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Obama's 'PayGo' Sleight of Hand

Under Obama’s PayGo proposal, lawmakers would have free rein to run up massive deficits in the first several years following passage of health care-nationalizing legislation. In fact, as long as their legislation contained a plan for neutralizing those deficits over the ten-year horizon -- even if they had no intention of actually letting the necessarily massive spending cuts or tax increases ever come into being -- Congressional Democrats could pass as costly a health care overhaul bill as they wanted. Obama would be free to sign such a bill, as well, without breaking his pledge to veto it, having lived up to his promise not to give the thumbs-up to “any health plan that adds to our deficits over the next decade.”

Obama’s sudden focus on reining in that deficit spending not associated with his multi-trillion dollar health care overhaul may come as a surprise to those who recall the rushed passage of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or “stimulus package.” Funded entirely by deficit spending -- every one of the $787,000,000,000.00 spent by that legislation was borrowed and went directly onto the debt side of the nation’s balance sheet -- the “stimulus” gave the (at the time) month-old Obama administration the record for an annual American deficit, blowing past the roughly $450 billion rung up in the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency.

This new record deficit came only months after then-candidate Obama twice looked America in the eye during presidential debates and promised a net cut in federal spending. Since the “stimulus” was passed and signed into law (without being read in its entirety by a single voting member of Congress or by the president who signed it), Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have attempted to evade responsibility for the astronomical debt it created, as well as for the utter failure of that massive exercise in deficit spending to create jobs or bring about any semblance of economic recovery.

The administration “misread how bad the economy was,” said Biden, in a lame effort to excuse the failure of the three quarters of a trillion dollars he, Obama, and the Democratic Congress added to the nation’s deficit to create jobs and stimulate recovery. Obama added to that a claim that there was a “lack of information” during the first days of his presidency about just how bad an economic situation he had “inherited” from Bush. The obvious question of why the administration didn’t wait until they actually had reliable information on the economy before setting a new debt record in one fell swoop went predictably unaddressed.

Further, Biden’s words seem to run counter to Obama’s new found belief in balanced budgets -- and of proof of positive outcomes. “We have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt,” the vice president declared at an Alexandria, Virginia, town hall sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

“We’re doing things that we know are going to save you, your children and your grand children billions of dollars over the next years,” Biden said, “but we’re not able to prove it.”

Will “we’re right, but we just can’t prove it!” still be the rallying cry of the Obama administration when the entirety of the borrowed “stimulus” money has been spent and jobs still haven’t materialized? Or when Congress predictably decides not to offset the trillions in deficit spending Obama’s PayGo exception is allowing them to engage for the purpose of enacting health care “reform"? Or when the American health care system becomes the costly wreck that is Great Britain’s utterly failed National Health Service, as a result of a poorly-thought out, government-centric health care overhaul being pushed through Congress and signed into law without any serious consideration of the consequences?

For now that remains an open question. If history is any guide, though, the answer to that question will be a resounding “yes.”