August 4, 2017
"to elevate the condition of
men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the
paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered
start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln
Chairman's Note: Make the CBO
Show Their Work
When Democrats passed Obamacare
on a party-line vote in March 2010, the Congressional Budget
Office estimated that by 2016, 21 million people would receive
health insurance through the law's exchanges. In reality, just 10
million people did.
The CBO's model was off by more
than 100 percent.
The same CBO estimate predicted
that Medicaid would grow by 17 million enrollees to about 52
million. In reality, more than 34 million people have signed up
for Medicaid since Obamacare became law, for a total of 74.5
million recipients today.
Again, the CBO's model was off by
around 100 percent.
Now the CBO wants us to believe,
based on the same models, that just repealing Obamacare's
individual mandate, without a single dime's worth of cuts to
Medicaid, would cause more than 7 million people to abandon their
There are good reasons to be
skeptical of the quality of healthcare that lower-income
Americans receive through Medicaid, but why would 7 million
voluntarily give up Medicaid coverage they receive for free?
These CBO projections, and others like it, strain the boundaries
of common sense.
When it comes to topics like the
effectiveness of the individual mandate, there are sharp
disagreements among experts. That's why, in the academic
community, scholars have to "show their work" by publicly
disclosing their data, estimates, and analysis to scholarly
scrutiny, and most importantly, refinement and improvement.
Congress does need a scorekeeper
to provide budgetary estimates for the policy changes it
considers. But at a bare minimum, that scorekeeper should be
forced to show how its models work. Currently the CBO doesn't
have to do that. It's a "black box," a secret formula even
Congress can't be allowed to see, yet which the House and Senate
must treat as if they were handed down on stone tablets at Mt.
It's an indefensible situation.
That is why I have introduced the
CBO Show Your Work Act of 2017. This bill would require the CBO
to publish its data, models, and all details of computation used
in its cost analysis and scoring. CBO would keep its role as
official scorekeeper of congressional budget proposals - but now
the public and the economic community would be able to see what's
going on in all those spreadsheets and algorithms.
That is, it would hold CBO to the
same standard the American Economic Association's "Data
Availability Policy" sets for all academic economists: requiring
all paper authors to ensure their data "are readily available to
any researcher for purposes of replication."
Policymakers need data and data
analysis to do their jobs. But to do their jobs well, they need
the best analysis. And centuries of practical experience tell us
that transparency and replicability are essential to the pursuit
and acquisition of knowledge. There is simply no serious argument
for insulating the most influential economic modelers in the
United States from the academic standards that govern everyone
from Nobel Prize-winning physicists to second graders "carrying
the one" as they learn long addition.
We can do better as a Congress
and a nation. We are never going to agree on what the best
healthcare, tax, or energy policies should be. But when we make
our arguments about the costs and benefits of our preferred
policies, we should at least be willing to explain how and why
our policies would work.
Making the CBO show its own work
would be a great first step.
A version of this op-ed first
appeared in The Washington Examiner.
Reducing Fire Fuel Loads in Our
Click here to watch video
Issue in Focus: Child Tax Credit
For many years, the federal tax
code has unfairly penalized married couples for having and
Under current law, workers pay
payroll taxes in order to fund old-age entitlement programs like
Social Security and Medicaid. Working parents pay these taxes
like everyone else while also making large investments in their
The average middle-income family
spends nearly $250,000 to raise a child to age 17, according to
the Department of Agriculture. And that hefty sum does not
include the cost of a college education.
This situation is unfair to
hard-working parents, who in effect contribute twice to old-age
entitlement programs: First through direct tax payments, and
second through rearing the next generation of payroll-tax
I have worked hard for years to
eliminate this "Parent Tax Penalty." The core of my proposal is
an expanded Child Tax Credit, as outlined in the Economic Growth
and Family Fairness Tax Reform Plan that I co-authored with Sen.
Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Currently, the tax code includes
a Child Tax Credit worth up to $1,000 per qualifying child. Our
proposal would increase this tax credit to $2,500 per qualifying
child, credited against the sum of parents' income tax and
payroll tax liabilities.
This week, more evidence came to
light confirming that this proposal would bring valuable relief
to working families in Utah and across the country.
A new analysis by the Sutherland
Institute found that "the Rubio-Lee proposal will bring
significant economic benefits to low-to-middle-income and/or
rural counties" where large families are common. Those areas
include Utah, the Sunbelt, parts of Idaho, and the Pacific
The expanded Child Tax Credit
would benefit all working parents, but it would be valuable
especially to low- and middle-income parents as a percentage of
their income. While a $2,500 credit is helpful relief to the
family making $250,000, it is much more valuable to the family
making $50,000 a year.
The Sutherland Institute
confirmed this common-sense understanding of our proposal. It
found that an expanded Child Tax Credit would have a relatively
greater economic impact "in lower-to-middle-income counties
(measured by AGI) . . . than in higher-income counties," as
measured by percentage of aggregate gross income.
Overall, the analysis concluded
that the expanded Child Tax Credit "both strengthens families and
encourages economic equality."
Congress should take that finding
to heart as it begins the necessary work of fixing the nation's
unfair tax code. Too many families are paying too much under the
current code. We owe them a better deal for their hard work.
361A Russell Senate
Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett
125 South State,
Salt Lake City, UT
Office of Senator
Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle,
St. George, UT 84770
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