More Hope for the President's Fiscal Commission?

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Yesterday, I happened upon a short post by Berkeley economist Brad DeLong in which he quoted from a recent Daily Caller article taking the temperature of DC insiders prior to the start of President Obama's debt commission. DeLong found Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) comments about eliminating $300 billion worth of waste in Medicaid through the commission discouraging, as "[t]otal Medicaid spending this year is currently pegged at $280 billion." Notwithstanding his obvious mistake, I thought Coburn's comments were encouraging.

Anyone that remembers the yearlong health care reform debates in Congress will remember that Sen. Coburn was quite fond of claiming that $1 out of every $3 spent on health care is wasted. My guess here is that he was trying to allude to the same statistic, but ended up making an exaggerated claim about waste in Medicaid.

The point to highlight, though, is that it seems the senator has given some thought as to what he would like to accomplish through the president's commission. Along with his insistence that "[e]verything is on the table," including tax increases, for dealing with the country's long-term deficits, Coburn's plan to bring up specific fiscal issues is a positive sign.

If both sides come into the debt and deficit commission meetings with ideas of what issues they'd like to tackle and what areas they're willing give and take on, there's a better chance that the two sides will come to a compromise, and thus more likely to produce substantive recommendations on deficit reduction.

The senator from Oklahoma already knows that if he can adequately make his case, the commission is likely to incorporate his proposals, just as the president urged Congress to consider Coburn's suggestions made during the White House's health care summit in March. Here's hoping that other members of the deficit panel have thought about what they would like the commission to accomplish.

Image by Flickr user johnsolid used under a Creative Commons license.

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