The Small Print

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 13 2011 @ 6:45pm

Andrew Sprung analyzes the 3:1 spending cut vs tax hike that Obama has outlined (pretty much the ratio of the British Tories). There's more there than may meet the eye:

Just to clarify, the White House fact sheet explicitly counts interest savings in the 3:1 ratio. But counting reduced "tax expenditures" as spending cuts — that really tips the ratio, and it's brilliant politics as well as a perfectly fair use of the English language.  It's brilliant because a) conservatives occasionally have flirted with the same concept — Coburn, in a recent tussle with Grover Norquist, struggled to effectively define ending the ethanol tax credit as a spending cut — and b) protesting that cutting a tax break is not a "spending cut" should tie the GOP in knots, since creating new tax breaks has been a preferred mode of social spending for two decades.

Even Krugman is happy. Because the Obama plan includes much greater power for top-down rationing dictated by "people who actually know about health care and health costs". Gulp. But he has a point here:

And when people start screaming about death panels again, remember: you can always buy whatever health care you want; the question is what taxpayers should pay for. And compare this with a voucher system, in which you have insurance company executives, rather than health-care professionals, deciding which care won’t be paid for.

My italics. The British version of this is what's called "top-up" plans in the National Heath Service. If you want more than the NHS will deliver, you have an option to pay more. And if that works in a truly socialized system, it will surely work here.