When the co-chairmen of President Obama’s debt commission released a draft series of recommendations today, they presumably intended to show momentum and create pressure for others to come around to some kind of an agreement.
Press stories are sure to focus on the Social Security changes and how they will antagonize some liberals, thus proving that the proposal is serious.
But the most important entitlement decision in the entire package is the explicit endorsement of Obamacare. The Bowles-Simpson proposal would leave in place the entire trillion-dollar monstrosity. Indeed, many of its supposed cost-cutting recommendations would build on Obamacare’s flawed structure of government-driven cost-cutting through price controls. In particular, they would like to create what amounts to a global budget on health care, with the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) given the unilateral authority to hit budget targets with price cutting. This is exactly the opposite of what’s needed, which is cost discipline through consumer choice in a functioning marketplace.
Meanwhile, Bowles and Simpson refused to endorse moving Medicare toward a defined contribution program, as Rep. Paul Ryan’s Roadmap proposes, relying instead on the usual laundry list of cuts to the existing program structure.
None of this is all that surprising, given how the commission was formulated. It’s not really a bipartisan commission at all; it’s an Obama commission. It was created by the president and stacked with Democratic appointees. Two-thirds of the 18 members were picked by the president or Democratic congressional leaders. Only six were appointed by Rep. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell.
The president says the public doesn’t want to “re-litigate” the health care war. He’s wrong. As last Tuesday’s exit polls make clear, a strong plurality wants exactly that. The American people know that the ill-advised law was railroaded through Congress and is a colossal mistake.
The fundamental problem here is that it is not possible build a bipartisan budget framework on a foundation that includes a partisan health-care plan with sweeping implications for future spending levels. To have a bipartisan budget requires a bipartisan health plan. And that means repealing Obamacare and starting over.
— James C. Capretta is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He was an associate director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004.