Krauthammer, pots, and kettles

KRAUTHAMMER, POTS, AND KETTLES…. Charles Krauthammer devotes his column today to questioning President Obama’s honesty. Given Krauthammer’s track record, that’s really not a good idea.

Most of the piece is predictable — and ironically, deeply misleading — but it’s hard to overlook Krauthammer’s complaints about proposed Medicare savings.

Obama said he would largely solve the insoluble cost problem of Obamacare by eliminating “hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud” from Medicare.

That’s not a lie. That’s not even deception. That’s just an insult to our intelligence. Waste, fraud and abuse — Meg Greenfield once called this phrase “the dread big three” — as the all-purpose piggy bank for budget savings has been a joke since Jimmy Carter first used it in 1977.

Moreover, if half a trillion is waiting to be squeezed painlessly out of Medicare, why wait for health-care reform? If, as Obama repeatedly insists, Medicare overspending is breaking the budget, why hasn’t he gotten started on the painless billions in “waste and fraud” savings?

To the extent that politicians like to target “waste, fraud, and abuse” in any system as a generic way to save costs, Krauthammer’s right that it can be a hollow cliche. But the problem here is that Krauthammer hasn’t been paying close enough attention to the debate — the White House isn’t just throwing around shallow rhetoric, it’s identified specific areas within the Medicare system where the government can save an enormous amount of money, and subjected the claims to CBO scrutiny.

If Krauthammer wants to defend existing Medicare Advantage funding, for example, he should certainly feel free to do so. But that’s not his point — he’s suggesting Obama refuses to offer details about cost savings. That’s plainly false.

As for the notion that the White House shouldn’t “wait for health-care reform” to start saving money, again, Krauthammer need to keep up. Jonathan Chait had a good item on this.

Why hasn’t Obama gotten started? He has! He’s been spending months and months trying to hammer these cuts out…. And the cuts are not exactly “painless” — that’s Krauthammer’s embellishment, not Obama’s. They’re deeply painful to the health care and insurance industries. Obama is getting the industries to agree to these cuts in return for subsidized access to 30 million new customers, who in turn will enjoy greater health and economic security. It’s an eminently sensible trade-off, one that would be a total no-brainer consensus issue if the world weren’t filled with Charles Krauthammers trying to kill it off for partisan reasons.

If a columnist is going to write an entire piece attacking someone’s honesty, he/she ought to be pretty cautious about making patently untrue claims. If only Krauthammer cared as much about accuracy as being an anti-Obama shill.