David Frum

12.31.12

Democrats Have Their Own Fiscal Delusions

Win McNamee/Getty Images ()

As we hurtle together to the fiscal cliff, the Republicans are getting much the worse of the media battle. In the interests of understanding, though, let's also note some crucial ridiculous things the Democrats believe (or at least say) about America's fiscal dilemmas.

Here's the first: The Democratic belief that Obamacare is paid for.

Since its inception in 2009, the Congressional Budget Office has scored the Affordable Care Act as deficit-positive. CBO has projected that the law's taxes and claimed savings will offset its costs over the first 10 years of the law's life. From the start, it seemed almost beyond belief that this projection would come true in the real world. As Arik Roy has noted in Forbes, it's already true in 2012 - well before the law goes fully into effect - that ACA is costing more, taxing more, and still reducing the deficit less than its authors promised.

In 2010, the CBO projected that Obamacare would reduce the deficit by $140 billion from 2013 to 2019. That has dropped to a measly $4 billion in its most recent report.

If these trends continue - and they sure look like they are continuing, if not actually accelerating - the ACA will soon emerge as a huge new driver of budget deficits. Yet Democratic negotiators and publicists continue to talk about the deficit as if the ACA was a deficit-reducing grand bargain all in itself, rather than the huge new spending program it is already revealing itself to be.