Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 20, 2009

FISCAL HYPOCRISY.... Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the costs of health care reform. "If you're going to do something as comprehensive as the president wants to do," the Kentucky Republican said, "you ought to pay for it."

Jonathan Cohn agrees, but finds McConnell sudden interest in fiscal responsibility interesting.

...It's important that reform pay for itself. Still, I don't recall McConnell being quite so insistent about fiscal responsibility when he voted for the Bush tax cuts. Nor do I recall him agitating for tax increases to pay for the war with Iraq. In fact, I'm pretty sure most Republicans had very little use for arguments about fiscal responsibility when it was their initiatives on the agenda.

Gee, could it be that McConnell and the Republicans just don't care what happens to people when they can't pay for their medical care?

The record is strikingly clear. When Bush/Cheney slashed taxes by well over $1 trillion, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it. When Bush/Cheney started the war in Afghanistan, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it. When Bush/Cheney started the war in Iraq, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it. When Bush/Cheney added Medicare Part D, Republicans said there was no reason to worry about paying for it.

It's not that their efforts at paying for it came up short, it's that they didn't even try. The notion of fiscal responsibility was simply deemed irrelevant -- an inconvenient detail for unnamed people in the future to worry about.

And now, these exact same policymakers are, with a straight face, complaining bitterly about the fiscal habits of Democrats who are -- in case anyone's forgotten -- actually trying to pay for much-needed health care reform.

There's just one angle I'd add to this, though. While Cohn is clearly right about the selective concerns from McConnell and congressional Republicans, let's also not forget that there are a handful of Democrats who have the same problem. Ben Nelson and Max Baucus, for example, both voted for Bush's tax cuts, funding for both of the Bush-launched wars, and spending on Bush's Medicare Part D, without so much as a hint about how to pay for them.

Now, Nelson and Baucus are suddenly deeply concerned about whether the country can really afford health care reform, and in Nelson's case, whether Democrats should even be allowed to vote on their own reform plan in the Senate.

It's maddening.

Steve Benen 11:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Maybe one of the reasons Republicans stated the looming cost of our current wars weren't a major fiscal concern is because the bill was going to be well below $75 billion.

Courtesy Wikipedia:
On September 15, 2002, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lindsey estimated the high limit on the cost of the Bush administration's plan in 2002 of invasion and regime change in Iraq to be 1-2% of GNP, or about $100-$200 billion.[1] Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, subsequently discounted this estimate as "very, very high" and stated that the costs would be between $50-$60 billion.[2] This lower figure was endorsed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld[2] who called Lindsey's estimate "baloney".[3]

As of 2007 the cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq exceeded $400 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office in August 2007 estimated that appropriations would eventually reach $1 trillion or more.[4] On September 20, 2007, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the future annual costs of continuing occupation in Iraq to be between $25 and $30 billion.[5]

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz predicted in 2006 that the war would cost between $1-2 trillion.[6]

In October 2007, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that by 2017, the total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could reach $2.4 trillion. In response, Democratic Representative Allen Boyd criticized the administration for firing Lindsey, saying "They found him a job outside the administration."[7]

The fact no one sits in jail for what was wrought by Bush is the saddest commentary on our nation. We are not a nation of laws, we are a nation of laws to be broken.

Posted by: steve duncan on July 20, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

The Health care overhaul's problem is the politicians who are not interested in Americans; only interested for themselves. Take away their health care and they will be screaming and will instantly vote it back in

Posted by: MLJohnston on July 20, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

It's maddening.

Indeed it is.

But what is arguably more maddening is that there is noone--noone at all--in the MSM trumpeting these facts. One wonders what would happen to this debate if these utter hypocrisies were spotlighted.

And as with all things, if the roles were reversed, as indeed they were during the debates about each of the issues Steve mentions, the Democrats were painted as traitors and insufficient Americans for pointing out the same things that McConnell et al. are doing now.

Posted by: terraformer on July 20, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

No one even reports on the Republican record. The absence of any accountability is striking. If not corrected, it will prove our undoing as a nation.

Posted by: Eric on July 20, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

pity that thuggish mcconnell gets such a free ride from the bourbon-is-mother's-milk crowd...

we quite simply caint afford him, and haven't for a very long time.

