Nonexistent CBO report turns out to be partially true

There was a lukewarm and somewhat nerdy scandal towards the end of last week about a report on the stimulus bill, supposedly issued by the Congressional Budget Office, that turned out not to exist. The phantom report, which found that much of the bill would not be spent until after fiscal year 2010, was cited by David Brooks, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and other conservative outlets as evidence that stimulus package wasn't going to be particularly timely. But then it became clear that the report was based only on a partial analysis of the spending bill and may have been leaked to the press to undermine the complete bill. Or something. But it definitely wasn't from the CBO.

But now, via the CBO director's blog, the complete report has been issued. And it finds that ... much of the bill will not be spent until after fiscal year 2010:

Assuming enactment in mid-February, CBO estimates that the bill would increase outlays by $92 billion during the remaining several months of fiscal year 2009, by $225 billion in fiscal year 2010 (which begins on October 1), by $159 billion in 2011, and by a total of $604 billion over the 2009-2019 period.

I don't have the expertise to know whether that's an acceptable amount of short-term fiscal stimulus or not. It's certainly a lot more than the extrapolations based on last week's phantom CBO report. But (pox on both houses) it's also a lot less than what the administration says it wants to spend over fiscal year 2010 and in the remainder of fiscal year 2009. After all, according to the administration's metrics report (pdf), the administration wants to

Spend out at least 75% of the package in the first 18 months after passage. By including major fast-spending provisions like tax cuts for middle class families, measures to avoid state health care cuts, and temporary expansions of unemployment insurance, food stamps and health care for unemployed workers, the package will spend out at least 75% of its total commitment within the first 18 months after passage. The Administration will work with Congress to refine this package to ensure that it meets this 75% goal.  

Doesn't this mean the package needs to be refined?

Update: Including the tax portion of the bill, a little under 64% of the money will be spent-out over the next 18 months:

In combining the spending and revenue effects of H.R. 1, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase federal budget deficits by $169 billion over the remaining months of fiscal year 2009, by $356 billion in 2010, by $174 billion in 2011, and by $816 billion over the 2009-2019 period.

Update 2: Others chime in. Clive Crooks says the bill should be more front-loaded to 2009-2010. Dean Baker suspects that Republicans won't be as eager to use these numbers as they were the phantom bill. That's probably true, but I don't think this changes the fact that neither the new nor the nonexistent CBO analysis meets the administration's own standard -- that 75% of the stimulus be paid out in 2009-2010.

Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

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