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David Brooks' Lies on Healthcare Reform: An Incomplete List

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David Brooks is very slick. His lies and deceptions are embedded into parenthetical asides or subordinate clauses, and frequently couched in the jargon of the social sciences. His affect on television is neither doctrinaire nor mean-spirited, like that of his former colleagues, Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes. Brooks' dishonesty is more subtle and insidious.

A lot of people buy in to Brooks' pseudointellectual shtick for making grand pronouncements that presume to define reality. In the ultimate tribute to Washington's groupthink, George Stephanopoulos invited Brooks on to his show to present a video clip of Katie Couric asking Barak Obama to respond to a Brooks column that could have been dictated by Roger Ailes: "The [Democratic] party is led by insular liberals from big cities and the coasts, who neither understand nor sympathize with moderates. They have their own cherry-picking pollsters, their own media and activist cocoon, their own plans to lavishly spend borrowed money to buy votes."

Before he attacked Obama as a liberal elitist, Brooks touted Sarah Palin as the embodiment of reform. Brooks designated the Alaska governor as, "the rarest of creatures, an American politician who sees the world as [John McCain] does. Like McCain, Palin does not seem to have an explicit governing philosophy. Her background is socially conservative, but she has not pushed that as governor of Alaska. She seems to find it easier to work with liberal Democratsthan the mandarins in her own party. Instead, she seems to get up in the morning to root out corruption." Only a fool would believe that Brooks had scrutinized Palin's record; he was simply parroting the same crap as Bill Kristol.

For a couple of months now, Brooks has been pushing two fraudulent claims lifted out straight out of the Republican playbook:

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  • Obama's proposals on healthcare reform do nothing to cut costs; and
  • He wants to impose punitive taxation on the middle class.

His latest New York Times column encapsulates his disinformation campaign. True to form, Brooks, opened on a positive note. "On Wednesday night, Barack Obama delivered the finest speech of his presidency," he wrote, and began his deceptions a few paragraphs later:

First, Obama rested the credibility of his presidency on what you might call the Dime Standard. He was flexible about many things, but not this: "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. Period."

This sound bite kills the House health care bill. That bill would add $220 billion (that's 2.2 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the first 10 years and another $1 trillion (10 trillion dimes) to the deficit over the next 10 years.

Brooks turned the President's rhetorical device into a bogus financial analysis. No one can measure the financial impact of new federal legislation within one dime, or within $1 billion, over the span of one year, much less one decade. Of the $39 trillion spent by the federal government over the next decade, per C.B.O. estimates, the purported $220 billion cost equals less than half of one percent of that amount, a rounding error. Brooks keeps insinuating that the 10-year forecast can be tallied with the precision of a balanced checkbook.

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[For some context, consider what the Bush White House budgeted for the cost of keeping troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in years 2010 and later. The C.B.O. revealed the exact dollar amount to be zero. Of course, didn't stop Brooks' guy, presidential candidate John McCain, from proposing that we double down on the Bush tax cuts.]

There are a number of ways to tweak the House bill to reduce the $220 billion cost, but Brooks, like most Republican shills, seeks to preempt an honest give-and-take discussion. He writes:

There is no way to get from the House bill to deficit neutrality. The president's speech guarantees that the more moderate Senate Finance Committee bill will be the basis for the negotiations to come.

No, Brooks is pulling out the stops to preclude a reasoned consideration of the public option.

To back up his points, Brooks makes a pretty audacious lie -- in the subordinate clause - about C.B.O. estimates. He writes:

Since the Congressional Budget Office is the universally accepted arbiter in such matters, the Democrats have to produce a bill that the C.B.O. says is deficit-neutral, now and forever.

Brooks knows that the opposite is true. The C.B.O. is not the universally accepted arbiter, because its forecasting methodology on cost savings benefits has been shown to be highly arbitrary. The C.B.O. contends that cost savings from Obama's proposals, which are hard to estimate, must be assumed to equal zero.

Paul Krugman explained this point directly to Brooks as they sat across the table with Stephanopolous. If you assume that the actual costs savings in the first year are slightly less than $20 billion - below the cost of two months of the Iraq/Afghanistan occupations - then the current House bill is deficit-neutral. (The 10 years add to up $220 billion because of inflation.) You can argue whether the potential cost savings of Obama's proposals total $220 billion over the next decade. But no one can honestly assert, like Brooks does, that the C.B.O. approach is the only legitimate method for estimating the net impact on the budget, and no one can honestly say that the C.B.O. methodology is manifestly more precise.

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Krugman's explanation did not stop Brooks from doubling down on his lies or on smearing Obama's veracity. Here's his little riff on The NewsHour:

The other thing is, [Obama] just tells a lot of whoppers now. Now, believe me, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin are saying some things that are extremely off the charts untrue about the plan, but I just wrote down some of the things Obama said today which are whoppers.

He said everyone can keep their health care plan. Well, the CBO doesn't say that. Six million people are going to lose their plan. Preventive care saves money. That's not true. It's going to cost $90 billion a year. That's not true. It's probably going to cost twice as much when it's fully implemented. Government will be out of health care decisions.

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For over 20 years, David has been a banker covering the energy industry for several global banks in New York. Currently, he is working on several journalism projects dealing with corporate and political corruption that, so far, have escaped serious (more...)

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