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Brooks and Marcus on Health Bill, Obama Media Push

Columnists David Brooks and Ruth Marcus sort through the week's top stories, including the state of the health reform push, President Obama's media strategy and U.S. plans to revamp missile defense in Europe.

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    And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus, New York Times David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

    So, David, this week we saw the most serious attempt yet to come up with an approach to health care reform that was supposed to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans, Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee. What did you make of it?

    DAVID BROOKS, columnist, New York Times: Well, first of all, on the appealing to both Republicans and Democrats, dream on. But, nonetheless, I think it's a good bill, a major step forward.

    And I say that because most of the bills were going to cover a lot more people, but one of the concerns I think a lot of us had was the costs. Would they control the rapid increase of health care costs? And the Baucus bill takes some significant steps toward controlling the cost, doesn't do as much as some of us would like, but it takes steps so the Congressional Budget Office scored it as something that would slightly reduce the deficit over 10 years and may even not increase it over the longer term, because it does raise some revenue. And so, on the fiscal side, I think it's a step forward.

    Now, on whether it will pass, I think most experts would think it would pass, or something like it, or something based on it would pass, but it still has some major hurdles. There are going to be some people who are going to be paying a lot more for health insurance out of their own pocket than in the current bill, and there are going to be some people seeing some tax increases.


    So gets the costs down, Ruth, still major hurdles?

  • RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post:

    Gets the cost down, still major hurdles. I agree with David that it's a big step forward. It's very unfortunate that this step didn't happen two months ago.

    I very much like the fiscal aspects of the bill. It not only is paid for, but it actually could, according to the CBO, actually save 0.5 percent of GDP in the second 10 years. That sounds like a sliver. That would actually, if it were true, add up to $1.3 trillion, which even today is real money.

    The biggest problem and the biggest criticism I would have of it is, as David said, the subsidies that it provides to people at or under 300 percent of the poverty level to buy insurance are way smaller than in the House counterparts and in the other Senate bill counterpart.

    And if you thought we were hearing a lot of uproar about death panels, wait until people start calculating what this could mean to them and how much potentially of their income they could be required or asked to pay.


    Which is why, David, the Democrats are not on board with this yet.


    Right. Well, there are a lot — there's a lot of resistance…


    Many of them. There are some who are, but some who are not.


    There's, first of all, the people who still want the public option. I think they've unconsciously capitulated; they don't realize it yet. But then there are other people…


    They're through the stages.


    They're going through the stages. But then there are other people who will say it's really important we subsidize people at the lower or even mid level so they can afford health insurance, those who don't have it. And as Ruth says, those subsidies really aren't there to the same extent here.

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