5:26 PM, Mar 2, 2015 • By IKE BRANNON
On Friday, congressional Republicans appointed Keith Hall to become the next director of the Congressional Budget Office. The announcement ended a careful two-month process that involved figuring out how to fill the position with a competent and credible individual, but without giving Democrats ammunition to decry any appointee as a partisan hack.
Hardly anyone dislikes outgoing CBO director Doug Elmendorf, which is no small achievement in this town. He's a well-respected economist and someone who strived to play it down the middle. However, the perception among Republicans was that when push came to shove in the melee over the Affordable Care Act, he caved and gave the Democrats what they wanted, a score that allowed Nancy Pelosi to state with a straight face that Obamacare represented the biggest deficit reduction legislation in the history of Congress, a grotesque absurdity if there ever was one. That's what precluded Elmendorf's reappointment more than anything else.
Hall meets the mockable standards of Peter Orszag and Paul Krugman that the next CBO director be a respected academic who's not part of any cabal. He ran BLS for a few years, did a fine job, and was extremely well-liked by the staff, despite their inherent Democratic leanings. He eschewed the Hill or a consulting firm after Obama took over, and instead decamped to the Mercatus Center, a relatively low-profile think tank in Virginia, which I take as an indication of his dedication to his discipline.
The main issue, as one aspirant of the job explained to me earlier this week, isn't just in the power of the CBO director to abet dynamic scoring but more in his ability to make other appointments at the office. The directors of the various divisions--budget, macroeconomic analysis, tax, and health care in particular--have great power, and it can be difficult for a director to overrule them. Putting in a reliable partisan--which has been done many times before--can make life quite difficult for the other party for many years after a partisan director has departed.
Hall has been in this milieu long enough that he knows who he can trust to do a "just the facts" analysis and who's likely to work with the Democratic staff on the sly to help them get what they need, when they need it. It's something many of the other candidates--especially the beyond-the-beltway economists--couldn't be relied on to do.
Tax reform will sink or swim on its own, regardless of the CBO director and whatever form of dynamic scoring that is ultimately adopted, but it will be difficult for Democrats to accuse Keith Hall of being a partisan hack and getting away with it when he says something they don't agree with. At the same time he's reasonable enough to expect that he'll say things that will displease Republicans as well from time to time.
Republicans could have done a lot worse.
Jul 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 40 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On June 19, President Barack Obama delivered a lengthy speech in Berlin, in front of the Brandenburg Gate. The shades of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan surely wept.
10:33 AM, Jun 4, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
A big part of Obamacare is its massive expansion of Medicaid. Fortunately, this expansion can’t happen in most states without Republicans freely choosing to make it happen. Unfortunately, far too many Republican governors seem to be confused about the distinction between repealing Obamacare and implementing it.
6:48 AM, Jun 4, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
On Monday, CNBC reported on a new survey that found that two-thirds of Americans currently without health insurance don't know if they will purchase coverage by the deadline, the first day of 2014. The survey was released by InsuranceQuotes.com, a company that offers comparison shopping for insurance, similar to the "marketplaces" envisioned by Obamacare. The results of the survey surprised Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at the company:
1:30 PM, Oct 19, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
In yet another classic Obama administration Friday night news dump, the administration abandoned the CLASS Act last week. The progam was a major component of the Obamacare law, intended to address long-term care issues. While long-term care costs are a significant problem, the CLASS Act was a disingenous budget gimmick from the start.
Non-toxic?11:29 AM, Apr 8, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
White House advisor Paul Volcker made news this week by calling a value-added tax (VAT) "not as toxic an idea" as it's been in the past for tackling the nation's deficit problem. Today, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed he's been getting "a lot of questions" about the VAT tax from Congress.
6:36 PM, Mar 18, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
The CBO’s most recent analysis is out, and it’s not likely to convince wavering House Democrats to jump to the Obamacare side of the fence. Even the Democrats are granting that the latest version of their proposed health care overhaul would cost $69 billion more than the previous version. According to the CBO, this version would siphon even more money out of Medicare, make even further cuts to Medicare Advantage, and levy even higher taxes and fines on the American people.
Why all eyes are on the lefty Firedoglake.5:38 PM, Mar 17, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
I have no idea what Firedoglake means, but I do know it's an influential left-wing website that hosts one of the better health care reform whip counts. As Byron York reports:
Republicans feel it is accurate, particularly in this sense: They believe that no Democratic lawmaker who is definitely planning to vote yes on the bill would want the activists on the left, in this case exemplified by Firedoglake, to believe he or she is still undecided. Why take a beating for nothing?
The current count at FDL is 205 Yes, 209 No, including leaners. That jibes with other whip counts showing health care reform's future up for grabs.
A major factor in the upcoming vote is the CBO score of the reconciliation bill. The number isn't out yet, not because math is hard but because Democrats are manipulating the numbers to get a good result. Yet word is spreading that health care reform's price-tag is still tremendously expensive. As the saying goes: Know hope.
A certain famous liberal columnist.8:35 AM, Mar 11, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Michael Kinsley on inflation in the new Atlantic:
My specific concern is nothing original: it’s just the national debt. Yawn and turn the page here if you’d like. We talk now of trillions, not yesterday’s hundreds of billions. It’s not Obama’s fault. He did what he had to do. However, Obama is president, and Democrats do control Congress. So it’s their responsibility, even if it’s not their fault. And no one in a position to act has proposed a realistic way out of this debt, not even in theory. The Republicans haven’t. The Obama administration hasn’t. Come to think of it, even Paul Krugman hasn’t. Presidential adviser David Axelrod, writing in The Washington Post, says that Obama has instructed his agency heads to go through the budget “page by page, line by line, to eliminate what we don’t need to help pay for what we do.” So they’ve had more than a year and haven’t yet discovered the line in the budget reading “Stuff We Don’t Need, $3.2 trillion.”
The Wisconsin congressman on tax policy.6:42 PM, Mar 10, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future would drastically overhaul the American welfare state in a free-market direction. The Congressional Budget Office says it would solve the entitlements crisis through a series of changes to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. The Roadmap also includes a fundamental tax reform -- one that Ryan says, and the CBO assumes, would bring in revenues equivalent to the long-term historical average of 19-percent of GDP. Two new studies dispute that figure, however. I talked to Ryan this evening to get his response.
The U.S. tax code is unsustainable.12:00 AM, Jan 15, 2010 • By J.T. YOUNG
Last year’s unsurprisingly dismal budget numbers contain a surprising revenue story. While overall federal revenue fell precipitously, payroll tax revenue barely dipped at all. This divergent tale of two taxes has one conclusion but many implications. America’s tax system, decidedly tilted toward upper income earners, is precariously balanced. It is not only volatile in economic downturns – it is unsustainable long term.
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