Friday morning on Twitter, notable free-market champion Phil Kerpen shared a chart from a November 2017 Forbes article showing just how much the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) flubbed the numbers related to how many people they projected would sign up for Obamacare. We’ve known for a while the assumption that Obamacare, with it’s ridiculous premiums, would actually draw record enrollments was, at best, optimistic (at worst, an outright fabrication). But the graphic is startling:
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) December 14, 2017
Kerpen asks a great question: who’s taking responsibility for the wildly inaccurate over-projections? Who’s getting fired?
That turns out to be a difficult question.
According to a later Forbes article from early December, both Democrats and Republicans knew the CBO numbers were skewed, and neither really had much of a problem with it. It’s wonky, but it’s important information:
Here’s why Senate Republicans haven’t objected to the CBO’s numbers:
As part of the Senate’s reconciliation agreement, Republicans set a debt ceiling of $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, which allowed legislators to pass the tax plan with a simple majority vote. Trimming $338 billion in healthcare spending was critical to helping them reach that target and pass the bill. What if the tax savings never materialize? That’s a problem for the next Congress, not the current one.
Further, the GOP desperately needed a tangible accomplishment to parade in front of voters before the fall 2018 elections. The assumed cost reductions were necessary to garner the votes required for passage. Finally, rescinding the individual mandate is a first step toward repealing Obamacare outright, something Republicans have been promising since 2010. Questioning the CBO’s numbers would have been counterproductive…
…Democrats knew that if they attacked the CBO’s numbers, the press might in turn highlight the extra burden being forced on younger individuals. So, instead of questioning CBO’s projected cost savings, the Democrats pointed to the 13 million potentially uninsured, an advantageous number upon which to campaign against Republicans during the upcoming midterm elections.
So the answer as to why no one has yet been fired for what looks like a massive miscalculation (intentional or otherwise) on the part of the federal agency whose entire existence is to make accurate calculations is because their screw up could be used for political purposes by both parties.
But the larger issue here is that it appears that the CBO — much like we’re discovering about the FBI and the DOJ, thanks to Peter Strzok’s text messages; the FCC according to new Chair Ajit Pai (who said the White House gave “direct orders” to the FCC to implement net neutrality two years ago); and the IRS from the targeting scandal that took down Lois Lerner — was politicized under the Obama administration to give the public a version of Obamacare enrollment projections that fit with what the administration was trying to sell.