Thursday, June 23, 2011

CBO: We Don't Estimate Speeches

A couple weeks back, I blogged about President Obama's persistent failure to offer any specific budget leadership, let alone an actual plan to address the deficit.
As you may recall, the President had initially proposed a budget for 2012---after having failed to pass a budget for 2011 with his party in control of both houses of Congress1---that actually increased the deficit and failed to include any serious entitlement reforms or revenue increases. Later in the spring, Congressman Paul Ryan proposed an alternative budget the would substantially lower the deficit and make serious changes to the Medicare program. In response, President Obama made arrangements to make a major speech on the budget in which, it was supposed, he would offer a new budget proposal in response to the Ryan plan. Instead, the President offered only vague statements about "reducing the cost of health care itself" and cutting "spending in the tax code." He could not bring himself to utter the phrase "raise taxes" let alone write actual legislation to enact his policy priorities.

Whatever the merits of Paul Ryan's budget, he at least put a serious plan on the table to address impending budget crisis. The President and his allies in Congress may complain all they want, but they have yet to offer an alternative. The Democratic-controlled Senate did not even debate budget legislation last year, and it has, so far, refused to do so this year. It even rejected consideration of President Obama's February budget proposal 97-0.
Daniel Foster links to a video showing Paul Ryan asking Doug Elmendorf, the chairman of the Congressional Budget Office and a well-respected economist who has held senior policy analysis positions under both Republican and Democratic leadership, if the CBO has scored (i.e. estimated the budget impact of) the fiscal "framework" described in President Obama's speech at GW.  Elmendorf replied, "We don't estimate speeches."

Here is a snippet of the exchange. It's totally worth the 27 seconds:

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