Posted by: neill on July 20, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Luckily, the MSM will be sure to point this out everytime they give air time to the Republicans.

Posted by: Obama / Steelers / etc on July 20, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

It's maddening.

No, it's absolutely typical. They are sociopathic lying scum, and I would have been amazed if they had behaved in any other way.

Posted by: jimBOB on July 20, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

steve, that would have excused them in 2002. it didn't excuse them in 2004, when kerry tried to get the war paid for (it was what led to the "i voted for it before i voted against it"). not one of these assholes cared about paying for the iraq war at any time, and if we had anything resembling an adversarial journalist culture, the questions would be asked every time the right-wingers show their faces.

we don't, so it's not, and so the sanctimonious scum continue on their merry way.

Posted by: howard on July 20, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK
No one even reports on the Republican record. The absence of any accountability is striking. If not corrected, it will prove our undoing as a nation.

That's already happened. The question is whether recovery is still possible.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on July 20, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, to all that but let me add that the Dums were enablers in the Bush years, voting for every misbegotten initiative--because they are bought and paid for and because they are wusses. Much of the resistance of Baucus, Bayh and the like are due to payoffs from the healthcare industry. And still the Dums profess shock, shock that the Rethugs are acting like, well, Rethugs.

Posted by: Frak on July 20, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I wish all Congressional members, their staff and families could be tossed off government-funded healthcare today. Yesterday, actually. Talk about entitlement.

And then make the bloviator, him or herself, responsible for researching, obtaining and administering insurance -- make that actual health care -- within his/her small fiefdom. And treat each district office as its own entity -- not part of a larger group that might have more bargaining strength.

Make this as close as possible to the situation small businesses and families face.

Let's add a congressional child with a chronic health condition, too. And impending bankruptcy, stemming from a family member's health problems and loss of a middle class job that had been paying the bills.

Still time to bloviate on the public airwaves, Sen. McConnell?

Terrible hypocrites. Terrible divide from the literal life and death choices facing their own constituents.

Posted by: Elizabelle on July 20, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

One wonders what would happen to this debate if these utter hypocrisies were spotlighted.

Nothing. Exposure of hypocrisy makes people feel better but it doesn't generally do much good. What would change the debate would be an honest discussion of the existing costs, the people who bear those costs, and what would change if we shifted those costs more fairly.

Posted by: Christopher on July 20, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Or if "fairly" is a loaded word, then "shifted those costs differently."

Posted by: Christopher on July 20, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

"adversial journalist culture"

As David Horsey, the preeminent political cartoonist for the Seattle P-I, so aptly penned this day, "One Hundred TV and Cable Pundits do not equal one Walter Cronkite".

Cronkite's sobering report after returning from Viet Nam in '68 set the stage for more to join their more prescient brethern and turn against the war. No Cronkite exists today. Strange that Mr Benen appeared to not remember who was this Giant.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 20, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

But deficits don't matter.

Posted by: KTinOhio on July 20, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Well, KTinOhio, you beat me to it.

Only, I was going to pose it as a retorical question: "What VICE PRESIDENT said "deficits don't matter?"

Posted by: DAY on July 20, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK


Republican fiscal hypocrisy dates back to the 1981 tax cut paid for of course by increases in defense spending under President Reagan.

Posted by: pgl on July 20, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I would say a combination of ads and mentions by name by the president and other would be a good idea. When it came to this much in handouts to the rich Senator so and so said yes and it cost us all this much, when it came to handouts to whatever(tailor it to district or state) Senator said yes. When it comes to healthcare for us he says no. No question who he cares about. Get ugly, we will win then.

Posted by: felipe on July 20, 2009 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Every time the cost of healthcare reform comes up, the amount that Bush added to the bill for Medicare part D (prescription benefit) should be singled out as the part that the republicans didn't pay for last time out and that they need to propose a way to pay for it outside of the funding mechanisms for the other reforms. Its only fair.

Posted by: Richard Wang on July 20, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

It does not matter to them that they're being hypocrites. At the end of the day, these people leave the capital; get in their lobbyist supplied private jets; and are driven to their industry supplied gated community mansions in private limosines.

