In Congress, the voodoo they do with numbers is already bad enough. Let’s not give license to partisan lawmakers to fiddle with what are and must be utterly nonpartisan numbers on the budget.
The Republican majority in the U.S. House has passed a new budget accounting rule that mandates the two nonpartisan offices that keep track of budget matters to adopt a favorite GOP notion, dynamic scoring.
The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation must “incorporate the macroeconomic effects” of “major” tax or mandatory spending legislation when they develop official cost estimates.
Just give us the numbers, please, and keep the ideological blather at home.
Republicans believe that “static” analysis of the budget does not capture the full positive effect of tax cuts — the Republican policy in good times and in bad, without exception. They were particularly aggrieved at a CBO that called the numbers on “Obamacare” like an umpire should, independently of the White House and Capitol Hill.
We remain, as we have been for years, skeptical of dynamic scoring.
It is not that estimates cannot be made of the impact, say, of a higher gasoline tax discouraging purchases in future years. But we’ve seen time and again that boosters of tax cuts will argue that the economy is stimulated by cuts, no matter what the current rate of taxation is. A former Republican president once called this “voodoo economics,” and he was right.
Until this House GOP maneuver, there was no rule against estimates from CBO and the Joint Committee that reflect analysts’ views of the impact, but the base number was the base number. Republicans and Democrats could then argue over their ideological notions, but they could not fix the umpire’s calls.
America’s economy obviously is of such enormous scope that the more leeway given to macroeconomic estimates in the budget, the greater the likelihood that Congress will get policy even more wrong than they have lately.
Further, the GOP should reflect on how politicizing the budget numbers can work against them. What if the CBO projects enormous levels of growth from President Barack Obama’s budget-busting plan to provide free community college tuition for millions? That would be dynamic scoring in favor of what we see as reckless new spending; under the House rule, a future GOP minority might be stuck with the CBO estimates in a way they don’t like.
Let’s have the real numbers, not the imaginary ones.