I don’t ordinarily rely on Newt Gingrich as a source of political advice, but (accidentally, no doubt) he actually makes a useful suggestion, in the course of an obnoxiously silly article demanding that the President’s speech tonight consist of nothing but right-wing talking points:
Does he include a section onsaving money by stopping payments to crooks who are bilking the taxpayers for $70-120 billion each year in Medicare and Medicaid fraud? For 88 percent of Americans, this is the first place they would look to find savings in our health care system. Is President Obama willing to look there?
Malcolm Sparrow puts the fraud share of medical expenditure (not waste, but outright fraud) at about 10%, or about $200 billion per year. (Not all of that is from public programs, of course.) So it certainly makes sense as a substantive matter to beef up fraud investigation and prosecution; Sparrow argues that the “auditing” approach, designed to catch error rather than fraud, is badly misguided.
Of course investigating fraud is not the same thing as eliminating fraud. How much could be saved, and at what cost, remains an open question.
But that’s always true, and it has never stopped the Republicans from offering “eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse” as the magical formula for balancing the budget without raising taxes. So why not take a page from their playbook? Announce that we’re going to pay for the subsidies in the bill by eliminating $100 billion per year in Medicare and Medicaid fraud, meanwhile adopting the subsidy forumla that phases about above, rather than below, the median family income: 400% of poverty rather than 300%.
Once the bill is passed and it turns out that eliminating fraud can’t be done with a magic wand, then solve the resulting budget problem by raising taxes: on high incomes, on decedent’s estates, on greenhouse-gas emissions, on financial transations.
Footnote Gingrich gets extra-special dishonesty points for this passage:
Is he for sustaining the Senate rule of 60 votes to ensure a bill that has wide, bipartisan support? Or is he prepared to destroy long-standing Senate tradition and ram through a radical bill with 51 votes?
This from the man who, as Speaker, smashed every tradition of the House to make himself a virtual dictator. Are the wingnuts really prepared to argue that allowing a bill to pass by a majority, as the Framers intended, is “radical”? And that they were wrong to use reconciliation to push through the Bush tax cuts, the greatest piece of class-war legislation ever enacted?