by Max Brantley
The New York Times delves deeper today into Congressional Budget Office estimates on the deficit-reducing prospects for health care reform and Republicans' rejection of same. It is worth remembering that the CBO's status as an independent arbiter was conferred by Republicans during the Newt Gingrich-led shutdown during the Clinton years. Now that they don't like the CBO numbers, the agency suddenly isn't trustworthy any more.
The director of the budget office, Douglas W. Elmendorf, is the first to acknowledge that there are many uncertainties around the projections. But he has also defended the agency’s numbers in public forums and numerous meetings with lawmakers and Congressional staff.
Mr. Elmendorf has stressed that the budget office used the “middle distribution of likely outcomes,” meaning that the health care law is just as likely to save the government more money as it is to cost more.
“Assessing the effects of making broad changes in the nation’s health care and health insurance systems — or of reversing scheduled changes — requires assumptions about a broad array of technical, behavioral and economic factors,” Mr. Elmendorf wrote in his report Thursday giving the preliminary estimate of the cost of repealing the law. Some of the Republicans’ criticisms are based on the longstanding budget scoring rules and conventions, like measuring the financial effects of legislation in a limited 10-year window. While spending will ramp up sharply after the first 10 years, the budget office says, the savings and revenue from taxes will accelerate even faster.