Bill Clinton Chides Reliance On CBO Scoring

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Former President Bill Clinton, himself a victim of an errant Congressional Budget Office score or two, implied today that the agency wasn't connected enough to the real world to know whether programs would save money or not. Speaking a few days after the CBO estimated that the White House's latest "gamechanger," an independent Medicare Advisory Commission to set prices, would save little money over 10 years, Clinton urged policy-makers -- and here he means Democrats -- to not accept the CBO's scores without adding a dollop of common sense. " I recognize that if you're in that budget office, you've got to project the future," Clinton said. But certain programs would realize savings "regardless of whether the mathematical rules they are now up with will prove it or not." He said that those with a stake in changing the system "almost always get the short end of the stick" when it comes to budget projections. "In Washington, we strain a lot of gnats while we''re swallowing camels."  Lost in the debate about how much health care reform will cost, Clinton said, is the debate about whether the reforms will work. (I took this to be an implicit criticism of Blue Dog Democrats who focus near-obsessively with the impact of health reform on the deficit and of committee chairs who have imbued the CBO with near mystical powers.) 

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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