They never have to face the suffering of their constituents unless it is in a striclty controled environment and the "constituents" are hand-picked and vetted.

That leaves it to the so-called press to ask the questions and demand accountability on behalf of the rest of us.

Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper, David Gegory, Andrea Mitchell et al, have abdicated their responsibility so they could bum rides on the jets and be invited to the parties in the mansions (See emails to Governor Sanford and Toods discussion with Glenn Greenwald).

The rest of us are left frustrated and dying while the hypocrites on Capital Hill slow down and obstructs.

Posted by: Winkandanod on July 20, 2009 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

It can all be summed up quite nicely by Cheney's infamous quote concerning the Republicans handle the national debt: "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter".

Debt is acceptable when furthering the Republican agenda, but not where anyone else is concerned.

'Nuff said.

Posted by: kiweagle on July 20, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican answer to this criticism will be, of course, that the economy was good when we cut taxes and started a war. The economy is bad now, so we should be thrifty.

There's a logical reply to that answer, too. (When the economy is bad, stimulus is needed.)

I just wish that the Democrats would get ahead of the obvious criticisms, rather than lagging behind them.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on July 20, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

And the reason for this nonchalance is that Republicans considered government to be part of the larger asset bubble that their reckless non-regulatory financial policies were creating along with everything else. How many times did you hear conservatives, even skin-flints like George Will, talk about federal deficits in terms of their percentage of the larger economy. "Who cares if Bush has doubled the size of nation's debt to $10 trillion and is running $400 billion annual deficits," Republicans would say, "as a percentage of GNP it is still exactly what it was after World War II." Of course, in the wildly inflated economy that Bush's Wall Street constitutents created in order to fleece middle class America of its economic security, those huge Republican deficits didn't look so large back then.

Posted by: Ted Frier on July 20, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

All of which makes this last week's development interesting.

Because by sometime this week the House version of Health Care will score as deficit-neutral. A fact that has not been well reported.

On Tuesday the CBO scored the coverage provision of HR3200 as costing $1.048 trillion over ten years. Which led to some calls on AP to justify their claim of $1.5 trillion.

On Thursday CBO Director Elmendorf testified to Congress that HR3200 would not solve long-term challenges to Medicare-Medicaid, something it was never actually designed to do, leading to tools like Lori Montgomery of the WaPo and whatever idiots write headlines for it to trumpet it as 'proof' that health care reform would add trillions to the deficit. Which made no sense in context since "not-removing" does not equate to "adding" but no matter, Lori et al aren't really in to putting things in context.

The Elmendorf testimony on Thursday dominated Friday's coverage in a way that totally obscured CBO's new late afternoon score of HR3200 that reduced its ten-year addition to the deficit to $239 billion. The news that over three days we had $809 billion sliced off our future tab somehow not being significant to make the news.

Then on Saturday Ways & Means put out a Press Release 'explaining' that once you took a $245 billion fix in future Medicare scoring that will be accomplished in Pay-Go legislation heading for a vote the actual total cost of HR3200 once implemented will score out as a $6 billion SURPLUS.

On the issue of health care reform scoring the world have simply moved under our feet is some profound ways since last Tuesday in ways that could serve to cut the balls off of the Blue Dogs who are waving around cost estimates based on no official numbers at all.

But apparently hardly anybody in the blogosphere was walking in the woods this week, because trees were falling all over the place without anyone hearing a sound. Time to cock an ear, because more trees are falling.


Posted by: Bruce Webb on July 20, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Now, Nelson and Baucus are suddenly deeply concerned about whether the country can really afford health care reform."

It's even worse than that. Today's high health INSURANCE costs are burdening the economy, from small businesses trying to stay afloat without their usual operating loans to giant corporations with huge retiree health care obligations. Relief from these costs, which would occur primarily through single payer health care, would be enormously stimulative.

Health insurance campaign contributions of course prevent this from even being considered by Congress.

