"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
Note: An Intolerant Secular Creed
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
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 Medicaid coverage.
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. Sinai.
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."
Consider again Obamacare's individual
mandate. President Barack Obama opposed an individual mandate while campaigning in 2008, but saw the light later when the CBO started scoring
A 2009 memo written by then-White House health adviser
Nancy-Ann DeParle informed the president, "Based on our policy analysis, we believe that a weak requirement for all Americans to have insurance
may come close to achieving the maximum coverage that can be achieved through aggressive outreach and auto-enrollment. Unfortunately, however, the
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will likely take the position that without an individual responsibility requirement, half of the uninsured will be
Following this memo, Obama chose to substitute the
CBO's policy judgment for his own. The individual mandate became a pillar of the largest policy change in a generation.
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.
Op-ed originally published in the Washington Examiner
Click here to watch video
Issue in Focus: SHUSH!
If you’ve ever looked
outside an airplane window before takeoff, you’ve see ground maintenance personnel wearing protective earmuffs. That’s because the sound
of a jet engine taking off, 150 decibels, is loud enough to rupture your eardrum.
The sound of a rifle being shot is an even louder 165 decibels, which is why hunters, sportsmen, and marksmen like to firearm suppressors to
lower the volume of their shots.
But suppressors don’t work like
they do in the movies. You can’t make an AR-15 as quiet as using a stapler. At most a suppressor can lower the sound of a rifle shot by about 35
decibels, down to about 130 decibels, about the same sound level as a chainsaw.
Nobody is going to sneak away from anybody with a chainsaw going full blast, but at least their eardrums won’t burst.
Unfortunately the federal government treats suppressors just as oppressively as they treat
actual firearm sales. To buy a silencer a citizen must complete two copies of ATF Form 4, fill out TF Form 5330.20, obtain a certification from a
local chief law enforcement officer, obtain two copies of finger prints, obtain two passport photos, and mail all of these items plus a $200 check to
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Even after doing all that, the approved Form 4 won’t come back for 9-12 months.
This is a ridiculous, unnecessary, and oppressive process which only hurts the eardrums of
millions of hunters, sportsmen, and marksmen every year.
That is why Sen.
Mike Crapo (R-ID) and I have introduced the Silencers Helping Us Save Hearing Act of 2017 (SHUSH). The bill would eliminate all federal regulation
– including taxes, fees, and registration requirements – of firearm suppressors.
Unlike the Hearing Protection Act, a competing suppressor bill, SHUSH does not create a new federal background check for firearm
accessories. The federal government knows enough about us already, another federal database isn’t going to help anyone.
Firearm suppressors are not lethal. You can’t kill anyone with one. And they do not turn
criminals into James Bond like in the movies. They do make a perfectly legal sport more safe for millions of Americans and SHUSH will make it easier
for Americans to protect themselves.