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Obama agenda: Brooks vs. Krugman

The New York Times’ columnists take two different views of President Obama’s budget. Brooks: “The budget gets a lot of little things right, but it squanders the opening created by the debt commission. It fails to touch the big programs or ask for any shared sacrifice from the American people.”

Krugman’s response: "[A]nyone who is really serious about the budget should be focusing mainly on health care. And by focusing, I don’t mean writing down a number and expecting someone else to make that number happen — a dodge known in the trade as a 'magic asterisk.' I mean getting behind specific actions to rein in costs."

More: "What would real action on health look like? Well, it might include things like giving an independent commission the power to ensure that Medicare only pays for procedures with real medical value; rewarding health care providers for delivering quality care rather than simply paying a fixed sum for every procedure; limiting the tax deductibility of private insurance plans; and so on. And what do these things have in common? They’re all in last year’s health reform bill."

Bad boys, whatcha gonna do…: “Federal authorities charged more than 100 doctors, nurses, and physical therapists in nine cities with Medicare fraud yesterday, part of a massive nationwide bust that snared more suspects than any other in history,” the AP says. More than 700 law enforcement agents fanned out to arrest dozens of people accused of illegally billing Medicare more than $225 million. The arrests are the latest in a string of major busts in the past two years as authorities have struggled to pare the fraud that is believed to cost the government between $60 billion and $90 billion each year. Stopping Medicare’s budget from hemorrhaging that money will be key to paying for President Obama’s health care overhaul.”

In his latest National Journal column, Charlie Cook writes, "If there were any lingering doubts about whether President Obama got the memo on the midterm elections, they were resolved on Monday when the White House released its fiscal 2012 budget. Conservatives and Republicans certainly had much to fault, but it was the Democratic base that wasn’t feeling the love on Cupid’s day. Obama’s budget may not recommend the deepest domestic spending cuts by any Democratic president in history, but it comes close. It is an austere budget, one that marks a reversal of some White House positions just a few months old."