Most Americans know that the federal budget is a corrupt cesspool that allows politicians to manipulate and deceive the U.S. public. However, in the mix of taking care of families, working long hours, and dealing with everyday challenges, few Americans may realize that the budget process is at least as twisted as the budget itself.
While one man can’t fix it all, Republicans who want to be taken seriously about budget reform should approve Bill Beach to head the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Putting the right person in charge as Congress’s official “scorekeeper” would be an important first step in proving that the party is serious about honest, transparent, and efficient government.
Who is Bill Beach? He is currently the chief economist for the GOP on the Senate Budget Committee, and previously was the founding director of the Center for Data Analysis (CDA) at the Heritage Foundation. He’s a man of great integrity, intellectual honesty, and independence, and a close personal friend for whom I have briefly worked and with whom I am authoring a book on the national debt, to be published in 2015.
In more than four decades of working for the state of Illinois as a junior economist, inventing an economic modeling system for Sprint that is now used across the telecommunications industry, serving as president of the Institute for Humane Studies, and heading up internationally renowned projection models at Heritage and the Budget Committee, Bill has proven himself the academic and intellectual equal — and, possibly, superior — of any of the other candidates being considered for CBO director.
Under his leadership, the CDA accurately projected the effects of the 2001 tax cuts on the economy and published hundreds of documents on labor policy, entitlements, immigration, climate policy, and taxes. And remember — this was all before Heritage’s recent decision to switch focus from being a policy think tank to being an activist organization.
Additionally, Bill has testified to Congress about the Great Recession, among other issues, and has spoken to students at dozens of colleges about the consequences of our nation’s rising national debt. And unlike many in Washington, he is independent of the Republican/Democratic divide — he and I backed some bipartisan proposals to cut the federal deficit in 2010, for example, and just this week he helped organize and moderate a bipartisan conference on the budget process and the federal budget.
Unlike many leading economists, Bill doesn’t just sit around reading papers and creating models. He has led large staffs at numerous organizations and helped guide young people to reach their full personal and professional potential. (I’m still a work in progress.) With more than 200 employees, CBO needs someone who can not only crunch the numbers but also guide the number crunchers to provide information that is accurate, ethical, and in the best interest of the American people.
CBO has several major structural problems that a new CBO director should fix. First, despite its legal obligation to treat all members of Congress equally in its scorekeeping responsibilities, the CBO often shows favor to certain members’ legislative projects.
Effectively, this means that unelected bureaucrats are deciding which members of Congress get the political and media advantages that come from having their budgets get the CBO stamp of approval. Inside the Beltway, this is gold — and, as a result, it influences how Congress and political insiders make policy.
Second, the CBO refuses to examine tax policy in a way that reflects reality. Right now, if Republicans cut a dollar in taxes, CBO would count that as a net loss to the federal government in terms of revenue. Known as “static analysis,” this ignores how the American people respond to incentives. Bill has long promoted the value of so-called dynamic analysis to really understand how people react to changes in tax policy. CDA has always used dynamic analysis — and I am confident that Bill would bring about this necessary change to CBO.
Lastly, CBO has never modeled what the effects of a freer-market health-care system would look like. Instead, it sticks within the Beltway parameters — something that is dangerous when the government is expanding so rapidly in both size and scope. A classical liberal, Bill would expand CBO’s narrow vision on economic modeling.
There are other important changes that CBO must make to its processes, such as projecting the impact of legislation over shorter time periods and getting rid of the patently dishonest concept of baseline budgeting, but those are for members of Congress to decide through legislation. Even the best CBO director has to follow the law, even when it’s a bad one.
It’s not just folks like me, who have probably been inside the Beltway too long, who think Bill is exceedingly qualified for the position of CBO director. Tea Party Patriots’ Jenny Beth Martin tells me that “the position of CBO Director requires a skilled manager and an analyst with a passion for policy and integrity, who won’t succumb to partisan pressure.” According to Martin, “counting a tax cut as a ‘net loss’ to the government misleads people and ignores basic economic realities,” and she heartily endorsed Bill by saying that “free market advocates would have a seat at the table with Bill Beach at CBO.”
Likewise, American Thinker deputy editor Drew Belsky, who is editing the book that Bill and I are writing, said that “if Republicans want their new Congress to be taken seriously, they’ll approve Bill Beach to head the Congressional Budget Office, and clean up the federal budgeting process. Beach’s sincerity, expertise, and excellent character would greatly help us on the path to an open, honest, and reliable bureaucracy.”
And Coalition to Reduce Spending president Jonathan Bydlak, who has been called “the Grover Norquist of spending,” remarked that “few agencies are as important as the CBO. Confronting profligate spending first requires having accurate information on what’s being spent. The job of Director requires proactive dedication that shows a true understanding of the importance of the job. We are excited to see someone who has such characteristics being considered.”
They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Republican approval of Bill Beach for CBO director would be several steps in the right direction for the U.S. of A.
— Dustin Siggins is the D.C. correspondent for LifeSiteNews, a former blogger with Tea Party Patriots, and co-author of the forthcoming book Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation.