This is the spirit of the political moment: The bland, straightforward, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office comes under venomous attack for issuing estimates that the new powers-that-be find unavailing.
The glaring headline conclusion of the CBO’s report on the proposed Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act was that 24 million more Americans would go without health insurance by 2026.
Of course, Democrats touted the results to make their point that repeal will be destructive. But the analysis was far from beneficial to one side.
For one thing, the GOP plan would cut $337 billion from the federal deficit over time, it said. Better yet, the bill would cut federal spending overall by $1.2 trillion, given projected cuts to Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies.
For another, average premiums for those buying insurance on their own would drop below current rates, though after rising for a couple of years.
Besides, if the government stops forcing an insurance mandate on the public, doesn’t it makes sense the total number of those covered would decline, whatever alternatives the new law offers?
Despite those gray areas, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a loyal if quirky surrogate for the Trump administration, went nuclear on the CBO.
“They should abolish the Congressional Budget Office. It is corrupt. It is dishonest. It was totally wrong on Obamacare by huge, huge margins,” Gingrich said. “I don’t trust a single word they have published, and I don’t believe them.”
Sure, the CBO is said to have overestimated the number of those who’d get government-subsidized coverage by now.
But huge margins? Corrupt? Dishonest?
Well, that’s probably just a bit of unfounded smearing for the cameras, D.C. swamp-style.
Ironically, the CBO’s executive director Keith Hall was selected partly on the recommendation of Tom Price, who was then House Budget Committee chairman and is now President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary.
“Keith Hall will bring an impressive level of economic expertise and experience to the Congressional Budget Office,” Price said in a 2015 statement announcing the appointment. “His vast understanding of economic and labor market policy will be invaluable to the work of CBO and the important role it will continue to play.”
Republican Senate leaders also signed off on Hall’s hiring, given his profile as a market-oriented conservative economist.
On Monday, however, Price disputed the report and called its estimate of the millions to be uninsured “just not believable.” And efforts to discredit CBO in anticipation of a “bad score,” as the insiders call it, began earlier.
The listener is left to wonder how a small, sober office led by someone with a “vast understanding of labor market policy” — in Price’s words — could suddenly meet Gingrich’s considered standards for “corrupt” and “dishonest.”
All this occurs with the president making his salesman-like promises of great things ahead.
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” he told The Washington Post in January. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”
Insurance, he vowed, “will be much less expensive and much better.”