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Situational Love for the CBO

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"Situational Love for the CBO"

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Hero of conservatism, destroyer of budgetary balance.

Hero of conservatism, destroyer of budgetary balance.

Sam Stein has a very good item on the right’s situational affection for Congressional Budget Office scores:

When the CBO predicted in 2004 that Bush’s new tax and spending proposals would produce deficits of $2.75 trillion over ten years, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget declared that ”even CBO would admit we don’t honestly know what these numbers will look like 10 years from now.”

That same year, the Bush administration pushed forward with its plans for Medicare Part D despite the fact that its internal cost estimates were $139 billion more than those offered by the CBO. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee had worked diligently to defeat the attempts of their Democratic colleagues to make those estimates public.

In a similar vein, conservatives were beside themselves when the CBO refused to run the 2004 Bush tax cuts through various economic models to see if the government could, in the end, make money by stimulating spending. Rather, the CBO used a “static” method and found $1.2 trillion worth of deficits through the next decade. Republicans, naturally, largely ignored the findings.

Keep that in mind when you hear Republicans saying that the CBO estimates of the House health care bill ought to deal them some kind of death blow. The larger issue, however, isn’t situational love for the CBO so much as it is situational regard for budgetary balance. When Republicans ran the show they gleefully put wars, tax cuts, Pentagon budget increases, and even Medicare expansion on the national credit card.

That said, annoying as conservative hypocrisy on this score is, it doesn’t burn me nearly as much as “centrist” hypocrisy does. When you see a moderate Democrat who didn’t mind voting for the Bush tax cuts—Ben Nelson or Max Baucus say—now worrying that the country doesn’t have the money to make health care affordable, then you really need to wonder where their priorities are.

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