During the health care reform debate the Democrats put an absurd amount of focus on getting a pretty CBO score for the law. President Obama said the new law must reduce the deficit and have net outlays below an entirely arbitrary $900 billion dollars. To achieve this, the Democrats made some truly bizarre policy decisions, such as moving the start date of main benefits to 2014 and deciding to do basically nothing to try to decrease in the level of uninsured citizens before the 2012 election. Democrats also wasted a huge amount of time repeatedly rewriting and re-scoring the bill, so they could claim the CBO determined it will reduce the federal deficit.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows all this misguided focus on the CBO end up creating a massive political and messaging disaster for the Democrats. Only 15 percent of those surveyed think the health care law will reduce the deficit, while 51 percent think it will increase the deficit.
From a political perspective all those weeks spent tweaking the subsidy levels to get a pretty CBO score were completely wasted. The entire Democratic messaging operation, which tried to make the Affordable Care Act deficit reducing nature a key selling point with the public, was an abject failure.
Republicans managed to win the messaging battle on this issue, even though they didn’t have the facts on their side. That is a truly impressive feat. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the future this becomes an important case study about political communications.