Don't Overestimate the Congressional Budget Office
I hope people have read Lori Montgomery's excellent profile of Doug Elmendorf, the new director of the Congressional Budget Office. After all, if I've not convinced you folks of the importance of the CBO, I probably haven't convinced you of anything. But I do want to echo Elmendorf on this point:
"CBO is not going to make or break health-care reform," Elmendorf said in an interview. "Whether health-care reform happens depends on the judgment of members of Congress. We'll provide information that helps them make that judgment. But the decisions are theirs."
For all the concern over the precise nature of CBO's estimates, that's exactly right. As I argued in my introduction to the CBO, the CBO is an responsible economic analysis agency operating inside an irresponsible Congress. Everyone knows its mandate and its limitations. Its estimates are, by definition, conservative, because the CBO can only give you numbers based on old ideas that we've tried and studied, not new ideas that we're preparing to implement. As a senator once said to me, it's like a navigator who tells you where you're going by staring into the rearview mirror.
Members of Congress knows all this. If they think health-care reform is worth it, they'll vote to pass the legislation. If they don't, they won't. The CBO's judgments matter for budgetary reasons. But passage will be a function of the Congress's judgment, not the CBO's estimate.
Posted by: Mike_Russo | June 11, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse
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