Saturday, December 3, 2011

Government:  Gingrich and the Destruction of Congressional Expertise

On Nov. 21, Newt Gingrich, who is leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination in some polls, attacked the Congressional Budget Office. In a speech in New Hampshire, Mr. Gingrich said the C.B.O. is a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated.

Mr. Gingrich's charge is complete nonsense. The former C.B.O. director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, now a Republican policy adviser, labeled the description ludicrous. Most policy analysts from both sides of the aisle would say the C.B.O. is one of the very few analytical institutions left in government that one can trust implicitly.

It's precisely its deep reservoir of respect that makes Mr. Gingrich hate the C.B.O., because it has long stood in the way of allowing Republicans to make up numbers to justify whatever they feel like doing.

For example, Republicans frequently assert that tax cuts, especially for the rich, generate so much economic growth that they lose no revenue. This theory has been thoroughly debunked, most recently by the tax cuts of the George W. Bush administration, which, according to C.B.O., reduced revenues by $3 trillion. Nevertheless, conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation (where I worked in the 1980s) still peddle the snake oil that the Bush tax cuts paid for themselves.

Mr. Gingrich's unprovoked attack on the C.B.O. is part of a pattern. He disdains the expertise of anyone other than himself and is willing to undercut any institution that stands in his way. Unfortunately, we are still living with the consequences of his foolish actions as speaker.

For much more, see Gingrich and the Destruction of Congressional Expertise by Bruce Bartlett, November 29, 2011 at Economix.

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