Posted by: Cal Gal on July 20, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

And where was McConnell when Bush chose to go to war in Iraq? The bill for that little adventure was over three trillion dollars and 4,000 American lives. McConnell, DeMint, Cantor, Kyl, Boehner and the rest of the desperate Republicans are playing politics with our healthcare system-- plain and simple.

It's time to take away Congress's healthcare benefits. Let them experience what it's like at their ages or with family members with pre-existing conditions. Then stand back and see how quickly our heathcare system can be changed and how little they care about what it will cost.

Posted by: Carol on July 20, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Where was McConnell? Listening or at least pretending to listen to the people quoted in this article from Nation:
Who said the war would pay for itself?

"Iraq is a very wealthy country. Enormous oil reserves. They can finance, largely finance the reconstruction of their own country. And I have no doubt that they will."
Richard Perle,"
A little more doubt would have been in order.

"It is unimaginable that the United States would have to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars and highly unlikely that we would have to contribute even tens of billions of dollars."
Kenneth Pollack"
Ken needed a little better imagination. Yet he is still considered a serious liberal!?

"The United States is very committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid."
Mitchell Daniels, director
White House Office of Management and Budget"
How's that Indiana State budgeting coming along Governor Certain?

It wasn't supposed to me this way. In the magical world McConnell et freres live in all war adventures are just bound to be fast, bloodless and profitable. It is just that when it comes to issues of 'war' and 'taxes' they can't bear to bring the word 'wrong' anywhere into proximity

Posted by: Bruce Webb on July 20, 2009 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Mitch McConnell was discharged from the military after just 10 days of serving, yet, he refuses to release his military records to anyone!!!!

Also, he has yet to confirm the Gay rumors about himself.

Posted by: annjell on July 20, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

The middle three paragraphs of this post says more about Republican financial habits,in fewer words, than anything I've read, and I read a lot. Thanks Steve. I'm copying them as talking points. Every congressional Republican deserves to have this thrown in his, or occasionally her, face.

Posted by: eric Fralick on July 20, 2009 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

The Senate politics are from multiple perspectives: senators want to protect their home-state insurance interests, senators want to avoid spending money on this so it may be available to them in DoD spending or elsewhere in the budget, senators have political agendas which conflict with the Dems or Obama in particular.

Perhaps the worst case is with Joe "freakin'" Lieberman. His state of Connecticut is big on insurance. Hartford is a city AND insurance company there. But also, he's interested in the development of the F-22 military aircraft which Pres. Obama opposes.

So, if we get healthcare reform AND kill the F-22 it's gonna be a very bad day for Joe Lieberman.

To my mind that's a double victory we ought to go for with a smile on our faces.

Other senators have similar, but less intense situations.

Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska also has insurance company concerns. Of course, he's pretty much a Blue Dog (as is Lieberman), so there never was a lot of potential for him to support the President's agenda.

Senator McCain and many Repubs would probably like to kill the reform to stifle Obama's agenda, but some like him also have an eye on military contracts for their states. He would probably support killing the F-22 also. Leaving more money in the kitty would make it possible for him to push for DoD contracts.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas loves that the 40th anniversary of the moon walk occurs as the budget discussions are beginning (certainly behind the spotlights and talk of healthcare reform). But, if healthcare reform happens or if the F-22 goes through, then there's less for Texas and NASA.

It's a real tussle.

What I'd like to see is that the president's agenda which the public supported enough to elect him should go through and we should cut spending in as many other places as possible to make it affordable.

That said, I like the idea of NASA and I'd hate to see anything bad happen to it...nudge nudge wink wink.

Posted by: MarkH on July 20, 2009 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

MarkH, the public officials you named above do not, I repeat, do not care to represent the interest of their state when it comes to defense.

After going over the website as a refresher - www.awolbush.com/whoserved.html

None of those people have ever served in the military - including Mark Sanford - he signed up with the reserve in 2002 then begged to back out.

Even those folks at Faux News/MSNBC didn't serve, yet, they are willing to put everyone elses' father, son, daughter, mother in harm's way.

The only thing that matters is getting kickbacks for contracts, donations/contributions for contracts or access to lobbyists. Or anything thing that will yield to them more power/money.

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Posted by: Rudy on March 15, 2010 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK
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