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Think Again: How to Control Health Care Costs, Conservative Style

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Crossposted with the Center for American Progress. With Mickey Ehrlich

It's a truism that conservatives support fiscal responsibility. Sure, the last two Republican regimes vastly increased the government's deficits, though to be perfectly accurate, George W. Bush began with a surplus, rather than a deficit. But never mind that. That was when they were actually in power. Now they're out of power and everything is back to normal. Take a look, for instance, at current arguments over the health care bill, which President Barack Obama has insisted needs to be deficit neutral to ensure that it will save money over time.

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial criticized the proposed compromise legislation as an expansion of entitlements without surefire cost-control measures in place. They write: "The White House hawked a permanent entitlement expansion on flimsy and speculative theories that its own partisans now admit--albeit when it is nearly too late--aren't more substantive than the triumph of hope over experience, while simultaneously writing off the one policy that has been effective in the real world."

Ditto the Washington Post and Newsweek's Robert Samuelson, who terms the bill's spending reductions "a mirage." He claims that despite what the language of the bill may suggest, there is no chance of controlling health care spending with the current legislation. He takes issue with two progressive studies on the health care bill at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Center for American Progress. He argues that the studies' claims of reductions under the bill are actually "smaller future increases." He fails to point out, however, that expansion of coverage with slower increases in costs still amounts to a more efficient health care delivery system.

Samuelson's primary argument, however, is not against the facts of the bill or the studies of its costs, but rather that promises of spending cuts in Medicare "may not be real." He insists that, "to attack costs would be politically challenging." This ignores the reality that the very idea of enacting health care reform is politically challenging....

You can read the rest of Eric Alterman and Mickey Ehrlich's analysis in their recent article, "Think Again: How to Control Health Care Costs, Conservative Style"

Eric Alterman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College. He is also a Nation columnist and a professor of journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His seventh book, Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals, was recently published in paperback. He occasionally blogs at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/altercation and is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast.

Mickey Ehrlich is a freelance writer based in New York.