now it's back up to 30 million for the purposes of -- I think the cynical purposes of trying to get this bad bill passed.
SANCHEZ: Mr. Chairman --
STEELE: We have a very good health care system in this country. Is it perfect? No.
SANCHEZ: Very good, perhaps, sir, but it's not the best in the system.
STEELE: Absolutely. I put this system up against any in the world, period.
STEELE: Well, no, because you're talking about people who go and get care at any particular place in time. We're not talking about the system in terms of how it works monetarily. Monetarily, it's a disaster, in fact.
STEELE: Well, yes. There's a huge cost problem here that will become exacerbated by what this administration is about to do. Even CBO, you know, says, well, the number's an estimate at $940 billion. What does that tell you? In Washington-speak, that means that's the floor of what this will cost.
Can you just give me an honest number, Rick? How much do you really, legitimately think, using the president's number, 30 million people to the health care system that you just said doesn't work is going to cost the American tax payer? How much do you think?
It's $940 billion over 10 years, so you're telling me an additional $940 million a year is going to make all our problems go away?
SANCHEZ: According to the calculations that we did and according to the calculations the Democrats are announcing today, it's going to save in the deficit for the United States citizens $1.2 trillion. Do you believe that's not true?
STEELE: I got two words for you -- or three words. Three words.
STEELE: "That's a lie."
STEELE: It will not.
SANCHEZ: Well, you're arguing --
STEELE: It will cost us trillions of dollars.
SANCHEZ: You're arguing with the CBO. You're arguing with the CBO now.
STEELE: Let me tell you about the CBO, all right?
SANCHEZ: Go ahead.
STEELE: Since they've been taken down to the wood shed at the White House last year, you can't believe the numbers. The CBO is only as good as what you put into it, as what you give it. So, CBO is only -- if you shave off some numbers, if you don't include certain things, if you don't put it the right way, their calculations are not going to reflect the real value or cost of the program.
So, let's be honest about that. Only -- the number is only good as what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and the president gives them. And they have given them bad numbers.
SANCHEZ: Is that fair to criticize the CBO now when during the Bush administration the CBO's numbers were represented and respected almost every time they came out with numbers by both sides? Now all of a sudden the CBO's not to be believed.
STEELE: Yes, but President Bush never called the director of the CBO down to the White House to get the number he wanted out of it. President Bush never made the CBO the centerpiece of his legislation in order to get things passed. They put in the real numbers and came up with an honest assessment.
SANCHEZ: You're saying the president of the United States has corrupted the CBO with a personal phone call or visit?
STEELE: Well, I'm saying --
SANCHEZ: Come on, now.
STEELE: I'm just saying that, look, this whole process has not worked on behalf of the American people, and the reality of it is that when you look at the bottom line here, the taxpayers, the middle- class, is going to have a heavier burden to pay once this thing passes and lord help us if it does.
SANCHEZ: But here's the hard truth. Here's the hard truth. Here's the truth about this system that we keep saying is the greatest in the history of the world -- analysts and economists of nearly every ideological persuasion, left, right, and in between, say the unrelenting lives in the medical cost are likely to wreak havoc in this system and beyond it, and pretty much everyone is going to be effected directly or indirectly.
Doesn't that tell you that this system has to be reformed?
STEELE: Yes. And no one's arguing that, Rick. No one's saying, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, are saying the system doesn't need to be reformed. We get that.
Where the battle lines have been drawn for the past year now is over how and to what degree you reform it. Republicans have argued from day one, let's do a bottom-up, doctor/patient-centered process in which we put insurance companies in check, we put trial lawyers in check with frivolous lawsuits, we create portability opportunities for those who have preexisting conditions and the like. We take care of small businesses by creating pools in the marketplace for them to go in collectively, to have insurance companies compete for those insured. There are ways to do that that doesn't mean upending one-sixth of our nation's economy.
SANCHEZ: First of all --
SANCHEZ: Two things. Many of the things you named have been put into the system because of the --
STEELE: No, they haven't (inaudible).
SANCHEZ: Coburn and Price and some of these guys came up with wonderful ideas, right, and I think everyone agreed they were good ideas, and some have been included.
But let us for the sake of argument say we made the system based on just those changes. Two things -- a, you wouldn't be able to give 30 million Americans who don't have health insurance the insurance they need, and, b, that wouldn't stop the downslide in the economy. You can't do it with band-aids, can you?
STEELE: Now, we've done the analysis on this bill such as it's been put out. And under this bill, that you're saying now -- you're saying that what Republicans are saying won't insure everybody. By 2019, 23 million Americans will still be uninsured in this bill.
STEELE: That's 23 million people. So, effectively, we will only be insured after spending trillions of dollars, seven million more people.
The reality is the approach the administration is taking here is just wrong. It is -- it is not based on how markets actually work. And whether we like it or not, we have a health care system that is based around certain market principles.
You're now having the government come in and inject itself into this market and is trying to redefine it around government principles. And as you know, there's not been an entitlement program created on this planet by this government, meaning the federal government, that has not cost us money in the long run, that has not gone bankrupt a la Social Security, Medicare, if I can go on.
SANCHEZ: This is not an entitlement program. If it was, why would the Dems be saying they would not vote for it because the public option isn't in it? The public option is an entitlement program. This is not an entitlement program.
STEELE: The Dems are running around and saying you have a right to it, so they are treating it as if it is an entitlement program. They are going to bureaucratize it and impose it on the American people as if it is. And what we're saying is it is not. It is a system that individuals should be able to go into freely, choose those pieces that best work for them and their families, and then move on without government standing over their shoulder.
SANCHEZ: I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed this discussion with you. I thank you, sir, for taking the time.