The White House and the president's re-election campaign didn't very much like a 52-page report issued this week by George Mason University's Mercatus Center that shows how President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law will bust the federal budget.
The report, "The Fiscal Consequences of the Affordable Care Act" was written by the well-regarded Charles Blahous, a public trustee of the Medicare and Social Security programs. In it Blahous showed how the new law will drive federal healthcare spending up and will add as much as a half a trillion dollars to the federal deficit over a 10-year period.
Rather than try to refute the data or Blahous's conclusions, they used it as yet another opportunity to attack their favorite targets, philanthropists Charles and David Koch, because Mercatus has benefited in the past from their generosity. As ABC News's Devin Dwyer reported on the network's blog, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt criticized it thusly: "The Koch brothers and their allied organizations first spent millions of dollars attacking the President in an attempt to maintain taxpayer subsidies for oil and gas companies that are making record profits and boosting their own bottom line. Now, they have bought and paid for a false, partisan report."
A spokesman for the Kochs, Philip Ellender, was quick to respond, saying in a release, "As has been explained repeatedly, Koch has consistently and for many years opposed government subsidies of any kind and urged the government to discontinue them. Further, Charles Koch and David Koch have championed free-market policies for more than 50 years and criticized those policies that are counter to free-market principles, regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in power."
Ellender went further, adding, "The Obama campaign's complaints about energy policy appear to be a tactic to divert attention from the study's analysis of the Affordable Care Act's impact on our country's massive deficits. The fact that the President's campaign would prefer to demonize Koch rather than discuss the economic consequences of the president's policies demonstrates that the Administration and its allies would prefer not to deal with the serious economic crisis our nation faces."
For his part Blahous is standing by his conclusions, methodology, and motives, answering his critics in a blog post at Forbes. "For the record, the research is my own and does not reflect any other person's policy agenda other than my own research interest in exploring the fiscal effects of a momentous change in law, something I was surprised to find that no one else had previously quantified."
"The paper was subject to a double-blind peer review process," Blahous added, "which means that I did not know who was reviewing the paper, and the reviewers did not know who had written it. Prior to this formal review process, I also independently had the paper reviewed by several fellow experts in federal budgeting and health care financing to confirm that the analysis was correct."
The Obama campaign likely realizes, however, that an argument over the data is an argument that does them no good. The new healthcare law is as unpopular today as it was when the president signed it into law, if not more so. Invoking the Kochs is a misdirection that allows the campaign to talk about its favorite subjects, wealth-inequality, Wall Street billionaires, unfairness, and secretive right-wing conspiracies rather than confronting the truth: The new law isn't going to work as advertized and is going to cost everyone a lot more than they were led to believe. The Kochs are not the issue and never were. Obama, the way he has governed, and the initiatives he has championed are the real issues—so it's no wonder his campaign doesn't want to talk about them.