Democrats Use Accounting Gimmicks to Hide Cost of Build Back Better Bill

Democrats Use Accounting Gimmicks to Hide Cost of Build Back Better Bill


President Joe Biden is twisting arms to get “agreement” this week on hundreds of tax and spending provisions in his multitrillion-dollar social-welfare bill while key Democrats seem to be settling on a plan to keep the price tag down.

They want to reduce the overall size of the spending bill to “only” $1 trillion to $2 trillion (as though those two numbers were even remotely close), and only fund programs for a short time, assuming that it would be too painful for a future Congress to stop funding them.

There’s simply too much in this massive “Build Back Better” bill to digest—free community college, paid family leave, universal pre-K, bigger child tax credits, climate “incentives,” and, of course, major expansions of government spending on health care, as The Daily Signal has explained in numerous articles.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., says he wants a smaller bill, honest funding for new programs the bill creates, and more time to get it done. 

This is dangerous legislation that would have to be passed by the slimmest of margins in both the House and Senate and signed by a president whose poll numbers are plummeting. But Democrats are nonetheless plowing ahead.

On health care, the supposedly “pared-down bill” would, for example:

  • Expand Obamacare and make generous health insurance subsidies available to the most affluent Americans—but only for four years, rather than the full 10.
  • Expand Medicaid to 2.2 million people in states that have not already expanded it under Obamacare, but only temporarily.
  • Expand Medicare’s benefits to cover hearing, dental, and vision care, but maybe with a voucher.
  • And spend $100 billion or so less than the $400 billion allocated for home health care—and labor union expansion.

“The main economic effect is crowd-out,” Brian Blase explained in Forbes in a paper analyzing Congressional Budget Office spending estimates. 

“Most of this new government spending would replace private spending that otherwise would have occurred to purchase health insurance.”

Doug Badger asks in a Daily Signal article why politicians on “the left, many of whom want government to run our health system, are OK with shoveling hundreds of billions more to private health insurance companies to further boost their profits.”

Badger writes that as much as 17% of the new spending will go to profitable health insurance companies.

For conservatives, corporate profits and executive compensation aren’t troubling in and of themselves. What concerns them is a partnership between big government and big corporations to milk taxpayers and place their interests above those of consumers.

For liberal lawmakers, at least to judge from their rhetoric, voting for more profits for the health insurance industry should be problematic.

Apparently, it isn’t. It turns out that they can support arrangements that enlarge government control, even if that control benefits big corporations and their CEOs.

The 133 House and Senate Democrats who have co-sponsored “Medicare for All,” which would abolish private health insurance companies, seem to be just fine with that, continuing an alliance between liberals and the health insurance industry that has been around since Obamacare’s creation.

Chris Holt of the American Action Forum reports that “as currently drafted, the Build Back Better reconciliation bill would likely spend more than the [Affordable Care Act] to insure between 4 [million] and 7 million previously uninsured people, while causing substantial disruption to insurance coverage for millions of people who are already insured.”

Politico reports that leaders are now stalking the popular Medicare Advantage plans to come up with $100 billion to $150 billion to help fund their social-welfare transformation, with a goal to announce an agreement on the structure of the bill this week.

The more they struggle, the more the American people learn about the details of the bill and the more difficult it will be for Democrats to enact it.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.