BREAKING: Health Care Reform Makes it Harder to Balance the Budget

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Who could possibly have predicted this shocking and totally unexpected turn of events?



Senate Democrats released details Wednesday of a five-year budget plan that promises to narrow the deficit dramatically by 2015 but still accumulates almost $3.9 trillion more government debt over the same period.

Trying to survive the political storm around them, Democrats would postpone the toughest decisions until after November's elections, when a presidential fiscal commission is scheduled to make its report to Congress. But there is no escaping the political bind that grips the party, exhausted from the debate over health care reform and under political pressure to extend Bush-era tax cuts.

Health care ate up most of the available Medicare savings and popular tax offsets that might otherwise be tapped to narrow the deficit. And as a result, it's harder to dig out of the deficit hole, and little progress will be made in the short term absent a further surge in the economy.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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