Here's Just How Much the CBO Stinks at Projecting Things

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

President Donald Trump speaks during a “Namaste Trump,” event at Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Ahmedabad, India. Basking in adulation from a massive, colorful crowd, Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi lavished each other with praise Monday in a reaffirmation of U.S.-India ties as the subcontinent poured on the pageantry in a joyful welcome for the U.S. president. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


The new February Jobs Report was released this morning and it showed a massive haul of 273,000 new jobs added. This beat “expectations” by almost 100,000 jobs as the unemployment rate also dropped to just 3.5%. I covered that story this morning if you haven’t read it yet.

On the topic of expectations and estimates, I came across another data point relating to the latest jobs report that is truly mind-blowing, but perhaps not that surprising if you’ve been paying attention.

Remember those doomsday-esque Congressional Budget Office projections during the 2016 cycle which attempted to show that a Trump presidency would dramatically slow the economy and job growth?

Yeah, about that.

Now, I’m not suggesting the CBO can’t make mistakes, but perhaps their continued run at being terrible at their jobs, is a sign they should do it less? That’s especially true when it comes to long term projections.

Their “reports” have real effects on elections and whether laws pass, yet time and time again they end up totally wrong. For instance, the very first piece I ever wrote at RedState (back when I was a humble diarist) laid out how badly they screwed up the projections about Obamacare and the replacement bill Republicans were currently trying to pass.


What the above means is that CBO decided to try to grade the Obamacare repeal bill against already outdated and false projections they had made previously for Obamacare. They also made the ridiculous assumption that repealing the individual mandate would automatically mean all 16 million people added by it would drop their healthcare coverage (now, with the data we have in 2020, we know that was laughably false).

I concluded this at the time.

When you put all this together, the actual difference between the Republican bills and Obamacare is a few million at best. The CBO places completely unrealistic faith in the power of the individual mandate, even as they’ve been proven wrong by large margins every preceding year regarding it. At some point the obvious has to be stated. The CBO’s numbers on the healthcare market place are worthless and their baselines are so unrealistic as to provide no meaningful projections. It’s a testament to the intellectual dishonesty of our traditional media that almost none of them have bothered to address these issues. Instead we see these misleading reports parroted as fact.

While the CBO is technically “non-partisan,” that does not mean they should be exempted from criticism. Their history says that a healthy dose of skepticism is not just warranted but required.


I’d say that holds up pretty well. The CBO’s projections are simply worthless. For the most part, they simply serve as fodder for the media to beat up Republicans about bills they propose. Why? Because the CBO shows a huge bias towards big spending and government coercion, often making assumptions that simply don’t make sense in the real world.

In the case of their job projections, they managed to screw up the entirety of 2020 so badly that the real jobs numbers surpassed their estimates in just the first two months of the year. Of course, when a Democrat proposes some massive new entitlement, the CBO is right there to massage it the way they did Obamacare, allowing Obama to hide its unsustainability by counting ten years of revenue and only six years of expenses.

I know you aren’t supposed to accuse the CBO of bias because they are “non-partisan,” but come on. We’ve gone far past incompetence being a viable answer.



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