Tale of Two Cites
So House Democrats are discovering anew. Just five days ago Speaker Pelosi vented her frustration with the CBO for its sky high projection for health care reform:
“The CBO will always give you the worst-case scenario on one initiative and never a best case,” she told reporters on June 18, referring to the nonpartisan budget committee, whose cost projections may make or break the legislation.
As such, she would rather the debate use the more tractable OMB’s numbers. But in Monday, however, they were only too happy to tout the CBO report that found “modest” cost hikes for citizens from the Democrats’ greenhouse gas bill:
“This analysis underscores that this legislation is effective and affordable,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., one of the climate bill’s chief sponsors, said Monday.
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., also a leading co-sponsor, compared the cost to “a postage stamp a day” and not the economic catastrophe suggested by the bill’s opponents.
It helps their argument that they’re passing over the near-term projections and focusing on the projections for 2020, a projection so far into the future that no-one seriously believes it means anything.
The real truth is that CBO estimates are simply one set of educated guesses. They certainly aren’t holy writ, nor extraordinarily accurate. At best they provide a reasonably consistent benchmark against which to measure programs that are actually put into place. As such, if we’re going to use them at all, we should use them even when their results aren’t to our liking.