The Trump administration declared its war against facts early, and with panache, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer striding to a podium the day after the inauguration to lay out a series of patently untrue assertions, and Kellyanne Conway christening them “alternative facts” the following day.
The White House’s disdain for facts has become such a given that it was quickly invoked to explain the administration’s broadside against the Congressional Budget Office, which began days before CBO had even completed its analysis of the House’s Obamacare replacement plan. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, for example, tweeted:
Independent sources of information that team Trump has tried to delegitimize:— David Leonhardt (@DLeonhardt) March 14, 2017
- federal judges
- intelligence agencies
But the attempt to undermine CBO isn’t just about independent sources of information so much as independent conclusions. It represents a different war, or at least a different front, than the war on facts. It’s an assault on independent analysis.
CBO has long been an object of derision for partisans of both stripes who have quibbled with the methods the office has used to assess the cost of bills. In 2009, President Obama complained that the CBO was unwilling to credit the Democratic health plan with money the Democrats said the plan would save. Now-Speaker Paul Ryan, then the House budget chief, tried in 2014 to force CBO to change its methods to use “dynamic scoring,” taking into account projected macroeconomic effects of a bill. (For example, Republicans argued that tax cuts might reduce revenue up front, but would stimulate economic growth, thus producing greater revenue in the long term, a disputed claim.)