Congressional bad news office

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

The Congressional Budget Office has been on fire today, indiscriminately laying waste to lefties and righties alike.

Don’t believe me? Then you’ve been as selective in your reading as a trial lawyer. Or a broadcast journalist.

As House Republicans rattled their sabers ahead of another potential debt ceiling showdown, the White House can point to the CBO report that reveals a budget deficit at its lowest point since Obama took office. The nonpartisan eggheads point to a surging economy, improving employment numbers and higher tax revenues as being responsible for federal deficit falling to 3 percent of GDP.

(I’ve suspected the hype over the national debt far exceeded the reality, but as we learned long ago, if you say something enough, people will believe it.)

But before Democrats get too giddy, the CBO sounded a pretty damning alarm of some “unadvertised” costs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. As in, a loss of more than 2 million jobs and an extra $1 trillion tacked on to that (for now) shrinking deficit by 2017.

The White House pushed back, of course, claiming a lot of those workers would simply choose to work less. Because, you know, that would make it OK.

Either way, another $1 trillion in debt effectively doubles what we owe everyone else, so while things are looking better now, we’re in for a rude awakening later. Is it me, or does that sound like politics in general?

On a related note, the CBO also pointed out that the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov would end up costing the program about a million new enrollees as the agency scaled back its early forecast of 7 million signups.

Finally, the CBO nerds figured out that PPACA’s risk corridor provisions – ridiculed as insurance company bailouts by the right and already targeted by the GOP in early debt ceiling talks – now will actually make the government about $8 billion between 2015 and 2017

That being said, CBO director Doug Elmendorf told The Hill that his agency hadn’t looked at the effects of repeal on the risk corridor program.

“That does not mean that repealing the risk corridor program would cost the government $8 billion,” he said.

The CBO – despite harboring the best of intentions and clinging to the last vestiges of objectivity in the Beltway – remain stuck in the nasty business of making predictions. It’s a dangerous business, especially if you’re making those proclamations from the middle, leaving you vulnerable to attacks on both sides. And, trust me, I know a little something about that.

That’s not to say they don’t do the best they can, but when you’re crunching numbers handed to you by the most biased of mathematicians, it makes hitting that moving target a little more than tricky.

But, when it comes to predicting the future, I’ve long since deferred to one of my personal heroes, Winston Churchill, who declared, “I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place.”

About the Author
Denis Storey

Denis Storey

Denis Storey is editor for BenefitsPro.com and Benefits Selling magazine. He can be reached at dstorey@benefitspro.com.


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