Still looking for someone else to blame

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Column by Jim Flynn

The mission of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is to provide nonpartisan analyses of government proposals, as well as information and estimates for the Congressional budget process. The CBO has been very busy lately, after two and a half years during which Congress and the White House were doing unlimited spending and not bothering with fussy budgets.
CBO takes no political positions. Simply stated, CBO calls ‘em as it sees ‘em. They make every effort to maintain their reputation for impartiality.
CBO is not an umpire, not a score keeper, not even a statistician. Congress has other agencies that perform those functions, such as the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Research Services.
Give the CBO a set of tax-spend-and-borrow numbers, and their computers will project consequences based on current law and practices. Therein lies a problem not caused by CBO. Current law and practices are subject to interpretation and twisting in the ever-shifting winds of political power and bureaucratic convenience.
Some news people and politicians have expressed concern that the accuracy of CBO’s past projections are not the right information on which to be making budget, debt and deficit decisions. A reasonable response is to ask where else we might find impartial assessments of the latest lunacies to emerge from Congress and the White House?
CBO has indeed projected deficits and surpluses which never happened. Their projections were accurate in the moment in which they were issued. But as soon as the numbers were belched out of the CBO computers, Congress, the White House, and numerous federal bureaucracies began making changes.
CBO is not a crystal-ball agency. Their projections are like trip-ticks from AAA. CBO says: “If you go down the road outlined in the numbers you gave us, here’s where you’re likely to end up.” They should add “Air bags and seatbelts recommended.”
Criticism of the long-range accuracy of CBO numbers is the latest rationale for not making what big spenders call “sudden and unwise policy changes.” Translation: The debt and deficit legislation passed recently by Congress and signed by the president should have been put off until they had more information – in other words until after the next election, indefinitely, or never, whichever comes last.
In the meantime argue the critics, what’s needed are new budget priorities, new tax revenue, new investments toward economic growth in the future – more taxes, more borrowing, and more spending.
More spending has been tried already, nine trillion dollars in bailouts, most of which went into the stock market, not job creation, and eight hundred billion in stimulus money which saved a lot of public and union employees, but it didn’t create any new jobs.
The mantra we’ll hear for the foreseeable future is “Don’t pay attention to those scary numbers out of the CBO computers.
Trust us until after the next election and we’ll make all things right in the here and hereafter.” Our response is not “Amen.” It’s “BS” (meaning more baloney stuffing).