Obama Wasn’t Kidding About Health Care

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Don't hate her because she's Gwynethful.
Don't hate her because she's Gwynethful. Photo: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images

In his big non–State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama pledged that health-care reform couldn't wait another year. And based on the budget he's submitting to Congress today, it's clear he wasn't joking around — it includes $634 billion over ten years as a down payment toward creating a universal-health-care system. The details of the new system will be worked out with Congress later on, but Obama does spell out how he'll pay for this vast reserve fund: Half will come from savings on government spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and other health-care costs, and the other half from tax increases on those making $250,000 or over a year. That provision, not surprisingly, will be unpopular with a lot of people, but you can't make a health-care omelette without breaking some eggs.

• Igor Volsky says that the "fund is a good start, but it’s certainly not enough to reach universal coverage." Even so, it's promising that, unlike the Clintons, who "didn’t include any money for health reform in the budget, and left Congress to digest a 700+ page health plan, Obama and Congress will fill in the details of reform." [Wonk Room/Think Progress]

• Jonathan Cohn notes that the investment is "pretty big — more, I believe, than any president has proposed setting aside for coverage expansions to the non-elderly since Clinton tried for universal health insurance in the 1990s." But that still "will not be enough to finance full universal coverage," and it's unclear "how much more would it cost to get everybody (or nearly everybody) covered by decent insurance." [Treatment/New Republic]

• Ezra Klein is excited that "the language in today's budget is something entirely different: Not an idea, but a directive. Not a document to win a campaign, but a document to kick start the congressional process." [American Prospect]

• Jennifer Rubin thinks that with all this new taxing and spending, we'll "see just how huge a debt we can run up and just how anemic an economic recovery we can have, I suppose. Taxing people in a recession? Sounds rather anti-stimulative." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Paul Krugman writes that "[i]t’s beginning to look as if Obama’s really going to go through with this — and if he gets us to universality, his legacy will be secure." [Conscience of a Liberal/NYT]

• Allahpundit wonders, "How much will that 'down payment' end up ballooning to? $2 trillion? $3 trillion?" [Hot Air]

• Senators Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy write that although the "challenge of crafting this public policy is certainly large," Congress and the president must keep their "commitment to reforming health care — now." [WSJ]

• David Rodgers thinks the down payment "represents a major commitment upfront," and how he plans to get it, including taxing the wealthy, "is consistent with his larger philosophy." [Politico]

• Steve Benen believes that "while the down payment may only be the first step, this isn't incrementalism — it's a significant step forward." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Ben Pershing suspects that Obama may "have to slow the pace of new announcements if he really wants to move major healthcare legislation this year." You can't tackle such an effort if you focus "on the banks one day, Iraq the next, then the foreclosure plan, and so on." [Rundown/WP]

• Chuck Todd and friends feel the "budget is very tough on those who earn more than $250,000 a year. Not only are they losing out on the Bush tax cuts in the next couple of years, but they also will see their tax bill go above that to pay for this new health care bill." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Rick Klein jokes, "There’s nothing quite like reinforcing a message of restraint by bracketing it with a $787 billion stimulus package, a $410 billion omnibus budget, and a $634 billion health care fund." [Note/ABC News]

• Jackie Calmes and Robert Pear call the plan "a pronounced move to redistribute wealth by reimposing a larger share of the tax burden on corporations and the most affluent taxpayers." [NYT]