Well, the most glamorous power nerd after Barack Obama, of course. Office of Management and Budget head Peter Orszag is leaving the White House, Robert Gibbs confirmed in the White House press briefing today. He will be the first member of the Obama cabinet to leave the administration.
White House advisor Paul Volcker made news this week by calling a value-added tax (VAT) "not as toxic an idea" as it's been in the past for tackling the nation's deficit problem. Today, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed he's been getting "a lot of questions" about the VAT tax from Congress.
The fiscal train wreck is happening sooner than we thought, a leading bond market trader says. Which is why investors are now telling the U.S. government it will have to pay more to borrow money. Not as much more as Greece, but enough to constitute a shot across the Obama bow by what we call the bond vigilantes, investors who try to punish governments that splash too much red ink across national ledgers.
When White House chief of staff Rahm Emanual lobbied Democratic Representative Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania last week to vote for the health care bill, he argued it would cut the deficit. “You ran because you care about the deficit,” he told Altmire, according to the Washington Post. “This is north of $1 trillion in deficit reduction.” Shortly after the bill passed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered the exact number, claiming the bill would save “the taxpayers $1.3 trillion.”
Well, it is done. Obama has signed the Senate bill into law. Americans now have a statutory right to health insurance, and in most if not all cases a right to have someone else pay for that insurance. I believe we have only the dimmest understanding of the full consequences of this legislation. It will raise taxes. Its cost-controls are unproven and trivial. The bill will increase demand for a fixed commodity and thus increase the overall price of that commodity. So health care spending will continue to rise as more people enter the system, the population gets older, and technology continues to improve. Susan Ferrechio runs through the various unintended consequences here.
The CBO’s most recent analysis is out, and it’s not likely to convince wavering House Democrats to jump to the Obamacare side of the fence. Even the Democrats are granting that the latest version of their proposed health care overhaul would cost $69 billion more than the previous version. According to the CBO, this version would siphon even more money out of Medicare, make even further cuts to Medicare Advantage, and levy even higher taxes and fines on the American people.
House majority leader Steny Hoyer has informed his colleagues of the CBO health bill score. Politico reports:
The bill would cost $940 billion, and reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years. The deficit numbers Democrats have been most worried about, and will be key to convincing moderates to coming on board with the bill.
Keep in mind that the second decade estimate is incredibly speculative. Overall, though, this score may move some undecided congressmen into the Yes column. Whether those congressmen will be members who voted No last year is another question entirely, however. Perhaps they will have seen this video:
More CBO details, and the final reconciliation language, are expected later today. A Sunday morning vote is now likely. Gentlemen: Start your engines! The countdown has begun.
Rep. Jason Altmire has met with President Obama twice this month and received a phone call from Air Force One. Two planes circled his western Pennsylvania district, trailing banners urging him to vote against the health-care bill. And conservative "tea party" activists confronted him at his office, trying to force him to answer: "Are you for or against the bill?"
The pressure has been extreme over the past two weeks on Altmire and the few dozen House Democrats who say they still have not decidedhow they will vote on ambitious legislation designed to remake the nation's health-care system.
Says Bart Stupak: “All the phones are unplugged at our house — tired of the obscene calls and threats. [My wife] won’t watch TV,” Stupak said during an hourlong interview with The Hill in his Rayburn office. “People saying they’re going to spit on you and all this. That’s just not fun.”
Fox News Channel's Bret Baier interviewed President Obama today. It wasn't what you'd call a friendly encounter. Baier, concerned that the president was filibustering, repeatedly interrupted the chief executive. Obama quickly grew frustrated. Before long, the look on his face suggested he was wondering why he agreed to the interview in the first place.