CBO's Estimates on the Health Care Bill: What Do They Mean?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 18, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It feels a bit like the "Wizard of Oz." The CBO, where is it? Our own Griff Jenkins went around Washington looking for the CBO.


GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The Congressional Budget Office, or CBO as it's commonly referred to, was established in 1974. Its main function is to provide Congress with nonpartisan, objective cost analysis of any given piece of legislation like the Senate health care bill.

For the most part, they operate in secret. People do not know much about them or even where they are located.

Congressman, can you tell me where the CBO is located?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have absolutely no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not sure what that is.

JENKINS: You don't know what the CBO was?


JENKINS: You know what that is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are making me look like an idiot. I actually know a lot about politics.

JENKINS: Maybe you need help from folks at Fox. Bret, do you have any idea where the CBO is?


JENKINS: Physically located?

BAIER: I don't.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have only been in Washington 35 years. How do you expect me to know that?

JENKINS: Do you think Bill O'Reilly is going to know where the CBO is?

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hey, O'Reilly, it's is Greta. And I have you on tape, so be careful what you say, OK?


VAN SUSTEREN: I'm taping you. Here is the question I have for you, because we are doing a little research project for "On the Record," and everybody knows about the Congressional Budget Office, but we cannot seem to find it. Do you know where it is?

O'REILLY: The Congressional Budget Office is in Washington, D.C.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that the best you can do?

O'REILLY: It's in a bar.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I have lived here for 35 years and I do not know where it is. Bret Baier doesn't know where it is. But we thought Bill O'Reilly might know where we could find it.

O'REILLY: I think it might be in Georgetown.

VAN SUSTEREN: We'll check there. Thanks for the tip.

JENKINS: Do you where the CBO is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's somewhere over that way.

JENKINS: Do you know where the CBO is located?


JENKINS: He got the right answer.

Do you know where the CBO is?


JENKINS: There you go. We found it, the CBO. Here in the fourth floor of the Ford House Office building, the expressway is just behind me, the secret Congressional Budget Office -- Greta?


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so it took Griff a little while to find the CBO and it took awhile for us, meaning you, to get the CBO report on Senator Reid's health care bill.

But the numbers are out, and Steve Moore calls them ridiculous and laughable. The CBO estimates the bill would cost $849 billion over the next ten years and in the same amount of time would reduce our deficit by $127 billion. Is that possible?

Joining us live is Steve Moore, senior economic writer for the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page. And they keep talking about scoring the bill.

STEVE MOORE, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I know where the CBO is. I used to work right down the hall from them. But they're the most powerful people in Washington these days.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the numbers?

MOORE: First of all I am going to come clean, full confession. I have not read that bill yet. I don't think anybody has. And isn't it interesting? Every time we do this, this bill gets longer and longer. We started with 1,100 pages, then 1,500, and this one is over 2,000 pages.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know. It's like 10 trees are down.

MOORE: But it is interesting to me though, Greta, that the Congressional Budget Office had this document two weeks before the U.S. senators and the members of the House of Representatives. That is kind of crazy.

Here is the big leap of faith, how in the world can you create a new entitlement program that is going to cover 30 million Americans, almost one in 10 Americans will be covered under a new entitlement program, and it's going to save money? This is craziness. No one believes this.

The way I look at, this is -- I heard Lindsey Graham say this was Enron accounting. I think it is Bernie Madoff accounting. If a private company tried to live by the accounting rules of this bill...

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait a second. This is ridiculous. It is 2,200 pages or whatever, and it has programs that nobody has any idea how much these programs cost.

MOORE: We don't even know what they are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's my favorite one, the national independent monitor demonstration project. Who in the world can figure out how much that costs? It is absurd to sort of figure out a number and score and tell the American people the cost. At least we ought to be honest that that's absurd.

MOORE: But the big story is Harry Reid is now running around Washington saying "I have this bill and it will reduce the budget deficit."

This is a really important thing. They took $200 billion of the cost and they just did not count it. That is what I'm talking about, about this illegal auditing and accounting that they're doing.

Another thing they did, Greta, this is important, they basically took 10 years of tax revenues, but the only counted seven years of the spending. And that is the way they're able to say...

VAN SUSTEREN: Which means it starts in 2013 but they start charging you now.

MOORE: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I swear every viewer will feel so much better. I want to read the next section. You will feel much better, I promise you. Here's my favorite new section. My favorite section used to be the national independent monitor demonstration project. Here is my new one. It is section 6601, mark that down. It is called "Prohibition on false statements representations."

MOORE: What is that?

VAN SUSTEREN: It means you can't lie in this bill.


MOORE: It is starting with the accounting lie.

VAN SUSTEREN: It goes on and on. I do not think it applies to the people who are pushing it. But anyway, no false statements.

MOORE: The bottom line here though is you cannot create -- we know how we got in this national debt crisis in the first place. Everyone watching the show knows. We created these entitlement programs, we never paid for them, they get bigger and bigger like a monster, and we're doing it again.

And the Congressional Budget Office says to the American people this will pay for itself. It's free.

VAN SUSTEREN: I am one beat off from all this. I do not know whether it is a good bill or not. What I do not like is the fact that we are scammed with what the price is. I don't know if you can come up with a price, but at least you ought to be honest and say we can't possibly figure it. This is what we think. It is so ridiculous to act like this is the golden number.

Let me as a question -- CBO, do they ever revise the numbers?

MOORE: Do they ever revise number. Yes. In fact what happens is they go back years and years later and they say oops, we missed, and it's going to cost five times more.

In fact that is the history of Medicare and Medicaid, all of these programs, they always cost more than they think they will.

VAN SUSTEREN: But even if they said this is honest, I would feel better. I mean that they say they can't honestly get the numbers, I'd feel better.

MOORE: I talked to a former Congressional Budget Office director today, somebody who used to run the program, and he said this is completely implausible. Another one said it is laughable.

Really, I think the Congressional Budget Office, their integrity has really been put in jeopardy by the scoring, because nobody really believes you can do it. It's the ultimate free lunch. It's tooth fairy accounting.

VAN SUSTEREN: I love the index. It is extraordinary, the numbers. There is an excess tax on elective cosmetic medical procedures, so Botox is going to get it.

MOORE: And the fact that in all of these members of the Congress and the Senate are being asked to comment on this bill, and they have not had a chance to read the bill. The Congressional Budget Office has had this thing for two weeks. Members of Congress have not seen it yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: What will happen? Will this pass?

MOORE: I don't think so. I think there'll be a revolt among the senators and I think there is going to be a revolt among the American people. This isn't on the internet yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have to go. Steve, thanks. Get reading.

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