In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A Thursday New York Post piece made a number of startling claims about Democratic health care reform proposals, which, the authors claim, will devastate the wealthy. Take a look at the associated chart, which was fronted on Drudge.



Notice a problem? Take the single gentleman on the top left, who earns $285,000. House Democrats would charge a surtax of one percent on every dollar he makes over $280,000. That means one percent of $5,000 or $50. But according to the Post he'll be on the line for one percent of his entire salary--an extra $2,850. Can you say "marginal taxation?" Apparently they can't at the post.

A Democratic aide sends over the following corrective:



One should note that a major source for the post article was the Tax Foundation, which releases an annual anti-tax "report" that the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities blasts year in and year out for its numerous inaccuracies. Looks like they did no better on this project.

TPMDC's roundup of the biggest initiatives on Capitol Hill.

  • Health Care: Three House committees are now holding mark-up hearings on health care legislation. At the Energy and Commerce hearing, seven Blue Dogs gave identical opening statements--which I've placed below the fold--restating their desire for a health care bill that cuts costs, but eschews cost cutting measures. They're countered by House progressives, dozens of whom have silently committed to oppose any health care bill without a public option. And in the Senate, things still just don't seem to be coming together.


  • Nominations: Fire fighter Frank Ricci--better known as the thorn in Sonia Sotomayor's side--finally had his moment in the sun. But even Sen. Jeff Sessions is saying she won't be filibustered.

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If you have about a half hour to kill tonight or tomorrow or over the weekend, take a look at this video, produced by Senate Republicans:



Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John Barrasso (R-WY) are among the Senate's more conservative members. But they're also M.D.s! (You may remember Coburn from TPMMuckraker's reporting on the John Ensign scandal as the conspirator who has pre-emptively refused to testify citing patient-doctor confidentiality.)

Now he's back, with his colleague from Wyoming, using his professional degree to give questionable cover to his political aims. This isn't new to the Republican party. Recall that in 2005, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said he disagreed with physicians' diagnosis of a vegitative Terri Schiavo, based on videotaped footage he'd viewed in his office. Frist is a heart surgeon.

A couple more data points for you. The LA Times Johanna Neuman describes House health care legislation as "a bill that could end up costing taxpayers $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years." And the New York Daily News calls it as a "massive $1.5 trillion measure" that will "hit the rich hardest."

Even if the Associated Press was correct about the cost of the bill, that wouldn't reflect the cost to taxpayers, which will be much, much lower. A large percentage of the outlays are expected to be financed by savings wrung from within the health care system itself

If you haven't seen this ad already, you probably will soon.



Patients United Now is an offshoot of the well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity. The ad's been around since Patients United was created on May 27, but it hasn't gone national until today as the health care debate on Capitol Hill hits a fever pitch.

The ad, which previously ran in eight states, will be on the air for the next week.

As you can see it suggests that Congress wants to impose a Canadian style health care system on the United States. And though the Canadian health care system outperforms the American system on many levels, they also have a single payer system, and the reform bills making their way through Congress are not single payer proposals.

House Minority Leader John Boehner is clearly pleased with CBO Director Doug Elmendorf's testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.



As I noted earlier today, the fact is that the CBO hasn't analyzed many of the bill's cost saving measures, and that, other cost-saving provisions haven't yet been written or otherwise remain unrealized.

But Elmendorf said what he said, and it's no surprise that Boehner's latched on.

As I noted in the post below, the Associated Press is standing by the assertion that House health care legislation will cost $1.5 trillion, even though it now says, based on its own analysis, that the same bill will likely cost $1.65 trillion.

This is puzzling on its own, but as Greg Sargent notes, it's also pretty irresponsible.

[T]he AP doesn't address the core problem here: That it keeps portraying its price tag as a matter of fact, rather than as a matter of dispute.... Even if you agree that the bill is likely to cost [$1.5 trillion] in the end, it's still reckless of the AP to keep treating this number as established fact, when it simply isn't any such thing. More on this in a bit.


Right. Something that's been elided here--and I'm guilty of this to some extent--is that Tuesday's CBO analysis isn't conclusive analysis. It's a preliminary analysis based on, in the words of Doug Elmendorf, "the major provisions related to health insurance coverage [and] does not take into account other parts of the proposal that would raise taxes or reduce other spending (particularly in Medicare) in an effort to offset the federal costs of the coverage provisions."

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Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) told reporters earlier today that President Obama is "making it difficult" to reach a bipartisan compromise on health care.

"Basically, the president is not helping us," the Finance Committee chairman said. He was referring to Obama's opposition to a tax on some employer-provided benefits.

The White House brushed off the comment when a reporter brought it up to Bill Burton, a White House deputy press secretary.

"Nobody said it was going to be easy," Burton said. "And there are obviously bumps along the way to getting to final passage of legislation in both the House and the Senate. But we think that we've been able to make a lot of progress. And those comments notwithstanding, this week has been a very great week."

In response to an inquiry from TPMDC, Associated Press spokesman Paul Colford sends over the following statement, explaining why they're reporting that House health care legislation will cost $1.5 trillion.

The Congressional Budget Office score of $1.04 trillion that the Democrats cite is the figure for the new health insurance "exchange."

However, that is a net figure, including about $237 billion in revenue raised from employer and individual mandates -- fees paid by those who don't provide or purchase care. Therefore, if you look at costs, the score on that is about $1.27 trillion.

There is also a separate piece of the bill covering Medicare. It includes about $350 billion in new spending (the biggest single piece is for the so-called "doc fix," which involves the payment rate to doctors under Medicare).


And now the AP is out with an article saying similar things, but in more detail--and, crucially, reiterating the $1.5 trillion price tag. In its new piece, AP concludes that the total projected outlays of the new bill will be $1.65 trillion and that total offsets and revenues will amount to $1.3 trillion. Subtract the two and you get a cost to the federal budget of $350 billion--significantly less than the CBO concluded.

This still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and I've passed them along to AP. First of all, there's the question of whether it's standard practice for the AP to use CBO's bottom line when reporting the cost of legislation, or whether it's normal practice for the AP to disaggregate legislation and report that it costs as much as the bill's total outlays, regardless of offsets and revenues.

Second, and more crucially, did the $1.5 trillion figure come from this sort of analysis, or did it come from the claims of an anonymous Democratic aide? After all, if the AP's using outlays as their metric, then they wouldn't use the $1.5 trillion figure. They'd use $1.65 trillion.

On the merits, we're running the AP's numbers and by budget experts to see if they stack up correctly. The CBO analyzes legislation's impact on the federal budget, and it's fairly standard practice for journalists to characterize the CBO's conclusions as the bill's "cost." But the first AP report came out shortly after the CBO released its analysis, and attributed the $1.5 trillion figure to an anonymous Democratic aide--and that seems like the key issue here.

Earlier today, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made it pretty clear that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will not be filibustered.



"I will not support--and I don't think any member of this side will support--a filibuster or any attempt to block a vote on your nomination."

That's even farther than Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was willing to go yesterday. Obviously other senators will do what they'll do, but it seems that, despite all the flame throwing, if Sessions has his way, Sotomayor will be confirmed before the August recess.

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