Ezra Klein has a good thorough take down of the GOP’s attacks against the CBO, which I’ve tried to present in video form below. Basically, Republicans are trying to argue that the CBO numbers are invalid because Democrats fooled the agency with legislative trickery. Rather than reducing the deficit by $138 billion, the bill increases the deficit by shifting the spending to 2013, double counting savings and leaving the sustainable growth rate unfixed.
Now say what you will about the CBO and the process of scoring, but it’s fairly clear that the Democrats invested a lot of time in playing by the rules and working with the agency to actually pay for reform. As Klein explains, “Democrats changed their legislation so the subsidies grew more slowly over time and the excise tax would grow faster. In other words, CBO said that they’d need to do hard things their constituents wouldn’t like if they wanted to cut the deficit more, and they did them.”
They did all this because the CBO is, for better or for worse, the non partisan arbitrer of cost. Don’t believe me? Just ask Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Here he is explaining why CBO is GOD:
- “I say all the time that CBO is God around here, because policy lives and dies by CBO’s word. Like the Bible, a CBO document can mean different things to different people and it’s easy to pull things out in isolation to justify a position. I hope everyone will take the full picture into account before rushing to judgment.” [March 6, 2006]
- “Do you question the work of the CBO and JCT? Well you shouldn’t because they’re like God around here.” [December 9, 2009]
Watch a compilation of Grassley’s remarks, followed by GOP attacks on the CBO:
So to be clear, after insisting that health care reform must not add to the deficit, Republicans are responding to the bill’s deficit reductions by arguing that CBO’s scores can’t be trusted because 1) they don’t score provisions Democrats excluded and 2) Democrats are feeding legislation that is tricking the models to produce deficit reductions. The argument has descended into the bizarre with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) asking the CBO to include the SGR fix — a provision not part of health care reform — in the deficit projections. No word yet on whether he’s asked them to calculate the cost of purchasing candy for every child in America.