We now have a pattern on our hands. When the math behind Barack Obama’s health care plans doesn’t work, Obama attacks math. Now, he doesn’t do it directly. He gets Peter Orzsag to debase his intellect for Obama’s political ends. First, he did it with the IMF score. Then this week he pressured the CBO scorers early this week after their math provided defeat after defeat to his healthcare dreams. And then this weekend, Orzsag has attacked Doug Elmendorf, the CBO director.
Case 1: The IMF. At a G-20 meeting earlier this year, Barack Obama came away empty-handed. The only success was to send money to the IMF. $100b. This wasn’t going to pass on its own, so they attached it to the Supplemental that paid for our troops. And claimed that $100b leaving the treasury costs nothing. According to the Politico, Orzsag had a totally unprecedented meeting with the OMB scorers putting political pressure on them to cook the books. Only a little comment at the time. Oh … and no one bought Orzsag’s nonsense, and the amount became a focus of attention as a bailout of European banks.
Case 2: CBO Whitehouse meeting. Earlier this week, the President meant with the Director of the CBO. According to Jake Tapper, there was a lot of pushback against the unprecedented nature of the meeting:
Said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky: "I noticed that the CBO director was sort of called down to the White House yesterday. It strikes me as somewhat akin as the owner of the team asking the umpires to come up to the owner’s box."
McConnell said that "if the CBO is to have credibility, they’re the umpire. They’re not players in this game."
CBO is tasked with providing “objective, nonpartisan, and timely analyses to aid in economic and budgetary decisions on the wide array of programs covered by the federal budget.”
Case 3: Keith Hennessey puts it nicely, "CBO Kills the President’s Medicare Comission Proposal". You see, the CBO found that Obama’s great plan to limit costs was to create a commission only saved $2b. One half of one percent of the total cost. So what happens? Orzsag goes after Elmendorff in all but name:
A final note is worth underscoring. As a former CBO director, I can attest that CBO is sometimes accused of a bias toward exaggerating costs and underestimating savings. Unfortunately, parts of today’s analysis from CBO could feed that perception. For example, and without specifying precisely how the various modifications would work, CBO somehow concluded that the council could "eventually achieve annual savings equal to several percent of Medicare spending…[which] would amount to tens of billions of dollars per year after 2019." Such savings are welcome (and rare!), but it is also the case that (for good reason) CBO has restricted itself to qualitative, not quantitative, analyses of long-term effects from legislative proposals. In providing a quantitative estimate of long-term effects without any analytical basis for doing so, CBO seems to have overstepped.
What is going on is crystal clear. The CBO is not caving to extended political pressure. After weeks of Pelosi "scolding" and Baucus aides "expressing frustration" it has come to open attacks on the CBO, its director, and the institution’s integrity.
Well. I have to say, finally Barack Obama is bringing change I can believe in. Chicago-style change.