Friday, January 7, 2011

Budgeting for Obamacare Repeal

The 112th Congress is off to a roaring start, now that the remaining two Republicans have finally been sworn in (or something like it). So how should we evaluate the work that the new Congress is doing? Megan McArdle's budget advice to legislators provides a nice standard for judging whether the new Congress is doing its job:
We need politicians who think about these things the way a financially sound family thinks about their budget. First, [sic] they prioritize the absolute essentials: food, shelter, transportation, utilities. Then they think about everything else in the context of building a sustainable overall budget--where the first priority is making sure that the whole budget balances, and works together. No matter how nice things like music lessons or restaurant meals may be, they are subordinate to the need to keep spending sustainable.
Is the 112th Congress approaching their budget in a way commensurate with the principles of a financially strapped family? A family looks at their estimated income and recorded expenses in an attempt to project a reasonable fiscal path into the future. This is actually pretty easy for legislators to do because they have an agency which does this for them. Non-political professionals at the Congressional Budget Office provide this analysis to politicians whenever a bill is proposed.

Instead of acting like our model family, Congressional Republicans are simply ignoring the CBO report, attacking the office for doing its job. In John Boehner's words, "I simply do not believe that [repeal]... will add to the deficit." If he were to read the report, however, he might come to a different conclusion. The GOP doesn't want to acknowledge that the first substantive bill they will introduce in the House would raise the federal deficit by $770 billion so they are attempting to kill the messenger. Republicans have routinely attacked "the reality based community" over the past decade when Republican ideology is contradicted by evidence. And I'm sure that they will continue to do so. Don't expect much respect for the analysis that the Obamacare repeal would kill millions of jobs.

Taking in evidence and trusting expert analysis is a prerequisite of creating a budet for a family or the country. That is what parents do when they make and follow family budgets. The Republicans are acting instead like teenagers. If they're not going to take their responsibilities seriously, it may be time to ground them.

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