A bargain at any price — especially this one

A BARGAIN AT ANY PRICE — ESPECIALLY THIS ONE…. The “t” word — “trillion” — not only sounds intimidating, it seems outlandish. A thousand billions. It’s hard to even fathom.

And with House Democrats unveiling a health care reform package yesterday with a $1 trillion price tag — Senate Dems are aiming for the same figure — it’s likely opponents of reform hope the “t” word alone is enough to make the effort sound scary.

It’s worth noting, then, that we’re talking about $1 trillion over 10 years to cover just about every legal resident in the country — without adding a dime to the national debt and without raising taxes on the middle class — finally reforming a broken system after decades of talking about it. Paul Krugman is right to call this a “bargain.”

That’s a bargain: the catastrophe of being ill without insurance, the fear of losing insurance, all ended — for much less than the Bush administration’s useless $1.35 trillion first tax cut, quickly followed by another $350 billion.

And that’s just the budget cost, which the House proposes covering partly with savings elsewhere, partly with higher taxes on very high incomes. As Jon Cohn points out, the overall effect of expanded coverage will probably be lower health care costs for America as a whole.

There is now absolutely no excuse for Congress to balk at doing the right thing.

No, probably not, though quite a few will think of some excuses anyway.

The country has a $3.6 trillion federal budget. We can finally reform health care and cover just about everyone for another $100 billion a year? And do so in such a way that would ultimately lower costs and save money?

Sounds like a no-brainer.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.