Right-wing media have run with the Politico's Jonathan Allen misleading calculation that the House's recently announced health care reform legislation costs "about $2.24 million per word." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 "would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion"; therefore, using Allen's formula, the bill would actually save $260,000 per word.
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Allen's calculation: House bill costs "$2.24 million per word"
From Allen's October 29 Politico article:
The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word.
In fact, bill saves $260,000 per word
CBO: "H.R. 3962 would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion over the 2010--2019 period." From CBO:
Estimated Budgetary Impact of H.R. 3962
According to CBO and JCT's assessment, enacting H.R. 3962 would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion over the 2010--2019 period (see Table 1). In the subsequent decade, the collective effect of its provisions would probably be slight reductions in federal budget deficits. Those estimates are all subject to substantial uncertainty.
The estimate includes a projected net cost of $894 billion over 10 years for the proposed expansions in insurance coverage. That net cost itself reflects a gross total of $1,055 billion in subsidies provided through the exchanges (and related spending), increased net outlays for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for small employers; those costs are partly offset by $167 billion in collections of penalties paid by individuals and employers. On balance, other effects on revenues and outlays associated with the coverage provisions add $6 billion to their total cost.
Over the 2010--2019 period, the net cost of the coverage expansions would be more than offset by the combination of other spending changes, which CBO estimates would save $426 billion, and receipts resulting from the income tax surcharge on high-income individuals and other provisions, which JCT and CBO estimate would increase federal revenues by $572 billion over that period.
Using Allen's calculation, bill saves $260,000 per word. If one were to divide the $104 billion deficit reduction that CBO estimates the House bill would cause by the number of words in the bill, which Allen claims is 400,000, then one would find that the bill would save $260,000 per word.
Right-wing media run with Allen's calculation
Drudge: "$2.2M a word." The October 30 homepage of the Drudge Report highlighted Allen's story as its headline article. From the Drudge Report:
Fox & Friends: Bill "costs us $2.2 million per word." Fox & Friends repeatedly highlighted the $2.2 million-per-word calculation during its October 30 broadcast. Co-host Steve Doocy said, "Extraordinarily, with the 400,000 words -- I think it was Politico that averaged -- it costs us $2.2 million per word, what's in this thing."
Fox News' Hemmer: Bill costs "2.5 million per word." On the October 30 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer said the House bill "clocks in at exactly 1,990 pages. That's half a billion dollars per page, 2.5 million per word."