Wednesday, December 9

The Gatekeeper

Peter Suderman profiles the CBO:
Created as an afterthought and initially intended as a low-profile congressional calculation service, the CBO has quietly risen to a place of unique prominence and power in Washington policy debates. Widely cited and almost universally respected, it is treated as judge and referee, resolving disputes about what policies will cost and how they will work.

But the agency’s authority is belied by the highly speculative nature of its work, which requires an endless succession of unverifiable assumptions. These assumptions are frequently treated as definitive, as if on faith. In practice, this means the CBO is not merely an impartial legislative scorekeeper but a keeper of the nation’s budgetary myths, a clan of spreadsheet-wielding priests whose declarations become Washington’s holy writ.

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